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Urban Outfitters Inc. lies on the record

By Sydney Shaw
Opinions Editor

Long forgotten are the days that Urban Outfitters exploited school shootings, mental illness and Native American heritage. Now, the Philly-based clothing company has moved on to a new project — lying to Wall Street analysts.

Urban Outfitters, though claiming to be the world’s largest distributor of vinyls, is second to Amazon. (AP Photo)
Urban Outfitters, though claiming to be the world’s largest distributor of vinyls, is second to Amazon. (AP Photo)

Last week, it was reported that the company’s chief administrative officer Calvin Hollinger told analysts that “music is very, very important to the Urban customer … in fact, we are the world’s number one vinyl seller.”

Hipsters all around the country held a collective breath. This is an outrage. What about tiny hole-in-the-wall record stores? What about real indie retailers?

According to Billboard, though, “Analysis shows that Amazon is the largest seller of vinyl in the U.S., with about 12.3 percent market share, followed by Urban Outfitters with 8.1 percent market share.”

So it isn’t Urban Outfitters, but Amazon that controls the market for LPs worldwide. But honestly, that’s not a significant improvement.

Local stores like Princeton Record Exchange, Randy Now’s Man Cave and Shore Things have been the backbone of vinyl’s growth for decades. Through the death and revival of records, these stores never abandoned the music.

In an interview with Townsquare Media, Judy Mills, owner and operator of Mills Record Company in Kansas City, M.O., called the decline of small music stores the “Wal-Mart-ification of music.” One reason Urban Outfitters fails as a record distributor is because their vinyls are more expensive (Interpol’s newest album “El Pintor” is $22 at Urban Outfitters. It’s $16 everywhere else). But you lose so much more than a handful of cash. You lose diversity, because labels like XL Recordings and Hardly Art will never have an outlet at a store like Urban Outfitters. You lose service from an overqualified record store employee who will remember your face and suggest new tunes for you next time you venture into the store.

Just like Starbucks is a monopoly over small mom-and-pop coffee chains while many food stores harm local agriculture by not selling local produce, Urban Outfitters’ fixation with creating a mainstream sale of vinyl is bad for the vinyl market. And in the same way that food from a farmer’s market is better for your wallet and better quality, records from genuine retailers are cheaper and of higher value than the collection you’ll find at Urban Outfitters.

Even if you’re okay with the work of independent designers being blatantly plagiarized and the company’s CEO having a not-so-secret, right-wing agenda, you shouldn’t be okay with Urban Outfitters monopolizing the indie music industry.

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