(Editor’s note: Steve Kaufman and Terry Boyd contributed to this post.)
Insider Louisville got a sneak peek Thursday of the about-to-open Urban Outfitters store, the first big national apparel retailer to choose a free-standing Highlands store over the suburban mall in recent memory.
The Urban Outfitters store currently being readied at 1140 Bardstown Road in Tyler Park Plaza will be open for business in three or four weeks – meaning mid-July.
The Louisville location is close enough to completion that Urban Outfitters managers already are taking applications.
Execs at the Philadelphia-based apparel and home furnishing retailer, which also operates the Anthropologie chain, reject ab0ut 75 percent of the locations its scouting team presents, according to Urban Outfitters personnel on site yesterday.
But the company jumped at this opportunity because it has no other stores in town – in fact none closer than Cincinnati and Indianapolis.
It also had a chance to lease a building ready to move into, an 8,000-square-foot former Blockbuster store that had many of the funky architectural features Urban Outfitters likes, such as exposed red brick walls.
When contractors stripped off two layers of acoustical tiles, they discovered a bow truss ceiling (think airplane hangers), exceedingly rare anymore and very expensive to replicate.
So while corporate store designers generally prefer two levels for their Urban Outfitters locations – or, at the least, some kind of loft – they were drawn to the vast overhead space, which in the center reaches 40 feet.
Tenant finish construction cost the retailer about $700,000, but that was a relative bargain because the bones of the building were in place and will remain largely unchanged.
Building a new store from the ground up would have more than doubled the investment – at least, according to contractors working yesterday.
Local contractors are moving out this weekend and the corporate crew will move in to fill in the vast expanse of the space with merchandising tables, racks, hang rods and a lot of the antiquey sculptural elements that will make Urban Outfitters stores unlike anything else in Louisville, much less on Bardstown Road.
Revamped Blockbuster Video rental stores are a poignant part of the retail landscape, testament to changing technology that once smiled on a retailer where execs bet everything on renting vast amounts of movies on videocassette. The Netflix order-by-mail concept cut into Blockbuster’s dominance, and now Netflix is seeing its business usurped by video-on-demand and Apple iTunes rentals.
But so far, nobody else sells what Urban Outfitter sells. And nobody else sells mid-range goods in such cool, funky stores. Prices for apparel start in the Gap range of about $30 and go up. Unlike Gap and other apparel stores, Urban Outfitter is heavily into home furnishings. Sheets and duvet covers start at about $79 per set.
All that said, Urban Outfitters has had its own issues lately as it moves into European markets this summer. (Urban Outfitters is one of few apparel chains moving aggressively into brick-and-mortar.)
President Richard Hayne has drawn some criticism for provactive items UO somestimes carries, geared towards young urban-dwelling hipsters. Surprise! Hayne is a conservative, and a big donor to conservative causes.
Though we can’t imagine Hayne’s politics will much figure into whether the new store draws from the zillions of bored teenagers hanging out on Bardstown Road. The question remains, is Urban Outfitters in the Highlands another huge clue that life in Louisville is shifting back to the urban core, and away from the ‘burbs?
And if so, can Target and WalMart be far behind? And is that a good thing?