Urban Outfitters Operating Garden Centers?

January 29, 2008


Urban Outfitters Buys a Garden Center – 1/24/08


Urban Outfitters Inc. last week announced plans to buy J. Franklin Styer Nurseries Inc., a well-known operator of garden centers in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The acquisition will drive the launch of the company’s newest green concept, Terrain.

The goal of Terrain is “to transform the local garden center into an experience that celebrates the beauty and abundance of nature while offering an eclectic mix of garden-inspired products tailored for the contemporary customer,” according to a company press release.

What makes the purchase interesting is not only Urban’s launching of a new concept, but its decision to expand beyond retail into a service business. Besides selling mulch, silk orchids, garden books and tools in a comfortable atmosphere that includes a leather sofa and a coffee bar serving upscale La Colombe coffee, Terrain will offer landscape design and construction.

Discussion question: What do you think of the potential of a contemporary garden center chain such as Terrain? What most impresses you about the Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie concepts and how do you think those skills translate to operating a garden center? What are the risks of Urban moving into the services business?

My post:

I am intrigued by Urban going after this business.  My first reaction is cautionary:  Is this part of the company’s core competencies?  If so, terrific – I believe the core customer is certainly complementary to their Urban, Anthropologie, and Free People customer base.   If not, I am concerned about a drain of mind share and resources from their core business at a time when apparel in general has been difficult and their concepts are, in general, thriving due to their unique vibe and eclectic mix of cool environments and great product.  I want to see them continue to strengthen their core businesses.  

My second reaction is excitement.  The garden center business is an incredible opportunity for an organization that wants, as they claim, to fill the void between the small local players and Home Depot.  Just having finished an extensive landscaping project, my wife and I would have loved the opportunity to go to a “contemporary garden center.”  Maybe we’ll have the chance in the near future!

 Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist




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