The Hipster Retail Crisis


It was barely a decade ago when the hipster fashion retail chains began their American invasion in earnest, starting from the West, North and East and working their way inward. Now their fortunes have turned rather dramatically, and the teens are driving them back into the sea:

The company said Monday that Urban’s comparable sales fell 12% in the three months ending April 30, following a 9% drop last quarter, and a 1% drop in the three months ending Oct. 31. Urban is the retailer’s biggest chain; it also owns Anthropologie and Free People, which continued to see sales soar in the first quarter.

The company says the problem is that its customers are becoming younger. Actually, what it says is that its “brand” has “moved somewhat south in terms of age group penetration.” There were warning signs, I think: If you’ve set foot in an Urban Outfitters over the last year or so you might have noticed that it has become something like a toy store — it has clothes in the same way that Hot Topic has clothes. It’s a Spencer’s Gifts for internet teens.

American Apparel is still having trouble for a variety of reasons, but mostly because every major store has some square footage dedicated to AA-looking basics — truly, you could probably stock a 2009 AA from a 2014 Target — and so it will either have to become a watch and sunglasses kiosk or a store for baby clothes. What’s next, then, for the teens? Anyone who says he knows is a liar or worse. Is it time to bring back the mid-2000s yet?