Urban Outfitters, the South Philly-based group of store chains that mostly sells women's apparel, said Monday it will use the one million-square-foot, 500-worker warehouse it has been building over the last year near Gap, Lancaster County, to replace its 10-year-old "Ecommerce Fulfillment Center" in Trenton, S.C.
Urban Outfitters opened the Southern distribution center and moved 200 jobs there from the Philadelphia area 10 years ago. The lease on that center was due to expire next year.
The new Gap center, like Urban Outfitters' headquarters in the former Philadelphia Navy Yard, is in a Keystone tax-break zone, which gives the company relief on state and local taxes. Urban Outfitters earned an all-time high $282 million in after-tax profits last year, on record sales of $3.1 billion.
The partly automated Gap warehouse will speed Urban Outfitters' deliveries "for many years to come," the company said in a statement, adding it hoped some of its South Carolina workers would move to Lancaster County with their jobs.
Although Pennsylvania continues to lose factory jobs, the company's east-central and south-central counties have in recent years attracted giant warehouses from Amazon.com, Walmart, and other big retailers seeking cheaper labor and easier access to free highways than neighboring New Jersey offers.
Urban Outfitters operates a smaller, 291,000-square-foot center near the new Gap location. A company spokeswoman did not respond to inquiries on plans for that smaller warehouse.
Urban Outfitters founder Richard Hayne lives nearby on his estate in central Chester County.
The company operates 238 stores under its flagship brand in North America and Europe; 204 Anthropologie stores; 102 under the Free People brand targeted to younger women, plus a growing Free People wholesale business; and two Terrain garden centers.
Like other retailers, Urban Outfitters increasingly relies on online, iPad, and smartphone orders, and has been trying to speed delivery times to compete with Amazon.com. The company resorted to deeper discounts during the recent Christmas shopping season, analyst Adrienne Yih-Tennant, of Janney Capital Markets, told clients in a report last week.
Urban Outfitters also has warehouses in Reno, Nev., and Rushton, England, and a customer-contact center in Martinez, Ga.
At its monthly meeting Tuesday, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission will review, among other things:
Early stages of the University of Pennsylvania's proposal to demolish the former Penn Tower hotel between its museum and medical school, and replace it with a complex designed by British architect Norman Foster (who is also planning the second Comcast tower).
In other branded upgrades, the university plans to add 52,000-square- feet to what's now the Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics (the ex-Mellon building) at 133 S. 36th St.
Temple University plans to add the former William Penn High School to its master plan for the neighborhood. Current plans call for athletic facilities on the school site as Temple continues to grow south along Broad Street toward Center City. Temple also seeks planners' blessing on its new library and additions to the engineering school and Weiss Hall.
In South Philly, developer Phat Mot has proposed 113 housing units plus stores at 2401 Washington St., as the old industrial and construction-services neighborhood makes way for residential expansion from Center City.