Urban Outfitters: A Lesson in Store Design

Urban Outfitters has a lot of haters.  Much of this contempt is lobbed at the company’s tremendously efficient ability to mine current trends and offer fixture after fixture of items that would take a “true hipster” weeks to find at different thrift stores and boutiques - all in one location.  Why spend a lifetime searching for a neon yellow t-shirt screenprinted with Alfonso Ribeiro’s face, when he’s right there, smirking at you?

Urban has 140 locations throughout the U.S, Canada and Europe.  At a chosen few (Chicago, Austin and Cambridge, MA, among others) they’ve purposely shattered the glass in the entranceway to the store.  Perhaps the glass was manufactured this way – admittedly, my knowledge of store buildouts in the “bombed-out” aesthetic is rather limited.

(Cambridge, MA location - Photo from Cprior23 on Flickr)

I would love to know what motivated the store selection for this technique.  Yes, it adds an additional element of "urban grit," but more importantly, it's really difficult to project protest onto a store whose windows are already broken.  Did they expect conflict?

Up until my online research tonight I had only known about the Cambridge, MA windows.  I'd always thought that management made a purposeful decision not to bow down to the dissenters who had broken them.  As someone who finds walking through their doors equal parts embarassing and exciting, I often felt lame shopping at a store that others disliked so much that they sought to destroy it.  I wonder how many other shoppers made the same conclusion about the provenance of the windows.

It’s definitely a humorous inversion of the Kelling & Coles broken window theory, as the arrival of an Urban Outfitters in an expandingly gentrified part of town (think Cobble Hill, Brooklyn) usually snuffs out that neighborhood’s last grasps at being cool/"street" and confirms the beginning of the ironic pseudo-danger era.

4 comments:

Jimmy De La Cruz said...

Hey, thanks for the comment, I'm glad you like my blog.

M* said...

I wish we had U.O. here! But I can buy onlinne, hahaha

tastymoog said...

Perhaps in homage to the Bride Stripped Bare? Nah, I wouldn't give URBN that much credit. ;) It's just a trope of edginess.

It's interesting to see UO store treatment in malls (like King of Prussia or Short Pump, for examples)-- the lighting is so stark it's almost surgical. And no broken windows, naturally. But maybe those stores are meant to only heighten the sense of upper-middle class suburban malaise, to revel in the over consumption of their surroundings.

tastymoog said...

[in malls as opposed to one-offs, which, depending on location, seem a little more fun/interesting/etc. such as.]

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