While this all may smack of old-school gender stereotyping, Hayne’s theory works. He knows that the more women identify with a shop, the more time we spend in it. The more time we spend in it, the more money we spend in it. According to Hayne, his shoppers, by his count “99.9 percent women,” may browse his competitors — specialty retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap and J. Crew — for an average of 30 to 35 minutes per visit. Urban clocks its shoppers’ visits at an average 55 minutes. At Anthro, it’s closer to an hour and 15 minutes.
What makes a woman spend twice the time and loads of money in Dick Hayne’s world? It’s something Hayne’s employees reverently refer to as “The Experience.” The Experience translates to the overall good feeling a shopper gets at an Urban brand, and results from a number of factors, the main one being a sense of individuality (even though the stores all carry the same merchandise). Most of Hayne’s stores are two to three times the size of other specialty shops; the majority have stand-alone addresses at the edges of gentrifying neighborhoods. Each location employs its own artistic director, who’s charged with changing the shop’s displays as frequently as fashion changes its mind. Inside, the stores are laid out like a hip treasure hunt, meant to lure potential buyers deeper and deeper into the inventory. You find stuff you need — say, a pair of high-waisted denim sailor trousers from Free People ($138). But then you get to stuff you don’t really need, but covet (Anthro’s Astrid chair upholstered in Missoni Home’s Passiflora, $1,998). Then you find the stuff you didn’t even know you coveted until you saw it — like the “Obama for yo Mama” tee from Urban ($24).
But the most interesting thing about The Experience isn’t that Hayne created it — developing a strategy to both help your stores stand out and get people to linger inside them is hardly novel — but when he did it: during the meteoric ascent of the U.S. mega-mall. Just as America was embracing behemoth, all-encompassing retail, Hayne took his cash register in the complete opposite direction, rejecting cookie-cutter models and “planograms,” the ubiquitous schematics retailers use to establish uniform product placement among stores — in other words, making sure every store in a chain looks just like every other store in the chain. It was a contrary move, and a prescient one. Not only did his out-of-the-box locations (the first Urban was in a 20,000-square-foot warehouse near Penn; the first Anthro remains in its original and unlikely digs, a former car dealership in Wayne) save him money; they also made his customer feel like she was experiencing something unique. “It’s kind of a labyrinth,” says analyst Driscoll. “You keep walking through, delighted by each turn. … You feel like you’re discovering little things.”
The Experience became Hayne’s way of making his shoppers, his women, feel special. “You show up for a date, and you have some flowers and look like you care,” he says mirthfully, “you’re much more likely to get a second date.”