Retail Application of ANTIGENcy:: Anthropologie


My girlfriend takes me into every Anthropologie store wherever we go. She wont buy a dress without me. I have the eye, I guess. Because I am more interested in the psychology of brands and their incredible business model, I never refuse to go. Not to mention, the most gorgeous people seem to be pulled in to those stores. Anthropologie, and Urban Outfitters (same ownership) for that matter, are a different kind of store. They are, as Marty Neumier in Zag, called a house of brands, where there are typically 50 or 60 brands on the shelves and tables. This is different than Gap or most other clothing store alternatives schlepping their brand exclusively.

Inside any Anthropologie women find clothes and other curiosities or wonders that transport them into another world. The buyers for Anthropology and Urban Outfitters are a different breed and are damn good at what they do. They buy things that make you want to own. Their dresses are exquisite and the books for sale there are all items that make you believe you are capable of writing something wonderful. “I could have written that!” The soaps and decor all make you long for that semester you spent outside of Paris during high school.

Anthropologie has, in effect, created a house of brands and a transport platform that can make frugal frumps loose and lovely. They do this through experience design and brand diversity. Really smart.

The folks running Anthroplogie decided to inject their sales channel with other brand’s wares in an environment that kills boredom. It is the only women’s store where I have lost an hour in wonderment. In fact it is where I found the coolest book I have ever owned. Albertus Seba’s Cabinet of Natural Curiosities.

Albertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities
Albertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities

Back to experience. So, here’s a store that serves up really great women’s fashions that make women feel unique and their husbands feel occupied and sated on several levels. This is an experience that is attached to a business model that can adapt quickly to what’s hot and curious right now. Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie do not have to forecast, design, manufacture and warehouse an abundance of their branded stuff and market like hell to get it sold (the branded house model). Alternatively, they have to forecast and buy smaller quantities of other brands that they know will make their target(s) salivate.

This experience design is smart. And you can be sure that a lot of people are watching their every step.

Here is where ANTIGENcy comes in. What if you are a notable chain saddled with oceans of heavy inventory and delivering the same patent experience as a majority of all the other stores competing for the same $45 in Jane’s wallet. You have to wonder how sustainable that is. And yes, while many of them have been in business a long time, the competitive landscape hasn’t invoked the experience design card like Anthropologie has.

Your ANTIGENs are; lack of customer experience delivery, lack of curiosity, boredom, resting on the laurels of past sales success, lack of sating those who accompany your target consumer and importantly lack of brand diversity in your inventory (cement boots).

The antibodies you want to build will fight these ANTIGENs swiftly.

So, imagine this Gap. You need to think about your business sustainability on a few different levels. You need to think about the damage a much more nimble house of brands capable of shifting on a dime and serving up great design, eco-friendly wares and artful atmospheres can do to your establishment. You have to wonder why your (ticker: GPS) total return (3-yr.) is 24.4% while that of the Anthropologie/Urban Outfitters (ticker:URBN) is 82.8%.

At ANTIGENcy, we think about these things and quite simply, design experiences that help you with the new business of business.

(Partial credit for this analysis goes to the Rotman School of Business who originally pointed at Anthropologie and talked about the house of brands vs. branded house approaches. Thank again Rotman.)

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