I was a customer at Barneys New York in Beverly Hills for nearly 20 years . I’ve also chatted with staff, many of whom go back 15–20 years also. In my opinion, the end was inevitable a few years ago when Barneys hired some retail genius to chop up the men’s department on the 5th floor. It had long been an open expanse where a customer could see where things were, navigate, be stimulated by beautiful things and displays, and be encouraged by being able to see experienced staff nearby.
After the chop-up, it became a rabbit warren of suits/shoes/ties/ and worst of all, sneakers. Staff in one section could neither see who needed help nor who was stuffing something in their pocket. It became difficult to shop there, and people who are willing and able to spend $500 + on a pair of jeans don’t like difficult.
Fashion Forward — Barneys lived and ultimately died on being fashioned forward — whatever the fad, be it ripped jeans, animal prints, etc. But what keeps retail alive is traffic, and what sustained traffic was Barneys house brand. But as Barneys over-committed to fashion forward, they neglected the bread and butter of their excellent house brand. White shirts, black pencil skirts and the navy business suit that every man needs to own.
Fashion Forward is financially perilous. Whoever was running Barneys should have understood this, and balanced the books by keeping their house brand strong and thereby sustaining traffic.
Some retail analyst will probably write a book about the life and death of Barneys and come to different conclusions as to what mistakes were made and by whom. But as a loyal customer I am just sad, because to me it’s obvious what happened and it was totally avoidable.