All new Terrain: Urban Outfitters develops lawn and garden concept

CONCORDVILLE,, PA. —Think Smith & Hawken meets Barnes & Noble meets Bath & Body Works.

Terrain, the new outdoor living format by Urban Outfitters that debuted here last month, is a combination of these ideas—with a decidedly upscale product mix and a heavy accent on sustainability.

Urban Outfitters—the $1.2 billion lifestyle consumer products company operating under the Anthropologie, Free People and Urban Outfitters brands—decided to launch the concept by purchasing J. Franklin Styer Nurseries, a 118-year-old garden center near Chadds Ford, Pa., one of Philadelphia’s wealthiest suburbs. They took the 10-acre nursery and added indoor and outdoor furniture, pottery and decor, personal care items, books, cooking utensils and more. In addition, there’s an established landscape design service and a café serving a spa-meets-farmhouse menu.

Terrain at Styer’s has been drawing a steady stream of upscale suburban customers—particularly women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. There are Saturday classes on such topics as caring for hydrangeas, grilling, wreath making and container design. It could be called a one-stop-shop for the gardening/entertaining life style.

“This is a great choice for our first acquisition-partner because it has a great customer base, a great vendor base and it’s known for high-quality plants and a great landscaping division,” said John Kinsella, Terrain’s managing director. “Mixing cultures is a complicated thing, but we’re learning from each other.”

The retail spaces, which include a couple of greenhouses and a hothouse, have a relaxed, uncrowded feel—underscored by high ceilings, wide spaces between displays and mellow background music. There are products from all over the world, including American tables, French café chairs, Egyptian lanterns and Indian accessories. Included in the mix is everything from chemical-free skin products and vegetarian cookbooks to organic pesticides and all-weather deep seating. Then there are aisles upon aisles of beautiful greenery.

“What Urban does very well is create a great shopping environment,” Kinsella said. “All the senses are being touched. We wanted to create a place where people could come in for inspiration and to get rejuvenated. It’s a little bit like an oasis.”

Local resident Anna Clifford Tollemar, shopping at Terrain at Styer’s in early June, said she’s drawn to its European touch and the fact that there’s nothing else like it in the area. “I like the artistic feel of it, the way the displays are done so beautifully,” she said. “It’s pricey, but the quality is there.”

Another customer, Lenore Davies, had taken the 45-minute drive from down town Philadelphia to hang out at Terrain for most of the afternoon. “It’s very holistic, very inspirational, and it’s neat to have so many different things together in one place,” she said.

During a Lehman Brothers retail conference earlier this year, Urban Outfitters’ CFO John Kyees pointed to a fragmented lawn and garden market of about $85 billion, of which Home Depot and Lowe’s hold about a 35 percent share. He described a $1 billion potential—50 Terrain stores doing $20 million each in annual sales.

Back in Concordville, Kinsella elaborated on the opportunity. “You have the big boxes, which have a huge selection at low prices, but they’ve kind of commoditized the experience,” he said. “Then you have 20,000 garden centers around the country, and very few have more than five or six locations. And even fewer do more than $5 million a year. There was a definite void in the market.”

Kinsella, a former Williams-Sonoma and Smith & Hawken senior manager, seems to have been hand-crafted for Terrain’s top job. In addition to his background in upscale retail, Kinsella also earned his Master Gardener certification and started several organic community gardens in California before moving east a few months ago.

“Twenty years ago there were hardcore gardeners, and then there was everyone else,” he said. “Now people are interested in plants for the beauty of it. Plants used as decor has really expanded the potential customer base.”

Each Terrain location will operate independently, drawing on the local flavor of plant life and culture while sharing best practices with other members. The next few locations will probably be in the mid-Atlantic region—possibly New Jersey and lower Connecticut—as the company strives to leverage buys and tighten the supply chain.

“What Urban does is personalize all the stores,” Kinsella said. “The Terrain here has a Pennsylvania barn feel, while a Terrain in San Diego might have an adobe feel. The local store reflects the local customer base and culture.”

Urban expects to develop a Terrain Web site and a direct marketing catalog in the next year or so. Regarding more locations, Kinsella said there are some deals in the works, but nothing has been finalized.

“We’re trying to balance our growth with our learning here, so we’re smarter about the next one,” he said. “The goal for Terrain is about 50 locations—spread far enough apart that each is seen as a destination.”