PC Profile: David Hayne OPC '96

PC Profile: David Hayne OPC '97

By Mark F. Bernstein OPC '79

Have you ever stood in front of your closet for what seems like an hour because you just have nothing to wear? David Hayne OPC ’96 feels your pain, and he is here to help. 

Hayne is the chief technology officer of URBN, the group of consumer product companies that includes Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, and several others. He is also president of Nuuly, a new division of URBN that has introduced both an online clothing rental site, Nuuly Rent, and an online thrift store, Nuuly Thrift. 

For an $88 monthly fee, anyone can go to Nuuly Rent and select up to six items of clothing from any store in the URBN family as well as other brands, to rent for a month. Going to a fancy party and need a dress but don’t want to spend a lot for something that will just sit in your closet afterwards? Rent it instead. 

“Instead of constantly buying newness and constantly adding items to your closet, which most women either can’t afford to do or get tired of doing, Nuuly Rent offers a way to add newness to your wardrobe but in a more sustainable and cost-effective way,” Hayne explained. At the end of the month, shoppers simply return the items they’ve selected and pick six new items or, if they fall in love with something, buy it online. 

Nuuly Thrift, URBN’s latest offering, approaches the retail market from a different angle. Rather than throw out that old sweater you don’t want anymore, post a photo of it on the Nuuly Thrift website and see if anyone else wants it. Sellers hold on to their items until they sell and Nuuly facilitates the shipping and payment. In a way, it’s like browsing through hundreds of other people’s closets. 

Hayne’s parents founded a store known as The Free People’s Store in 1970 in a West Philadelphia rowhouse. Six years later, they launched Urban Outfitters just across the street from the Penn campus, though it now has 800+ locations in the United States, Canada and Europe. Along with his siblings, Sarah OPC ’94 and Jonathan OPC ’95, Hayne was a PC lifer and fondly recalled playing baseball for coach Rick Mellor OPC ’69. After graduating from Trinity College, he went straight to work stocking shelves at the Urban Outfitters store on Walnut Street. He had the good fortune to come along just as e-commerce was beginning to develop, the good sense to jump on the new opportunities it offered. 

In 2004, Hayne launched the Free People website, and over the next 11 years filled several roles for that division, including serving as chief operating officer. He and his lifelong friend Chris DiMarco OPC ’94 also co-founded Perpay, Inc., an online financial company. In 2019, Perpay ranked fifth on Inc.com’s list of fastest growing private companies in the United States. 

Starting in 2016, Hayne turned his focus to URBN’s corporate digital strategy as chief digital officer. But the goal, he said, was always to look for opportunities to build new digital experiences that their customers would appreciate. That led to Nuuly. The online rental business started in 2019 and the thrift business opened this fall. 

Although the focus of Hayne’s work is in cyberspace, he works at URBN’s large corporate headquarters in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Nuuly Rent, however, has also built a 300,000 square foot warehouse, including a full laundry facility, in Bristol, Pa. Covid has shaken up business for most retailers around the globe, and URBN is no exception. Before the pandemic, Hayne estimated, in-store transactions accounted for approximately 60 percent of URBN’s sales, and online transactions the other 40 percent. Now the two are nearly even, with the trend moving steadily in the direction of e-commerce. 

Convenience may be the most obvious reason to resell your no-longer-wanted clothes online but Hayne emphasized another one: sustainability. It is better to make sure that last year’s fashions end up as someone else’s treasure—and not in a landfill. 

“The whole goal with Nuuly Thrift,” he said, “is to make it as easy as possible to sell something and get the value of that and to monetize what’s in your closet. Fashion is cyclical. We give you the ability to benefit from something and then not just throw it away but give it to someone else who can love it like you did.”