Urban Outfitters’ Richard Hayne Sees Return of Fashion

The ceo said Urban is showing some positive momentum after a year of shrinking sales and profits.

Urban Outfitters Inc. saw total sales rise during the third quarter and profits bounce back, which Richard Hayne attributed to a revived interest in fashion and apparel.

The founder and chief executive officer of Urban, which also operates the Free People and Anthropologie retail chains, said during a call with financial analysts that the third quarter showed “exceptional improvement” across all three of the brands.

Total net sales grew to $892.8 million for the quarter ended Oct. 28, a 3.5 percent increase from $862.5 million a year earlier. Meanwhile, net income totaled $45.1 million, down from $47.4 million. Although still a decline, that is a big improvement in profitability from recent quarters.

Comparable sales, driven by e-commerce, also rose 1 percent, with increases at all three of Urban’s brands. The company said without sales disruptions from the spate of hurricanes in the southern U.S and Puerto Rico, comp sales would have risen 2 percent. Wholesale sales grew 8.7 percent.

Hayne attributed the sales boost to shoppers’ revived interest in fashion and an increased willingness to spend on full-priced items, as well as an internal effort to speed up the influx of new product to stores.

“Quite simply, fashion is back and it’s selling,” Hayne said.

While the ceo has made such pronouncements before, he said this renewed interest in fashion was buoyed during the quarter by digital sales that grew in excess of 20 percent for each brand, while sales of full-priced apparel expanded as well.

Hayne also touted the quarter’s sales as a “record” and praised the wholesale, retail and digital performance of Free People, where overall sales grew 8 percent.

Over the summer, Hayne blamed “poor execution” for a dip in second-quarter sales. But toward the end of that quarter, Urban started to tweak its process to allow for product to hit stores faster and for a quicker response to in-season trends. It seems to