Anthropologie - Not For Us?

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.

14 comments

  1. Hi Lisa great point, I do love the look of anthropologie too, but not affordable to me at this time! nice reading. :-) I also love music , dancing salsa of course is in my blood!! conoces Oscar D'leon? ja! have a great weekend!! :-)

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  2. I agree with you in full. My friends and I have agreed that the only way to shop at Anthropologies is by diving straight into the Sale section and now we can see why. I think part of the reason Anthropologie is so frustrating is also because of the feel of the store and website: it's so similar to an Urban Outfitters or any other retail store we usually shop at that we feel betrayed when we see the prices we'd usually expect to see in a Coach or Chanel. (Okay that was a bit of an exaggeration.)

    Btw, the post was a great read. You've got a good way with words.

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  3. I was really baffled by their prices as well! I looked up some shoes and they ran between 100-400! I couldn't believe it. They're not Choos or Weitsman, professional shoe tailors... they're Anthropologie! Thanks for doing the research. Ridiculous. I'll never be able to afford their clothing, even if my household makes $200,000 a year...unless it's on sale. Freaking A, so expensive.

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  4. I totally agree! And what's more, I'm in my early 20s (and naturally, so are most of my friends), and we adore the clothes at anthropologie. I don't live in the US, so when I go there on holidays I force myself to choose just a few items, otherwise my entire bank account would be entirely empty. I scrimp and save to buy a flight, and scrimp and save to shop there! What's more, I tried buying a skirt online there recently, and it was on sale for $50. Bargain, I thought! I thought wrong - it was $57 for shipping alone! I seriously don't know how they justify that to their supposed upper-class clientele.

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  5. I just went to my local Anthropologie today, and they had their sale rack with additional 50% off sale too. The most expensive I've paid was 50$, the cheapest 15$, all skirts and tops. I got eight items today so my god I felt so good!!! Online though, the sale is not really worth it. It's 20$ along just to pre-pay the duty fees on shipping :(

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  6. In the sale section I found 11 clothing items for the total of 314$. It's a lot yes, but wow it was a great sale. The most expensive I went with a piece of clothing was 50$. I do not go shopping there often, only when I really need to update my wardrobe and they have an additional 50% off sale on their sale items.

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  7. Wondering how everyone feels about this 15 years later? Now that I can afford the clothing there it feels like it’s no longer for me. I bought a ton of stuff- the quality is cheap, the styles are early 20s, and the fit is off.

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  8. I'm wondering this, too. This original post sounded a bit snarky to me and some of us must be in the aforementioned demographic by now. Have feelings changed?

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  9. Haha! Yes - i adored this store when i was in college and always was saddened by their price tags! Id usually buy one pretty dress per year and it felt like it was everything! Im now 36 and can afford their clothing, but feel as if the quality is not worth it at all. I usually stick to the sale section -- where the price and quality match more to me.

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  10. Maybe the extra details and quality of their clothing actually cost more to make? I would be offended that you think older women have to be categorized as "settled" and thereby dress a certain way if I couldn't brush it off to less-traveled naivety. Women can be anything they want at any time and can certainly dress the part. Nice clothes that last longer cost more, period.

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  11. I just discovered this store last year. While I am in my early 60's, and with the income of their target market, I still feel that these prices are out of my price range. As one whose weight fluctuates--mainly between 1X and 3X--I feel that paying a lot of money for clothing is wasteful. I discovered that they have a wide range of clothing that goes to 26w and even 3X! I also discovered that they frequently have 40% off sales. So guess who now shops at this site every month? Me!! But mostly on sale. I have found dresses originally priced at $148 on sale for $59; corduroys priced at $129 on sale for $29; $200 purses on sale for $70, and my list goes on. I also found a few good deals on the Nuuly menu which consists of gently worn items on their website. By reading reviews and staying away from figure hugging items, I have found very good bargains on very well made clothing. I love the high quality of their clothing and have purchased a few items at full price and have not been disappointed.

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    Replies
    1. I laughed at the comment of the person in their early 60s, that sounds exactly like me. I too am in my early 60s and just discovered Anthropologie. I absolutely love their clothes but find the prices ridiculously high. I run straight to the sales weekly. Most times the items I want are sold out, but I've found some awesome pieces at great prices. I'll continue to look weekly but exercise some self control. Lol

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