US lifestyle retailer Urban Outfitters is set to grow its UK store numbers and increase the wholesale of its premium womenswear brand Free People.

According to a report in the Independent on Sunday, the company, which also owns womenswear retailer Anthropologie, will open up to nine shops this year, adding to its existing portfolio of 16 Urban Outfitters and two Anthropologie stores. It will also expand its Free People brand, which it wholesales in Harvey Nichols, with the aim of opening Free People stores once its wholesale presence is built up.

Urban Outfitters will also consider opening smaller stores than its usual two or three storey formats and is to open a distribution warehouse in Rushden, Northamptonshire which will service its British shops and website business.The retailer said it could grow to 50 stores in the UK.

In January Urban Outfitters launched an online bridalwear brand in the US – – which it also plans to bring to the UK.

Urban Outfitters chief executive Glen Senk is reported to have said: “The economy has not changed in the past two to three years. It was near collapse in 2008, but people feel even more negative now. I said in 2008 it will take 10 years to get better and I still think that is the case. People are spending less so we have a smaller slice of the pie, but we need to concentrate and focus on the customer.”

In March, Urban Outfitters revealed that it had grown net sales by 13.6% in the three months to January 31, compared to the same period the previous year, but that its net profits dropped 3.1%.

Full-year comparisons were more favourable, with profits up by 24.1% to $273m (£168.7m) but it did not split out its UK performance.