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Urban Outfitters Joins Athletic Apparel Market

When it’s deliver-or-die, supply chains become the lifeblood of a company. To that end, the fashion industry has embraced technology to navigate today’s hyper-complicated supply chain, with myriad solutions shaping the first, middle and last mile. Call it Sourcing 2.0.

Teen-geared retailer Urban Outfitters has decided to play in the athletic-wear market with its new fitness brand called Without Walls.

The brand debuted in select Urban Outfitters stores–four locations in California and one in New York–at the beginning of this month. Without Walls is expected to be sold in five more stores this year but, for now, will be primarily sold on a separate site of the same name.

At withoutwalls.com, customers can purchase the namesake brand along with other active-wear brands including ALTERNATIVE, Asics, Columbia, Newline, Patagonia and The North Face to name a few.

Without Walls gear has the same spunk as other Urban Outfitters product, with digi-print running tights, dip-dye crop tops and colorblock trail windbreakers. Sports bras, shorts and dance wear are also part of the product offerings.

Tops on the Without Walls site retail between $28 and $84, pants between $58 and $88 and jackets from $68 to $154. Some say the line could end up competing with Athleta, a popular line of performance apparel with a similar aesthetic to Lululemon but with a lower price point.

To really set the tone for its new lifestyle line, Urban had a launch party for the brand at its store at 526 Avenue of the Americas in New York City last week which started with a pre-party run led by NYC running club UndoOrdinary and athlete Sophia Chang. Back at the store, the retailer offered up free food, drinks and Without Walls gear.

Experts say the move comes at a good time as demand for athletic apparel is consistently on the rise. According to a report released last month by Leisure Trends, an NPD Group company, sales of running/fitness, sports footwear, and apparel and accessories at U.S. sporting goods chains increased 6 percent to $10.5 billion in 2013.

In terms of sportswear specifically, retail sales were up 14 percent in 2013.

Urban Outfitter announced its fourth quarter earnings Monday, reporting a positive performance with net sales up 6 percent over the same period last year to a record $906 million.

Comparable retail sales, which includes the retailer’s catalog and online businesses, were up 1 percent for the fourth-quarter. Same-store sales rose 20 percent at its brand Free People, 10 percent at Anthropologie, but dropped 9 percent at the company’s namesake brand.

Urban Outfitter CEO Richard A. Hayne said, “Looking forward, customer reaction to the new spring fashion offerings at our Anthropologie and Free People brands have been strong, but given the continued challenges facing the Urban Outfitters brand, we remain very cautious about URBN’s first quarter performance.”

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