Barneys rebounds with smaller-store concept
Houston Business Journal - April 7, 2006
by Allison Wollam
Houston Business Journal
After leaving Houston with a big bang in the 1990s, luxury retailer Barneys New York is baby-stepping its way back into the Bayou City.
Barneys is set to open a Barneys CO-OP store in the Galleria on April 20, nine years after closing a short-lived flagship store in the same mall. The retailer's CO-OP concept is made up of smaller, edgier stores geared more toward the hip crowd than the ladies who lunch.
The 9,000-square-foot Houston CO-OP store -- only the 10th of its kind in the country -- will be located in the former J.Crew location in the mall's Neiman Marcus wing. J. Crew is currently operating from a temporary space by Nordstrom while awaiting completion of a new store within the former Lord & Taylor space.
"The Barneys sensibility has a big following in the Houston area," Barneys New York CEO Howard Socol said in a prepared statement. "Our ability to resource unusual product and find new, creative, interesting designers is going to make the store a big hit with the hip set in town."
While Barneys' flagship department stores offer upscale shopping popular with celebrities, David New, executive vice president of store design for Barneys New York, describes the CO-OP store as "arty glamorous eco-tech."
For the store design, architect Robert G. Lyon & Associates Inc. incorporated elements such as vintage refrigerators, recycled wood and surplus airline and bus equipment and juxtaposed them with flea-market troves, including giant ceramic animals.
The concept originally began as a department within the larger Barneys New York stores and was later broken out into stand-alone units.
Back for seconds
After retreating from the market nearly a decade ago, Barneys is hoping for a more successful turn in Houston with its CO-OP concept.
The New York retailer opened a 20,000-square-foot store in the Galleria in 1991, but closed the store in 1997 in an attempt to work its way out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Nick Hernandez, a retail broker with Page Realty Partners Ltd., says it is significant that the local market has landed a retailer with the high-end reputation of Barneys.
"It lends credibility to the depth of the fashion market in Houston," he says.
While Hernandez suggests that retailers tend to gravitate toward additional store openings when existing locations perform well in a market, Dawn Brown, vice president of publicity for Barneys New York, says Barneys doesn't currently have plans to open a traditional flagship store in Houston. Instead, the company is building an 88,000-square-foot store in Dallas which is expected to open in time for the holiday shopping season.
Retail broker Jason Baker, a principal with Baker Katz, says when national retailers expand into Texas, they typically start with Dallas.
"The perception is that Dallas is a more cosmopolitan city and that, consequently, a move to Dallas before Houston is less risky," he says. "Once those same retailers come to Houston, they are consistently surprised at the realization of what a great, great city we have."
Barneys' Brown says the retailer found the Galleria to be a perfect match for the CO-OP store.
"The demographic for the Galleria is what the CO-OP is all about," says Brown. "We think we'll definitely add to the mix."
The Barneys CO-OP stores are designed to emulate an art installation, where massive denim walls showcase designer jeans for men and women. The Houston store will also offer bags from Marc by Marc Jacobs, Sissi Rossi and Jas MB; jewelry from Wendy Mink and Kirt Holmes; belts from Mark Bernstein; and shoes for both men and women.
While CO-OP prices are also more reasonable than the luxe flagship stores, discount prices are not part of the Barneys mix.
In a Barneys CO-OP catalog recently mailed to Houston-area recipients, prices range from $78 for a white "Cannot" T-shirt by Marc by Marc Jacobs to $125 for a slip dress by Vince to $965 for a leather parachute bag by Sissirossi.
The Houston store opening is part of an expansion by New York-based Jones Apparel Group Inc., which purchased Barneys in late 2004.
Brown says the company plans to open two to four CO-OP stores and two flagship stores per year.
Barneys currently operates six namesake department stores, nine CO-OP stores and 12 outlet stores.