As Barneys confirms that its Co-op store in Chelsea, its first outside a flagship store, will be closing after next month's Warehouse Sale, the retailer also reveals that it is actively looking for all sorts of retail opportunities in downtown Manhattan including a perennially rumored second Manhattan flagship location. According to today's WWD, a multitude of options are up in the air concerning Barneys' retail plans for New York. The Co-op on West 18th Street will close not because it is underperforming but because the lease is up and the landlord is planing extensive renovations that will require all tenants to vacate. The upcoming Warehouse Sale (no official dates yet) will be the last in the location, but it is expected to continue on in another location nearby in August or September.
What happens next remains a big question. The store's official statement to WWD is,
“While we have no immediate plans to replace the Chelsea store downtown, we believe that there remains significant opportunity for Barneys in downtown Manhattan to replace and expand upon this store closing, and our historic business, and are continuing to look at multiple real estate options for the medium to long term,”
—which could mean almost anything. A full flagship, including a Co-op department would require at least 100,000 square feet, and probably more to make the kind of statement New Yorkers expect from Barneys, which is not especially easy to find anywhere in Manhattan let alone in the kind of shopping neighborhoods where one expects to find a luxury store. A Co-op might be easier to place, and more of a priority, since this closing leaves the SoHo Co-op as the only one downtown, and that location does not include Men's apparel at all, as the Chelsea unit did.
Barneys has been in retrenchment mode over the past couple of years, shedding underperforming branch stores in both the flagship and Co-op divisions, but it remains successful in big cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. A new Manhattan store could strengthen the chain in a market where it already has an established customer base and brand loyalty —the question is exactly where it would be? It's worth noting that Barneys had established itself as a tony store on Seventh Avenue and 17th Street during the 1970s and 80s, a time when Chelsea was not yet seen as a particularly luxurious or desirable neighborhood. In fact, the store played a major role in Chelsea's gentrification. Is Barneys still daring enough to once again become a single destination in a less glamorous part of downtown Manhattan (if there are any left) or has corporate ownership made it more cautious and conservative? Hopefully, we'll find out before Chelsea has to go for too long without one of its most popular stores —and most convenient and reliably decent rest rooms.
Barneys New York Looking for Downtown Flagship? By Sharon Edelson (WWD)