Urban Outfitters owner scraps policy that allegedly led to racial profiling of shoppers

Posted June 26, 2020 5:09 p.m. EDT

— The company that owns retail chains Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie says it has changed a policy intended to combat shoplifting that allegedly resulted in the racial profiling of customers.

URBN says it previously used a theft prevention policy that instructed workers to identify potential shoplifters using code words such as "Nick," "Nicky" and "Nicole."

But employees allegedly directed the code words largely at people of color who were in stores, according to a report by Buzzfeed News.

"It has been brought to our attention that this policy was misused," URBN said in an emailed statement. "We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the reports of racial profiling in our stores, and we profusely apologize to each and every customer who was made to feel unwelcome."

In addition to eliminating code words, URBN said it would require a third-party review of store practices, make diversity training mandatory for associates and managers, and increase recruiting at historically Black colleges and universities.

In recent years, URBN has been the subject of controversy because of some products sold at its stores.

The Anti-Defamation League condemned the parent company's Urban Outfitters chain in 2015 and 2012 for selling shirts resembling Holocaust-era prison uniforms and badges that Nazis forced Jews to wear, respectively.

In 2014, Urban Outfitters pulled a "sun-faded vintage" Kent State University sweatshirt after public criticism that the red stains resembled blood spatter. Kent State was the locale of a 1970 incident where four unarmed students were shot and killed by police during a Vietnam War protest.

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