The dismantling of the Barneys CO-OP chain has begun.
This week, the contemporary spin-off from the luxury store shut down the men's section of its Upper West Side location in advance of a transformation that will remove the Co-op name from its door and result in a women's-only Barneys New York boutique that better reflects the the overall image and new interior design of the Madison Avenue flagship. Similar renovations are also planned for the much larger Co-op at The Grove in Los Angeles. Ultimately both stores will wind up with more room for shoes and accessories and include more designer collections. Many observers believe that this is likely to be the fate of the remaining stores in the Co-op chain, which current management seems disenchanted with as an expansion vehicle for the Barneys brand.
Since the Chelsea location lost its lease after the last Warehouse Sale, New York is left with only the SoHo Co-op, which has always been a women's-only store, and the two-level Brooklyn branch on Atlantic Avenue between Clinton and Court Streets which is the last one outside of the flagship that sells men's collections. Right now, the store is a clutter of racks waiting to be made sense of while half of the store is being refashioned.
This metamorphosis leaves us wondering why Barneys is undertaking an expensive renovation to upgrade what has never been a particularly strongly performing Co-op location? The L.A. store is a more likely candidate as it is located not just in a busy shopping center, but one that has become a favorite place for retail chains looking to launch their latest store concepts before rolling them out. Despite close proximity to the luxurious Apthorp apartment building, however, the particular stretch of Broadway holding the West Side Co-op is entirely devoid of similar stores. The main foot traffic generators in the area are Fairway, Citarella and Zabar's with a large DSW store a few blocks away on 79th street. It now seems obvious that this Co-op store should always have placed a couple of blocks east on Columbus Avenue, where it could take advantage of an increasingly busy retail strip full of women's boutiques like Rag & Bone, Intermix and Theory among others. Will jettisoning men's collections and making the store more luxurious and exclusive turn it into a successful mini-Barneys or more of a misplaced boondoggle? We will see at the end of the Summer when the transformation is expected to be complete.