There are so many Urban Outfitters branches in New York City now that it hardly bears noting whenever a new one opens, but the chain has now entered the Mega-Flagship phase where it needs to prove that it can be more than the store that you think you already know.
Has it succeeded?
Last month its Space Ninety 8 concept store debuted in Williamsburg, but now in a more heavily trafficked area, Urban Outfitters' "lifestyle" store quietly opened its doors over the weekend just across the street from the northeast corner of Macy's Herald Square. It's is surprising that one of Manhattan's most important shopping neighborhoods didn't already have a branch of the chain, but, making a belated entry, its thirteenth in the area, the triple-sized store has put on its best, tidiest face for the throngs of tourists it hopes to capitalize on. We aren't really sure that this location carries that much more merchandise than your average cluttery UO location, but the design scheme allows for a much more spacious presentation, so racks are not crammed with goods. The shoe sections for both men and women are noticeably expanded and much easier to shop. Despite the generally stripped down, brick walls and plywood decor that we have come to expect, the store lacks that dusty basement ambiance that is the chain's (possibly unintentional) signature. Someone has clearly taken a vacuum cleaner and several feather dusters to the place, which makes all the difference. The merchandise throughout seems typical of the chain, but emphasizes its more upscale items with less reliance on the lower-end trend triven private labels and more on branded goods. There is also more room for elaborate displays like the huge camper at the center of the main floor section that also launches the chain's new fitness line, Without Walls. Activewear is a new direction for Urban Outfitters which often seems to cater more to college students who sit around and get high and their somewhat more sedentary activities. The section also boasted streetwear from the L.A. brand Undefeated, but, sadly, none of their coveted sneaker collaborations. The home section, upstairs on the women's leve, was also departure. While this has always seemed like a particularly dorm room driven department, here you will find a somewhat more sophisticated point of view. While we thought that, particularly since it was right near Macy's, this would be an opportunity to expand the store's typical offerings, this section was surprisingly small, focused mostly on candles and pillows. Perhaps they needed to make room for the store's exclusive attractions. As in the Williamsburg store, Intelligentsia Coffee has a prominent spot at the entrance, and Amoeba Music from Los Angeles, one of the last actual record stores left, has a significant amount of floor space where it offers a selection of new and vintage vinyl records, offering a "cool" factor that this chain desperately needs to maintain. There's also a stand for Tortoise & Blonde eyewear, one of the many full-service online eyewear brands that have materialized in the wake of Warby parker's runaway internet success.
The question here is whether all of this is enough to make customers bypass their more convenient, local Urban Outfitters, or even return to the chain after outgrowing it for more grown-up fare. Since hardly anyone knew that the store is open at all, we had a fairly relaxing visit to the store over the weekend. Given the intense foot traffic in the neighborhood, we expect that it will generally be much more crowded in the coming weeks, but if Urban Outfitters can maintain the less cluttered ambiance and keep the goods on the more grown-up side of things, then we would definitely consider a return visit. Have a look at the new store in the gallery below, and decide for yourself.