You might have bought a dress on its website, or paged longingly through its catalog, or rifled through its quirky offerings in store—but there’s probably still a lot you don’t know about Anthropologie.
1. ITS PARENT COMPANY IS URBAN OUTFITTERS.
Richard Hayne and his first wife, Judy Wick, opened their first shop, called Free People’s Store, in 1970 with business partner (and Hayne’s old roommate) Scott Belair. The 400-square-foot shop, located at 4307 Locust Street in Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood, sold, according to the Washington Post, “used clothes, T-shirts, housewares, dope paraphernalia and ethnic jewelry, all at low prices.”
In 1971, Wick and Hayne got divorced, and Belair graduated from Wharton and moved on to a Wall Street career, leaving the Free People's Shop behind. But Hayne stayed with the business, and in 1975, he relocated to a bigger space and changed the store's name to Urban Outfitters, partially in response to the end of the Vietnam War. “[The war] had been incredibly divisive, and there was just this amazing change of mood,” he told Philadelphia Weekly. “The name ‘Free People’ had some political connotations, and they were growing tired ... It happened to be the time when we were just putting together the deal to move to a much larger space and felt that, in conjunction with that, we should change our name.” Later, Hayne would bring back Free People, and create Anthropologie, under the Urban Outfitters, Inc. umbrella.
2. THE NAME IS A SPIN ON HAYNE’S COLLEGE MAJOR.
3. IT STARTED AS A LINE THAT URBAN OUTFITTERS SOLD WHOLESALE TO SPECIALTY AND DEPARTMENT STORES.
The Anthropologie line debuted in 1991, and, according to a Women’s Wear Daily article from that year, had “chiffon looks” for its first offerings and “solid and printed lambswool sweaters, miniskirts and leggings” for the fall and holiday seasons.
4. HAYNE AND AN INTERIOR DESIGNER SPENT TWO YEARS CONCEPTUALIZING THE STORE BEFORE OPENING IT.
When he was creating his first post-Urban store—which would appeal to customers growing out of UO and into the next stage of their lives—Hayne turned to architect Ron Pompei and his design firm, Pompei A.D. According to Fast Company, the duo spent a couple of years on a “cultural odyssey” to create their vision for the store. They traveled, visited museums, took in cultural events, and shopped at outdoor markets. During their travels, they learned that “Texture was very important," Pompei recalled. "Storytelling was central.”
Anthropologie would allow customers to “just be,” Pompei told Fast Company. “The mainstream culture focuses on what you have. Recently, what you do has become more important. We wanted to respond to the shift toward ‘who you are.’” Anthropologie stores would also spark something transformational, he said, “where the visitor's imagination was just as important as that of the designer.” They'd also be interactive: “People would start to connect the dots in their own way and tell themselves a personal story.”
The first Anthropologie store opened in Wayne, Penn., in 1992, in a terra-cotta building that had been a car dealership.
5. IT DOESN’T ADVERTISE …
The company doesn't take out ads in print publications or run commercials on radio or TV—and it never has. Instead, it relies on its website, apps, email campaigns, social media, blogs, and its storefronts and displays to reach its customers. “We believe that by starting a conversation and interacting directly with our customers ... we are more effective at understanding and serving their fashion needs,” the company wrote in its April 2015 SEC filings. “We also believe that our blogs continue this conversation. Not only do our blogs allow us to communicate what inspires us, they allow our customers to tell us what inspires them. This fosters our relationships with our customers and encourages them to continue shopping with us.”
6. … BUT IT DOES SEND OUT CATALOGS.
The catalog, which launched in 1998 (along with the website), tells a story. Katja Maas, an art director who worked on Anthropologie catalogs, wrote on her website that “The briefs were mostly: To present specific merchandise in a lifestyle context by creating a narrative based on a theme from the creative director. At the beginning of each job, I would be given a theme, some photocopies of merchandise, a pagination to act as a guide for sequence and size of image, and some location reference so that I could sketch the shots and brief the prop stylist.”
But the catalogs—which the company refers to as “journals” and are often shot in exotic locations—also sell a lifestyle. "Retailers think catalogs are consumed by customers looking through them and deciding what they like and don't like," consumer psychologist Adam Ferrier told Racked. "But catalogs are more used to create the brand's vibe. Anthropologie's consumer is quite strange and aspirational. The brand comes to life in this type of catalog and lets the customer discover.” Susy Korb, chief marketing officer of Anthropologie, told The New York Times, “Of course we’re trying to sell clothes and accessories, but [the catalog is] more to inspire and engage.”
7. THE COMPANY BRIEFLY SOLD MEN’S CLOTHES.
They were not a hit. “For a suburban man aged 30 to 40, hell is going clothing shopping on a Saturday afternoon,” Hayne told Philadelphia Weekly in 2003. “There are about 5000 other things they would put on the list ahead of clothes shopping.”
8. CHARLES DICKENS’S GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTER WORKED THERE.
9. JULIA ROBERTS IS A STAND-IN FOR THEIR IDEAL CUSTOMER.
On a demographic level, Anthropologie shoppers are typically 30 to 45 years old, have college or graduate degrees, are in a relationship, and have an annual household income of $150,000 to $200,000. But the employees describe her in other, more personal ways. Then-president Senk told Fast Company in 2002 that he preferred to describe Anthropologie’s customer in “psychographic terms,” which are all about attitude and lifestyle: “She's well-read and well-traveled,” he said. “She is very aware—she gets our references ... She's urban minded. She's into cooking, gardening, and wine. She has a natural curiosity about the world. She's relatively fit.” Fast Company says Julia Roberts—a frequent shopper—is the “celebrity avatar of Anthropologie,” noting that her wardrobe for The Mexican came from the store.
10. EACH STORE IS DESIGNED TO HAVE A UNIQUE FEEL—BUT THERE IS CONTINUITY.
Anthropologie leases rather than buys its spaces, and often chooses interesting and historic buildings over the mall, using each space’s quirks in the design of the store. “Our visual philosophy is to make the store feel as if it's a one-off, to feel like it's the only one,” former Executive Creative Director Kristen Norris told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2004. “We capitalize on existing architectural elements. All of the stores have a similarity to them, but none are exactly the same … We want each store to have a unique personality and cater to the customer. The customer in Miami is not the customer in Seattle.”
Cohesiveness comes from the layout and organization of each store, which is meant to mimic a private home. The store’s team creates a series of themed “vignettes”—a bedroom or bathroom, for example—that put Anthropologie’s merchandise into context. At the front of the store is typically a garden or outdoor entertaining vignette, then dining and kitchen areas, followed by bath and bed. Each area tells a story for the customer to explore and discover, and following the movements of going through a home-like layout will help her to “decompress, as you do in your own home,” Norris told the San Francisco Chronicle. The overall effect, Norris said, is that “by the time you get to the back of the store, you're as relaxed as you would be by the time you get to bed.”
But there’s at least one element that might not be found in most private homes: Each store’s furniture and racks are also laid out on a grid, aligning at 35-to-40 degree angles to create symmetry.
11. EACH STORE HAS ITS OWN DESIGN TEAM THAT FOLLOWS AESTHETIC PROMPTS FROM CORPORATE.
After the head design team at Anthropologie’s Philadelphia HQ creates each season’s themes, they send photos and mood boards to each store’s design team and let them loose on ideas. “[Each] artist has the freedom to interpret the idea how they see fit for their particular architectural space and in [a] medium they feel good about,” Ketija Ratniece, a Visual Display Artist at Anthropologie in San Francisco, told the blog Whimsical Agnesiga. “That way each individual store does not look ‘cut & paste’ but still relate through the concept.” (Every idea has to be approved by corporate before the store can run with it, though.)
Though the size of the design team depends on the time of year and the size of the store, each includes a display coordinator, who brainstorms and constructs both the window and store displays, and a visual coordinator, who merchandises the displays when they’re done. Many of Anthropologie’s displays are handmade and created with found materials. The budget for the windows is as little as $5000.
12. ITS COLLECTIONS ARE BASED ON, AND BUILT AROUND, THREE IMAGINARY WOMEN.
Each imaginary lady is given a name and characteristics that fit into the store’s three main clothing aesthetics: Feminine, Artistic, and Linear (clean and modern). “Each one is a different woman,” former general merchandise manager Wendy Wurtzburger told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2004. “We talk about her very specifically, where she lives, and sketch her life.”
Take Holiday 2014’s ladies, Aurora, Silver, and Quinn. “The Aurora concept is a holiday girl, so she has a lot of party dresses with shimmer and shine,” Jill Gallenstein, Anthropologie's eastern regional display manager, told Racked. “Silver ... is more of a ranch girl. Her color palette is much more about sunset tones, a lot of layering, heavier sweaters, a lot of capes. Then Quinn ... she's more of a city girl. She's a little bit more pulled together, buttoned-up, so a little desk-to-dinner wear.”
Using the women’s narratives—which will include things like where she went to school and what books she likes to read—and interpreting aesthetic concepts like “she likes to play with color” and “her clothes have a lot of asymmetry” not only helps to create a cohesive narrative from store to store but also lets each individual store’s design team be creative.
13. SOME OF THE DISPLAYS ARE AUCTIONED OFF, WITH PROCEEDS GOING TO CHARITY.
The windows change every 6 to 8 weeks, and the interior displays are rotated more often than that. When a display’s time is up, it either goes into storage to be used again or is auctioned off for charity. For example, when butterflies created for the Greenville, N.C. store’s Earth Day celebration were sold, proceeds went to American Forests and were used to plant new trees.
14. ITS FORMER BUYER-AT-LARGE HAD A REALITY SHOW.
The Sundance Channel’s Man Shops Globe followed Keith Johnson as he traveled the world looking for one-of-a-kind items to furnish and sell in stores, and objects that could be used to inspire collections. (He traveled so much that his passport had 72 extra pages.) Johnston told Fast Company that, beyond quality, the perfect Anthropologie find “has to have a lot of personality. It has to be homey. Maybe it has a sense of humor. It has to have a little quirk. People respond to fun—a little whimsy goes a long way.” Man Shops Globe ran for two seasons.
15. IT MAKES URBAN OUTFITTERS, INC. A LOT OF MONEY ...
According to Racked, in 2014, “Anthropologie's North American net sales accounted for approximately 39 percent of the brand's consolidated net sales, which were just over $3 billion.” Its revenue per square foot is off the charts: The brand brings in $995 per square foot, compared to $696 for Urban Outfitters stores.
16. … AND ITS CUSTOMERS SPEND A LONG TIME SHOPPING.
In 2015, Anthropologie customers spent an average of 75 minutes shopping in stores.
17. ONLY NINE STATES DON’T HAVE AN ANTHROPOLOGIE STORE.
They are: Alaska, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Soon, that number will shrink to eight; Anthropologie will open a store in West Des Moines, Iowa, in 2016. The store is also international: There are 12 in Canada, nine in the UK, and one in France.