Barneys New York takes new approach, says CEO

Barneys New York has a new strategy: “reenergizing, not reinventing,” declared Barneys CEO Mark Lee, according to WWD.

At a recent summit, Lee shared his plan for Barneys with the general public for the first time.

“I see myself and the team as caretakers of a legendary store,” the CEO explained to WWD.

One key component will involve using the element of surprise by highlighting new designers and supporting innovative marketing and merchandising.

“The overarching goal is to create surprise and speak to our customer in different ways. Barneys always had a large amount of surprise and wit. The vision of the [Pressman] family was very much ahead of its time,” Lee said of the family who founded the company.

According to Lee, Barney’s reputation as a rule breaker is built on being “special, different and always the first” in taking on new designers and sellers.

“(Barneys) enjoys size and scale that does not require it to be for everyone,” he maintained.

As Barneys’ shoppers are seeking more unusual merchandise, the store has elected not to emphasize megabrands.

While some have speculated that Barneys should cast a wider net with its merchandise range, Lee clarified that the luxury department store will be keeping to its roots: what makes Barneys what it is.

“I believe in working on everything at the same time … We are just at the very beginning of unlocking the potential of what we have,” Lee said.

Toward the end of featuring rare items, Barneys has also unveiled a 220-piece exclusive holiday collection from Gaga’s Workshop, for which Lady Gaga and her team created pieces from candy lipsticks to gum balls and press-on nails. “The holiday windows will explode with 5,000 square feet of selling space,” Lee said.

The months’ long renovation includes building a full women’s footwear department and opening up the main floor, which features accessories and jewelry, by breaking through to the men’s department.

“Barneys is reclaiming its own space as a timeless modern environment,” Lee said. “We are not cutting up our space into vendor shops. We are moving away from that. The ground floor hasn’t been touched in nearly two decades.”

Barneys Co-op division is also being reworked. “It has to be more designer, more special. As we go forward, we are looking toward a smaller footprint in more sophisticated urban areas where we do well,” the CEO said.

Even during this economy, Lee reported the Boston, Chicago and San Francisco flagships are doing well; nevertheless, some other locations, which he failed to name, are “questionable.”

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