Now Is The Time To Hit
The Department Store Sales

At this time of year, we here at The Shophound HQ can get immersed in keeping up with the ever-expanding plethora of sample sales that are going on right about now —so much so that we sometimes forget that the best shopping in the city is still often found in its unparalleled luxury department stores. Instead of running from one dusty showroom and sale facility to another, you can often maximize your shopping efficiency in the city's legendary retailers, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman, who have all taken second reductions this week. Our friends at the Madison Avenue Spy, who always have one keen eye focused on mid- and uptown shopping and sales, have made a handy chart telling us who is on sale right now and by how much.


Leave it to them to boil things down to the three stores that really matter in terms of designer shopping. The above three are the ones who tend to mark a price tag and stick with it —to a point— and also have the widest assortment of desirable designer labels. Bergdorf Goodman is on its second markdown at 60% Off for men's and women's apparel which is typically the final one. Women's shoes and handbags are at 50% Off, which could go down further, but may not.

Barneys is at 60% off in pretty much every department except children's (Do we care about children's? Maybe you do). Don't look for further reductions or an extra percentage off. Do not wait for the Warehouse Sale. They are not happening anymore. Any leftover merchandise will be shifted to the Warehouse Sale online store where extra promotional reductions will happen periodically, but usually without notice. It's also worth noting that it is the 21st century, and Barneys is still marking its sale tickets with red ballpoint pens like a neighborhood mom and pop shop. This can leave room for human error in either your or their favor, so make sure you double check those ticket prices before buying.

Over at Saks, reductions range from 50% to 60% off which is OK, but its seasoned sale shoppers know that this is just an interim reduction until the big consolidation final sale next month. Price tags will not be marked further, but there will be a sizable opportunity to take a hefty extra percentage off those tags when the time comes, bringing savings down to 70% Off or more.

While Bloomingdale's (not listed above) does carry some serious designer brands on certain floors, discounts tend to vary from day to day and special event sales add and subtract additional discounts at random. They are always worth a look on holiday weekends (July 4th coming up) which tend to be extra promotional, but it's good to know at what rate competitors are on reduction before you invest.

So there you have it. If you are sick of trotting from Sample Sale to Sample Sale, don't forget about our department stores. They have great deals right now and also, not insignificantly, private dressing rooms, convenient rest rooms, shipping services and reasonable return policies.

Where You'll Find the Best Deals (Madison Avenue Spy)


Could Neiman Marcus Be Opening A Flagship In Manhattan?

Here's a rumor that comes with a healthy helping of built-in skepticism. The New York Post is reporting that Neiman Marcus is negotiating for a flagship sized store that would open in 2018 in the upcoming Hudson Yards development being in the West 30's. This would fly in the face of the chain's longtime policy of opening branches around New York City in New Jersey and Westchester, but never within Manhattan as to not directly compete with or cannibalize the huge business generated by sibling store Bergdorf Goodman. Conversely, Bergdorf's has not expanded beyond its Men's and Women's stores at 58th Street and Fifth Avenue because any U.S. city with expansion potential would already have at least one Neiman Marcus store already thriving. Why change that now? Neiman Marcus Group has new owners who will be anxious for a return on their investment, and the luxury market in New York has grown to the point where some might be convinced that there's enough business for both stores. There are breathless real estate "sources" who are salivating at the prospect of a 200,000 square foot Neiman Marcus flagship anchoring the Hudson Yards complex whose retail component has yet to fully take shape. Also, Nordstom is set to open its first Manhattan store in 2018, at 57th Street and Broadway which would add even more retail action on Manhattan's western half. There's just one thing...
Location, location location.
Bergdorf issues aside, is Neiman Marcus the type of company that would risk opening a costly flagship sized store on 10th Avenue in the West 30s where there is currently nothing, and where there has never been any kind of retail district to speak of? Common wisdom would say no, but stranger things have been known to happen.
Of course, we have heard many times from real estate sources about confirmed deals like Nordstrom at the former Drake Hotel site, or Barneys in the Meatpacking district that never materialized, so one newspaper report doesn't not necessarily make a signed deal. If this does happen, however, it could mean big changes not only for Neiman Marcus but also Bergdorf's. If NMG is willing to bring Neiman's to Manhattan, then it also might be considering finally expanding Bergdorf's into other cities. Or not. Who knows? Stay tuned to see how, or even if, this story develops.

Neiman eyes Hudson Yards for 1st NYC store (NYPost)



Bergdorf Goodman's Holiday Windows Are As Spectacular As Ever

There are some things you can just rely on, and that is that the Holiday Windows on Bergdorf Goodman's Fifth Avenue storefront will be a lavish fantasy. This year the store stayed on form with five elaborate tableaux with theme, "Holidays On Ice". Of course, this makes us think of a long defunct figure skating show, but the conceit this year is actually representing frozen versions of holidays form the rest of the year, so we have frosty representations of Arbor Day, the Fourth of July, Valentine’s Day, Halloween and April Fool’s Day (pictured above). No, the image is not upside down, but the window is, because —April Fools! Smaller windows represent ever more holidays, and the best way to see them if you can't get down to the store is to check out Bergdorf's own blog where photographer Ricky Zehavi has dutifully documented them with more skill than we can —although we are planning to stop by after sunset soon to get some detail shots of our own. The flipped perspective is one of the store's Holiday window signatures, and BG fans will recognize other familiar elements. Our only criticism, and this is a mild one, is that there are perhaps too many of these recognizable touches in the windows, and the general aesthetic may run the risk of becoming a little bit too familiar over the years. This is a small quibble, however, Bergdorf's is still comfortably at the top of our Holiday Window list with little sign of slipping anytime soon.

Holiday Windows 2013: Holidays on Ice (5th at 58th/Bergdorf Goodman)


Bergdorf Goodman Previews
Jony & Marc's (RED) Auction

Remember (RED)?
It made a big splash several years ago as a program collecting major brands like Apple, Gap, Giorgio Armani and Converse to create special products whose proceeds benefited The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It's a worthy cause, to be sure, and millions of dollars have been raised, but eventually the program lost its luster, and while Apple and other companies still participate, Gap, Armani and some of the other more glittery names seem to have drifted away. Other things have captured the public's attention in the meantime, but (RED) is about to get a jolt of publicity that will hopefully recharge its mission.

Next month, Sir Jonathan Paul Ive, KBE, better known as Jony Ive, Senior Vice President of Design at Apple Inc., Marc Andrew Newson CBE, the renowned industrial designer and Paul David Hewson more popularly known as U2 frontman Bono have organized Jony and Marc's (RED) Auction, a sale of unique design objects at Sotheby's in Rockefeller Center that follows up on one held in 2008 that launched the charity program and raised over $40 million, one of the largest charity events in history. One-off items range from a rare, authentic Soviet "Zvezda" Cosmonaut space suit to one-of-a-kind 18K gold Apple Earpods to a white and red Steinway baby grand piano to a a custom Leica rangefinder camera designed by Ive and Newson, just to name a few. The items will go on official display at Sotheby's on November 18th until the auction on the 23rd —just in time for Holiday shopping— but right now through November 11th, highlights of the collection will be on display in the windows of Bergdorf Goodman's men's store, including the spacesuit, an Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni “Snoopy” lamp customized by the celebrated designers, a Star Wars storm trooper helmet signed by George Lucas that should ultimately make a wealthy fanboy very happy and other prized pieces. You can see images of the windows at Bergdorf's 5th/58th Blog, or just go see them for yourself, and expect to hear more about the event in the coming weeks.

Unveiled at Goodman’s: the (RED)™ Auction (5th/58th Bergdorf Goodman)
Jony and Marc's (RED) Auction (Sotheby's)


Here's What's New After The Latest Men's Store Renovations At Bergdorf's

BGBrionion2Barneys isn't the only uptown store getting an overhaul.
Last Fall, Bergdorf Goodman's Men's Store debuted a completely redone third floor, but that wasn't the only big change in the works for the 23-year-old luxury emporium. A new shoe "library" appeared on the main floor shortly thereafter, and just this week, a whole bunch of new renovations, some bigger than others, were unveiled. The Shophound stopped by yesterday to check them out and compile a list of the changes you will find if you haven't visited the men's side of 58th and Fifth in a little while:

The Big News: A fully overhauled suit department on 2.
Though Bergdorf's suit offerings have evolved quite a bit since the store was launched in 1990, the actual room in which they were sold has barely been touched, until now. Mirroring the concept of their big rival a few blocks away on Madison Avenue, the store has effectively banished the "suit department" in favor of more boutique-like "lifestyle" presentations from their main tailored clothing resources. To that end, Ermenegildo Zegna has been moved from a disjointed space originally conceived as separate designer shops on the other side of the rotunda to its own home overlooking Fifth Avenue. Brioni gets a similar shop. There's a revamped formal section, and another room devoted to smaller, more exclusive brands like Kiton and Isaia whose offerings may not be broad enough for their own shop-in-shops.
Next up: he other side of the floor is mostly under wraps for what according to WWD will be a new Berluti shop and a combined home for Ralph Lauren'sBlack and Purple Label collections. Also, get ready for a bar in the rotunda to replace the well-liked but space hogging restaurant that was pushed out of the third floor.
Bonus: The "Down" escalator connecting the second and third floors has magically re-appeared!

In Other News: Smaller tweaks and rearrangements on the main floor.
Walk through the Fifth Avenue entrance and notice the absence of the cluttery Ralph Lauren multi-label shop on your right. Thankfully, it has been replaced with a newly expanded leathergoods and accessory section that tells you that the men's bag (do not under any circumstances call it a murse) is here to stay. To your left, the dark space that Charvet lived in since the store's opening has been taken by a shop in shop for Brunello Cucinelli, a brand Bergdorf's has been instrumental in nurturing from a cashmere knitwear resource to a fully fledged soup-to-nuts lifestyle collection. Charvet, another of the store's longtime, key brands, had been relocated to a new, expanded home adjacent to the rest of the furnishings on the other side of the rotunda, which makes more sense anyway.
Next up: The first Goyard men's shop outside of Paris and a separate Berluti shoe shop as well as a design refresh for the rest of the furnishings area.Perhaps the biggest development for the Men's store over the years is the lack of concern about opening price points. Defying any larger economic logic, both the Men's and the Women's stores have always been strongest at the very top of the luxury market, and while the stores can feel like a maximum luxury overload, it's always good to know what the right things to buy might be when  you win Lotto. In contrast to the slash-and-burn overhaul of Barneys' Madison Avenue flagship, Bergdorf's isn't trying to change its inherent character as a store. It knows exactly what it is, it's just making itself even better.

Bergdorf Goodman Men Remodels (WWD)
Bergdorf Goodman's Men's Store 745 5th Avenue at 58th Street, Midtown


Department Stores Take Over

If you look at out SALE ROLL sidebar to the left, you will notice that this week's Sample Sale schedule is light, or more like nonexistent. It's probably the Fourth Of July holiday in the middle of the week that has put everything off, but if you absolutely must continue shopping, this would be a good week to hit the department stores for final markdowns. Barney's and Bergdorf Goodman's tags have hit 60% off the original retail prices. Saks Fifth Avenue is expected to offer an extra discount on sale merchandise on the Fourth, which could bring savings up to 70% off or more, and Bloomingdale's can be reliably expected to do the same on any given holiday. So even if you are averse to the vastness of department stores, this week would be the one to check them out.


If You Can't Get Into The Met, Check Out Bergdorf Goodman's Punk Windows

Considering the bigger-than-ever hype around the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala this week, we are expecting that when the Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibition opens to the public tomorrow, there will be crowds and lines for hours to get in. Since it runs through August, we expect that eventually, things will loosen up, but if you can't wait for a taste of what you might see inside the museum, head over to Fifth Avenue and 58th Street for a look at Bergdorf Goodman's windows that tie into the exhibition.

The visual team at Bergdorf's has pulled out all the stops for a set of displays that approach their dazzling Holiday-level standards featuring not only current merchandise, but also archival items lent by designers like Gareth Pugh, Libertine, Balmain and Acne Studios. The big Fifth Avenue windows are creating an evocative and witty Punk-inspired ambiance that is drawing its own crowds. Rather than attempting to photograph them ourself, we would direct you to the store's own blog where Bergdorf's has kindly done it for us in detail. Better yet, go down and see them yourself, if only for a refreshing departure from the relentless Great Gatsby mania that has swept every other store in the city.

On Fifth Avenue: from Chaos to Couture (58th/5th-Bergdorf Goodman Blog)


New York's Doyenne Of Personal Shopping Speaks

03-sshokrae-betty-466-editBe sure to click over to Refiery 29 today for a candid interview with luxury retail's Original Personal Shopper, (and Shophound Friend) Betty Halbreich of Solutions at Bergdorf Goodman. After more than three decades as the legendary retailer's chief personal wardrobe consultant, Betty knows more about fashion, taste, style and clothes than any stylist could ever hope to learn. While she is far to professional to reveal any scandalous secrets, her no-nonsense advice can easily apply to more than just clothes. Click HERE to meet Betty, see some of her favorite fashion pieces out of her own wardrobe, and get a rare glimpse of her office, usually available only to her privileged clients.

85 & Awesome! Meet Bergdorf's Style Dynamo (Refinery 29)


Bloomingdale's Rolls Out The Luxury Leases For Gucci & Prada

BloomingdalesGucciLike any major department store, Bloomingdale's is a continually evolving work-in-progress, and over the past few seasons, the store has added an abundance of luxury megabrands to its main floor that hasn't been seen at 59th & Lexington since the store's fabled heyday in the 1970s and 80s. How did it happen? To a certain extent, Bloomingdale's is becoming less of a retailer and more of a landlord.

The most recent addition to the flagship's string of accessory boutiques are two Gucci boutiques, one for women (pictured above), and one for men, and men's counterparts to the recently opened Prada and longtime Louis Vuitton shops on the Lexington Avenue Arcade section. In fact, the store has just finished replicating a men's version of the Arcade concept along the Third Avenue wall of the main floor including Prada, Gucci, and LV (pictured below) along with smaller spaces for Ferragamo, Turnbull & Asser, Thomas Pink and Paul Smith. Why did Bloomingdale's have to lease out these shops? Probably because they wouldn't have been allowed to carry the labels any other way.

BloomingdalesGucciLVMenHow this happened is a story about how luxury brands are changing their way of dealing with American retailers and what it means for New York's shopping scene. Readers may remember a few seasons ago when Barneys made a surprise announcement that it was dropping Prada's women's apparel and accessory lines from all of its stores. Barneys had been a Prada supporter since long before it had been a household word, and was believed to have a strong business with the brand. However, Prada management was insisting that if the store wanted to continue carrying women's clothes and accessories (shoes and men's collections were not included in the deal) that it would have to turn over space to the brand so it could run its own boutiques under Barney's roof. Barneys claimed that this was against its policies, and let the lines go. For Prada, and other companies like it, this reflected a common practice in Europe that they were anxious to roll out to North America. Department stores in major overseas cities are often almost entirely made up of independent designer shops cobbled together under one roof, but for a store like Barneys which, changes in management notwithstanding, has always prided itself on the taste and curatorial authority of its fashion office and merchandising staff, having a vendor control what is sold in its store was out of the question, so a big chunk of Prada business went out the door. At around the same time, a brand new Prada accessory shop appeared in the North-West corner of the main floor at Bloomingdale's, which has never carried it, and is still working to burnish its luxury image after a damaging trading down during the recession of the 1990's. The existing Prada department at Saks Fifth Avenue also appeared taken over by its vendor at around the same time. We wouldn't be surprised to see a leased Prada apparel shop appear in Saks any day now. They already have one for Vuitton.

BloomingdalesPradaMenSuch arrangements are not unprecedented. In the late 1990's Louis Vuitton notified its retail partners that it was closing its wholesale business entirely, and converting to a fully leased shop-in-shop program, and any store that wanted to continue selling it would have to comply. Most of them did, and the Vuitton shops in Bloomingdale's, Saks and Macy's all became leased departments which have been dramatically expanded in the time since. Gucci has quietly engineered a similar exertion of control. The new Bloomingdale's shops as well as a large one upcoming in Macy's are all leases, and the brand has recently taken over existing men's and women's apparel and accessories shops at Saks Fifth Avenue. Only shoes are left to the store's own buyers. As these mega-brands -all of whom have gained dramatically in prestige over the past two decades- get bigger they are increasingly turning to the stores who helped built their success and taking that business back. What it means is that stores that wish to continue selling the labels are forced to give up some of their merchandising control (Bloomingdale's, Saks) or drop the lines (Barneys). So far the one store untouched by all this struggle for control appears to be Bergdorf Goodman, which has had several Gucci departments for years, and in the past few seasons, has repaired a relationship with Prada that was bitterly broken about 15 years ago leading to a decade-long banishment of the brand. Bergdorf's shares Barneys' policy against leasing space in their main product categories in part because both stores encourage cross selling by staff throughout the store that leasing can make difficult and confusing. One wonders if Gucci and Prada will be similarly turned out of Bergdorf's in the coming seasons, or if the brands will let it stand as a single store exception. What we may see going forward is a power shift from the client to the vendor, where luxury mega-brands choose to bestow their cachet on stores that meet their terms. They are already pretty demanding as it is. Brands like Chanel and Giorgio Armani have long lists of requirements for for stores who sell their products as authorized resellers, but leasing is another level of control. Eventually we might see a contest of prestige between the big designer labels and the stores who wish to carry them.


Hype vs. Craft—Holiday Windows At Bergdorf's & Barneys

Is there any other city like New York when it comes to Christmas windows? Between Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale's and Macy's among others, what city has such a high concentration of  flagship stores with the kind of huge, continuous display windows that lend themselves to to these kinds of seasonal indulgences? While most of theses stores usually design their displays to entertain the whole family (and by that we mean kids), Two of them have always made a point of decorating with a little more sophistication. When Barneys was downtown on 17th Street and Seventh Avenue, then creative director Simon Doonan helped make the store's name with wickedly parodic windows that frequently skewered celebrities and events of the day. In recent years, Bergdorf Goodman has turned away from classic, holiday themes in favor of lavishly constructed fantasy themes that seem to get more intricate each year in its Fifth Avenue windows. Neither store has ever felt the need to offer something for everyone, and both know that their customers (many of whom they share) demand things that are just a bit different.

This year, Bergdorf's has picked a Jazz Age theme, "The BG Follies"for its five big Fifth Avenue windows this year. To a certain extent, the store and its Visual Director David Hoey generally take an "If it ain't broke don't fix it" attitude, using (and often re-using) design elements in abundance to make the most lavish display imaginable. Minimalist, they are not. In fact they are so crammed with objects and figures and decor that you could stare at them for hours, gazing at the lovingly crafted details. Pictured above is window #1, entitled "By Request", tribute of sorts to the all-girl band in Some Like It Hot. It makes use of a bird's-eye-view effect that has become something of a signature for the store. Repeating this element so often might seem a little less than original, but at this point, Bergdorf's Holiday windows are like a delicious cake that you only get to eat once a year. The familiarity is part of the pleasure. It would be disappointing if Naeem Khan didn't make a glittering custom designed gown for the windows as he has taken to doing in recent years, and this year he made two. Even better. You can see much better pictures than we could take of the rest of the windows at the store's blog 58th at Fifth HERE.

While Bergdorf's is sticking to its tradition, Barneys is in the protracted process of finding exactly what its image is going to be for the future. The management team that has directed the store for the past couple of years has tirelessly worked to remake nearly every aspect of the store's personality including a renovation of the flagship that seems timely on the one hand but also exceedingly ruthless on the other. The store's quirky but luxurious and sophisticated style ("Taste! Luxury! Humor!), honed over decades in great part by Mr. Doonan and a longstanding creative team, has been abandoned in favor of a slicker, more editorial point of view. Like a magazine, the store is now more likely to define itself by joining with other, unrelated personalities like Daphne Guinness, Carine Roitfeld and last year's Holiday promotion star, Lady Gaga. This time they went with Disney, collaborating on a heavily publicized short cartoon called Electric Holiday featuring Minnie Mouse dreaming herself into a Paris runway show and costarring a who's who of real life fashion figures (including Ms. Guinness, Gaga and Ms. Roitfeld among many others) transformed into Disney versions of themselves (watch it after the jump). There has been something of an outcry against Minnie Mouse's runway alter ego, who is stretched out to impossibly thin and out of character runway proportions to fit into her Lanvin dress, an effect that is bestowed on several other Disney figures thanks to an ill advised Tinkerbell and some fairy dust. It turns out that the complaints are justified. Despite composer Michael Giacchino's jazzy score, there is nothing less charming than seeing lively Disney characters sapped of their personalities as they clomp down a cartoon runway serving blank, state of the art runway model bitchface. The only one who looks at home is Cruella de Vil, so make of that what you will. Of course the other disappointment is that Barneys appears to have sunk their entire effort into this cartoon which means that instead of actual window displays, they have four big video screens on Madison Avenue playing the cartoon short. Walk into the store, and you would barely be able to tell that it is the Holiday season as well. Aside from a few not especially compelling light installations, what passes for Christmas decorations in the store is a mural sized black and white drawing of the celebrities who appear in the cartoon that is reproduced throughout the store. If you didn't know what it was, you would just think it was a big caricature drawing with nothing to do with the season. By contrast, Bergdorf's has repurposed it's interior decorations from last year, not uncommon among stores, or many homes, actually, but they are still arresting and evocative, featuring garlands of silver branches with swans and peacocks all over the store's already lavish main floor. There's no missing that the store is decorated for a special occasion.

So what we have one store that knows exactly who it is and finds a way to delight if not always surprise, and another that still hasn't managed to find a new direction that lives up to the original and unique on it has abandoned. Guess which one we are enjoying more?

See more of Bergdorf Goodman's windows HERE
Watch Barneys' Electric Holiday cartoon after the jump

Continue reading "THE WINDOW WATCHER:

Hype vs. Craft—Holiday Windows At Bergdorf's & Barneys" »