Everyone I know who loves Anthropologie's clothes, accessories, and home furnishings is not so in love with their prices. The girl who first turned me onto Anthropologie waxed poetic about their merchandise the same way Homer Simpson drooled over a pink doughnut: "Anthropologie has sooo many nice things! Sooo expensive, but so nice! Sigh..." The friends whom I've told about Anthropologie have said the same. Daddy Likey, a blog that I'm a big fan of, has an extremely entertaining entry about the futility of finding a good deal on Anthropologie's sales racks. A quick perusal through their website will yield $250 sundresses, $400 shoes, $700 end tables...and these are in US dollars.
Why is Anthropologie so expensive? I did some quick Googling and found an interesting article on Wikipedia about the founding of Anthropologie. The CEO apparently wanted to create a more grown-up sister brand to the already hugely successful Urban Outfitters retail chain and retain consumers loyal to Urban Outfitters. Their ideal demographic was affluent, settled-down career women in their 30s and 40s, with an average income of $200,000 a year.
In other words, Anthropologie's intended for women much older than we are with an income that puts them in the top 5% of household incomes in North America. When you think about it that way, the crazy prices make a warped kind of sense: If an "average" person makes about $40,000 a year, which is one-fifth of the ideal Anthropologie customer's income, divide those prices by 5 and you instantly get prices that align with middle-class budgets much better.
The presumptuousness of catering to such a narrow demographic is astonishing given Anthropologie's widespread appeal. Their marketing strategy discriminates along lines of age (i.e. if you're young and paying off student loans, it's not for you) and class. It seems odd that even though I'm a fan of the unique detailing and tailored, polished look of Anthropologie's clothing, in reality their marketers have pigeonholed me into the Urban Outfitters demographic as a young consumer with a lower income, and thus a consumer of mass-manufactured cotton basics which look like they were designed and made without much thought going into them.
Their advertising campaigns and online catalogues also contradict Anthropologie's purported ideal demographic. A flip through any of their monthly online catalogues reveals models who look like they are in their early 20s and enjoying a young vibrant life rather than a settled one. The feel of the website and the merchandise suggest that you're browsing through the wardrobe of some hip, twentysomething girl with a job in a creative industry like fashion design or graphic arts, someone who shops in small boutiques and supports local designers and wears all the right clothes all the time. In short, they're selling the lifestyle of the demographic they're shunning.
This is, I suppose, part of Anthropologie's branding genius: They make the older career women feel young and hip and cool, while designing stuff that appeals to the aesthetic sensibilities of twentysomethings who aspire to make enough money to shop there more or less regularly. Until the day when I can justify shelling out $250 US for a cotton dress, though, I think I'll stick to RW & Co. for my fix of polished, detailed clothing with a good fit.