Warren Shoulberg

Truth in Retailing

March 31, 2014

”I believe the theories which correlate demographic shifts, poor employment numbers, online tipping points, or other similar factors to the difficult sales in the young adult market are off-point. Sales correlate directly with fashion hits and misses, and I believe (we) had fewer hits than normal. It’s that simple.”

What you have just read, folks, is the head of a big national retailing operation fess up and say his company blew it. It’s a rare moment in retailing history.

The quote comes from Urban Outfitters CEO and founder Richard Hayne and he said it on a conference call with investment analysts a few weeks back when his company didn’t exactly set the retail world on fire.

Here was a big-shot retail executive not making excuses, not blaming others, not saying the dog ate his homework. Instead he blamed it on a simple fact of retailing: if you don’t get the product right, nothing else matters.

We all realize how important managing inventory levels, payroll and marketing are for any business, particularly one in retailing. And that’s regardless of whether the business in question has one store or a one thousand stores.

But product remains at the core of everything. Gift and home retailers have always known how important it was to get the right product into their stores at the right time. Pet rocks and silly bands have a rather limited shelve life. But as stores in the industry get further into fashion goods and accessories, this becomes all the more crucial. Last season’s colors and silhouettes are so…well, last year.

It remains to be seen if the Urban Outfitters team of merchants can get it right in the quarters ahead. But you’ve got to admire Richard Hayne for calling a spade a spade… or actually a dog a dog.