DTC Era   /   July 13, 2021

Why more non-apparel DTC brands are selling at Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters is expanding its non-apparel assortment by partnering with direct-to-consumer brands.

While it has been primarily known as a fashion retailer geared towards young customers, Urban Outfitters is increasingly expanding its beauty and wellness assortments with the help of digitally native brands. For example, this month, Urban Outfitters’ website began to carry Hims skincare and wellness products — with plans to add Hers in the coming months.

In past years, Urban Outfitters’ selection was focused primarily on third party makeup brands — prominent beauty brands that still sell through the retailer include Benefit Cosmetics, Sunday Riley and Anastasia Beverly Hills. However, recently the retailer’s beauty section has expanded  to include trendy skincare and wellness products from DTC brands like Maude, Spotlight Oral Care, Saalt and Canopy humidifier, which is currently testing sales via Urban Outfitters’ website. These brands say that one of the main reasons why they are interested in selling through Urban Outfitters is because the retailers’ shopper skews younger than that of other potential wholesale partners.

Over the past two years, Urban Outfitters has gradually added health-focused brands to its physical shelves and website. At the same time, the company has been building a third party marketplace to make it easier for brands to sell through the Urban Outfitters website. 

Urban Outfitters didn’t respond to a request for comment about its brand partnership strategy. But it seems like the merchandising strategy is being driven by Urban Outfitters’ Gen Z customers becoming increasingly interested in a greater variety of beauty and wellness products, beyond just traditional cosmetics. Jena Tracey, Urban Outfitters’ executive director of merchandising, said in the Hims & Hers launch announcement that “there is great synergy between the Urban Outfitters customer and those digitally native consumers who are interested in the personalized health and wellness offerings of Hims & Hers.” 

Melissa Baird, chief operating officer of Hims & Hers, said that the partnership came about due to an overlap with Urban Outfitters’ own consumer base, which includes many customers who already purchase from DTC brands. This allows Hims & Hers to expose Urban’s customers to its products — as well as its telemedicine services, she said. While the launch selection features 10 Hims skincare, fragrance and health products, the partnership will soon expand to both Hims & Hers offerings on UrbanOutfitters.com.

Another digitally-native brand that has partnered with Urban Outfitters for a few years now is sexual wellness brand Maude. Maude first launched its vibrator line at Urban Outfitters’ site and select locations in spring 2019. Earlier this year, the brand added an exclusive colorway for Urban Outfitters customers, according to founder and CEO Éva Goicochea. 

The partnerships helps Maude target new age groups. She said that Urban Outfitters, in particular, “is an interesting partner for us because their audience is much more concentrated in the younger millennials and Gen Z demographic.” By contrast, millennial and Gen Z shoppers make up about 25% of Maude’s DTC customers. 

Goicochea said that she also thought Urban Outfitters was one of the early movers among retailers in adding more sexual wellness products to its assortment. “Other retailers have since followed suit,” she said. Within the past year, Walmart, for example has started carrying products from a number of brands that focus on sexual wellness, such as Hims competitor Ro, and The Honey Pot, which sells plant-derived feminine care products. 

Spotlight Oral Care co-founder and CEO Vanessa Creaven also praised Urban Outfitters for expanding its beauty and wellness assortment. Her startup, which sells teeth whitening products, launched on Urban Outfitters’ website in February. Creaven said that retailers like Urban Outfitters are increasingly expanding their beauty department selection beyond cosmetics and skincare, to also include more niche categories like oral care products. This strategy, she said, is allowing more brands specializing in niche products — such as Spotlight’s teeth whitening pens and strips — to successfully grow their customer base.

Creaven told Modern Retail that Urban’s young customer base helps the retailer “have a great pulse on what’s in style with the Gen Z audience.” 

Rebekah Kondrat, founder of consultancy Kondrat Retail, explained that these partnerships “are all about exposure for young brands that want to expand their demographics beyond their core customer base.” It’s also beneficial for companies’ market share goals among these young customers — as this demographic begins to purchase products across categories like sexual wellness or hair loss prevention. 

Simultaneously, Kondrat said, “it’s an opportunity for Urban Outfitters to be seen as more than just an apparel retailer.”

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