The Barneys Warehouse Sale is kind of like an annoying, old relative: irksome and exasperating, but you would miss it if it suddenly disappeared. Yesterday, The New York Post suggested that the future of the Warehouse Sale was in serious question. Naturally, bloggers responded with much discussion, but in the end, The Shophound has to wonder why they have kept it going for so long in the first place? The Post reports that Barneys CEO Mark Lee hates its downmarket image and would like to eliminate it entirely. Shoppers have grumbled for years that it's no longer as good as it used to be.
And yet, we still managed to pick up a few things on the final few days that were worthwhile and irresistably reduced in price, and over the years we have all discovered some great find —a surprise item that we never could have afforded, or possibly something that we had been eyeing all season that survived until the price was finally chiseled away to a suitable level.
Here are the reasons why Barneys could easily be convinced to end the Warehouse Sales:
It's Not Classy
Barneys New York could hardly have a more exclusive image, and yet twice a year they spend considerable resources promoting a grotty sale where its luxurious goods are crammed on pipe racks in a basement, often becoming shopworn and otherwise damaged in the process.
It's A Bit Of A Fakeout
Prices at the beginning of the sale are exactly the same as they were for the final clearance inside Barneys' much more pleasant regular stores —that is if the items ever actually were sold at a full-line Barneys store. Much of the merchandise at the Warehouse Sale have obviously never seen the inside of a real Barneys. Particularly in Men's Tailored Clothing and Dress Shirts, one of the sale's biggest draws, one finds goods that have been bought expressly for the Warehouse Sale. Even among the other merchandise, we have always noticed a good amount of off-price goods from regular Barneys vendors that is recognizably from past seasons.
Barneys Already Has 13 Full-Time Outlet Stores
Though they aren't quite as big as Neiman Marcus Last Call or Saks Off 5th stores, Barneys' Network of Outlet Stores are placed at most of the biggest Outlet Centers like Woodbury Commons and Tanger at Riverhead to name a few. Why would they need to hold a Warehouse Sale for an end-of-season clearance when they have a whole network supposedly devoted to that very purpose? Obviously, a great deal of merchandise is made expressly for the outlets —not unlike the way similar stores for Ralph Lauren, J. Crew and a host of other designers operate— but that doesn't mean that they aren't a perfectly good way to dispose of Barneys' other clearance goods.
It Shuts Down A Perfectly Good Co-op Location For Nearly 8 Weeks A Year.
As New Yorkers know, the Warehouse Sale takes place in the Chelsea Co-op store which is converted every season for this purpose. That means, however, that it isn't selling the full price merchandise that really feeds the chain's profits. Regular customers have to go elsewhere if they are interested in new stuff —and they may not necessarily wind up shopping at one of the chain's other locations. That's bad business by anyone's standards.
And here's one big reason why it may not go away anytime soon:
People Love It, and It Still Does Big Business
Grumble about it if you must, but customers still line up for the Warehouse Sale. It packs them in, epecially on the weekends, and we can only assume that the sales numbers are major. Considering that a lot of the goods are off-price to begin with, the profit margins are probably higher than one might initially assume, and one has to remember that one of the reasons Mark Lee was brought to Barney's was to make it more profitable. For the moment, at least, he is in no position to cancel an event that add to the company's bottom line. While we would tend to agree that the Warehouse Sale has seen better days, we aren't convinced that the plug is ready to be pulled quite yet.
Barneys' empty 'house (NYPost)