Urban Brands has built a bustling business proving that women of style come in different shades and sizes. The company owns the Ashley Stewart brand, whose collection spans career apparel, sportswear, denim, lingerie, and accessories, including hats, scarves, and jewelry. The line is geared toward African-American women who wear sizes 12 to 26. Urban Brands operates about 180 stores under the Ashley Stewart banner in more than 25 states, the District of Columbia, and the US Virgin Islands. It also operates ashleystewart.com. Since a short stint in Chapter 11, Urban Brands has been owned by investment group GB Merchant Partners (an affiliate of liquidator Gordon Brothers Group).
Change in Company Type
GB Merchant Partners bought Urban Brands out of bankruptcy in late 2010 for nearly $16 million.
Plus-size apparel retailer Urban Brands operates throughout half the US, as well as in the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands. Its flagship store is located in Harlem.
Urban Brands is focused on profitability. GB Merchant Partners is working to turn around the plus-size retailer's sagging business. The investment unit, which assumed some of the retailer's liabilities, said it is reviving the chain from a "new and stronger position." Additionally, the parent company left most of Urban Brands' retail network intact -- shuttering about 35 locations of 210 total stores.
Urban Brands filed for bankruptcy protection in September 2010 after several years of losses. The company began to suffer from liquidity problems in 2008, and its woes continued through the downturn in the economy. In 2009 it posted a loss of more than $28 million. When it filed for Chapter 11, Urban Brands estimated its liabilities at between $100 million and $500 million and assets between $10 million and $50 million. GB Merchant Partners was the stalking-horse bidder for the retailer, and in October the investment group emerged as the winner of a bankruptcy auction that persisted for 21 hours. The Gordon Brothers affiliate won out over firms like Rainbow USA and Monomoy Capital. Urban Brands was previously majority-owned by investment firm Trimaran Capital Partners.
Sales and Marketing
As mass retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart offer casual clothing in plus sizes, Urban Brands sees an opportunity in marketing full-figure designer clothing. It had hoped to attract more well-dressed customers by expanding its selection to include smaller sizes and reach a younger demographic. The typical Ashley Stewart shopper is 25 to 45 years old, earns $25,000 to $75,000, and owns her own home.
Urban Brands is owned by investment group GB Merchant Partners (an affiliate of liquidator Gordon Brothers Group).
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