Urban Outfitters Raises Catalog Circ For One Of Three Brands

By Apr 03, 2009

While Urban Outfitters has followed other catalogers in adjusting its circulation levels, it is not universally cutting its runs. Yes, its flagship catalog had its circ cut from 13 million a year ago to 12 million, and will maintain that 12 million level next year. And yes, Anthropologie, which sent out 22 million books two years ago and 21.5 million last year will cut its run to 18.4 million next year.

But Free People, its contemporary women’s brand which serves customers in the 25-30 age range, has seen its runs jump from 5 million two years ago to 6.7 million last year. And circulation will expand to 7.4 million catalogs next year.

The company bases increases to its catalog circulation on the response rate for each individual book, according to notes within its Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Direct-to-consumer sales made up 14.9% of the company’s most recent total net sales, up from 13.6% a year ago. Total sales stood at $1.83 billion, up from $1.51 billion year ago. The company’s net income jumped from $160.2 million to $199.4 million.

Direct-to-consumer sales rose by $67 million, or 32.4%, during the year. Comparable store sales were up by $88 million or 7.8%. Urban Outfitters attributed the increase in net sales to increased traffic to its Web sites, “which more than offset minor decreases n conversion rates and average order value,” as the company wrote in its financial statement.

The Analyst’s Take: Part of what has given Urban Outfitters freedom to increase its catalog runs as appropriate is overall cost containment. At 61.1%, its cost of sales during the year just ended was the lowest in three years, dipping from 61.7% a year ago and 63.1% two years ago. And that’s with advertising expenses rising to $45.6 million during the year just ended, up from $40.8 million. Don’t know what’s being cut, but it ain’t advertising, and that’s good.