- In a flurry of personnel changes announced concurrently with the company's holiday sales results, Urban Outfitters Group on Tuesday said that CEO Trish Donnelly is leaving the company to "pursue a new career opportunity," according to a company press release. Donnelly's last day is Jan. 31.
- Sheila Harrington, who will continue operating as the CEO of Free People Group, will replace Donnelly as CEO of the Urban Outfitters Group. Harrington previously worked with Gap and Bloomingdales.
- Gabrielle Conforti, currently the chief merchandising officer for the Urban Outfitters brand, has been promoted to president of Urban Outfitters North America. Emma Wisden will continue as the managing director of Urban Outfitters Europe and will also lead the Urban Outfitters brand wholesale business. Both Conforti and Wisden will report to Harrington.
Urban Outfitters announced the leadership shuffle in tandem with lackluster holiday sales results.
The company's net sales for the season — defined as the two months ended Dec. 31, 2020 — decreased 8.4% year over year. Retail comparable sales fell 9% overall, with the Free People brand rising 1%, Urban Outfitters dropping 8% and Anthropologie reporting a 12% drop during the last two months of the year.
For the eleven months ended Dec. 31, total company net sales plummeted 14.3% year over year, and comparable retail segment net sales decreased 12%, due to the coronavirus pandemic requiring temporary store closures and "lower store productivity once opened," according to the company.
The apparel segment has been especially hard-hit due to the closure of nonessential retail during the spring and changing consumer clothing shopping habits because of COVID-19. Last year sent many companies into bankruptcy, a large portion of which had apparel as a primary product, including Lucky Brand, Brooks Brothers, Lord & Taylor, Ascena, J. Crew and Neiman Marcus.
Urban Outfitters seemingly was defying expectations last fall, reporting third-quarter results that were better than expected. At the time, the company also announced a new Free People Movement activewear line, which had just opened its first stand-alone store. Company CEO Richard Hayne told analysts that the brand had "the potential to become a billion-dollar brand and [we] plan to invest in its growth aggressively."
Harrington joined the Free People brand in 2002 and helped launch its first store. There she led product development across stores, digital and wholesale. During that time, she helped develop the visual merchandising team and grew the buying team.