The Barneys Warehouse Sale Is A Miserable Affair

There used to be a time when we could all get excited for the Barneys Warehouse Sale.
Sure, it wasn't for amateurs. It was in a grotty basement that required patience and skill to negotiate —and then there were the crowds and the lines, but it was worth it for the thrill of the scavenger hunt as well as the satisfaction achieved when finding a great price on something one could never afford at full price, or even on a regular markdown in a regular Barneys store. Maybe it was even something one had one's eye on all season that appeared as if summoned by magic.
Well those days are long gone, and we figured that once Barneys started a year round Warehouse Sale website offering its own merchandise from previous seasons as well as overstock from its regular vendors there would be no point in continuing the in-person event sale. Why would we need to go to the Warehouse Sale when the best stuff was being funneled to the website? It seemed like a more up to date way to clear old stock anyway, but the seasonal, then annual Warehouse Sale persisted as the merchandise became less and less appealing and the event drifted into irrelevancy. A couple of years ago, it appeared to be gone for good, but then, last week, it reappeared, this time in a raw retail space on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg (pictured above). Could it be returning because the folks at Barneys have found a way to make it relevant again? Will it be cooler because its in Williamsburg? Is it worth revisiting?
The answer, sadly, is no on all counts.
The Shophound stopped by on the sale's first day, when it seems not fully set up, so we gave it the benefit of the doubt and checked back over the weekend to find that, yes, it had now been completely laid out and stocked, but still was a mess. In a space far too small for the amount of merchandise being offered, we found racks packed full of clothing crammed together to the point where it was nearly impossible to see what was being offered without tugging at garments and breaking hangers —if not damaging the clothes themselves. Barely categorized, there was little attempt to arrange things by size in the most rudimentary ways. In other areas, boxes were set out for shoppers to rummage through, many of which were filled with merchandise that may have been sold on the Warehouse Sale site, but probably never in an actual Barneys store. There was no attempt to separate designers, so the meant that a crazy Hood by Air showpiece was crammed on the rack by a Marc by Marc Jacobs bomber jacket from a past season and some of the Justin Bieber tour apparel that was touted as a prized exclusive in Chelsea only a few weeks ago. Clearly that was a merchandising mis-step.
Are there no gems to be found? Maybe there are some, but this Warehouse is more of a needle-in-a-haystack project than we have ever seen. And rather than imagining that one might find something good while rummaging around, one's mind quickly shifts to wondering if there is really anything we really need there, and then to questioning if it is really worth the time and trouble?
As far as we can tell, it is not.
Additional discounts have already started, but we will not be chronicling them as we once did. You have until the 14th to shop, but don't feel that you have missed anything if you don't bother. There are better opportunities to find better bargains these days. You don't have to subject yourself to this sloppy display to get them.

Barneys Warehouse Sale runs through September 14th at 280 Metropolitan Avenue between Driggs Avenue & Roebling Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.


Have A Look At The Long Overdue Renovation For Macy's Brooklyn Store

Rendering: FRCH Design Worldwide

A few renderings have appeared for the radical $100 million renovation currently underway at the long neglected Fulton Street Macy's store in Brooklyn.
The former A&S flagship had been essentially left to languish in creeping decrepitude until on-and-off plans for a refurbishment were announced around the same time that dramatic renovations were fully unveiled at the mammoth Macy's Herald Square store. Finally, a scheme was revealed to shrink the Brooklyn store to a still sizable five selling floors including the basement and to turn the upper floors into office space. A glimpse of what this will look like is now out there. The renovation is being undertaken by FRCH Design Worldwide and includes new steel and glass awnings over the entrances on Fulton Street outside (pictured above) and a more extensive redesign on the inside. As at Herald Square, old, dingy ecru-colored walls will be transformed to sleek optic white, presumably with modernized lighting to create a brighter interior with HD video screens lining a refreshed escalator atrium (below). It's hard to tell which floor we are looking at in the rendering or how much, if any, of the remaining historic art-deco detailing of the main floor will be preserved, including a lavish elevator bay in the center of the main floor that may just hold more elevators than the newly reconfigured store will need. Last time we passed through, renovations were well underway, and however it turns out, it can only be an improvement for the store which in recent years has found itself in the backyard of some of Brooklyn's increasingly affluent neighborhoods. Eventually, it will be in a position to better serve those potential customers, and help continue to upgrade the Fulton Street shopping corridor.

Details, renderings of Macy’s DoBro overhaul unveiled (The Real Deal)

Rendering: FRCH Design Worldwide


One More Saks Off 5th Is Coming
—To Brooklyn

That makes three.
2016 is looking to be a big year for the Saks Off 5th outlet chain as three locations are set to open in New York City where previously there have been exactly none. In fairness, it is only in recent years that luxury department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue have been comfortable placing their outlet division stores close enough to their full line stores to allow them to exist in New York City at all. With Off 5th stores scheduled to open in the Financial District and on East 57th street next year, the Commercial Observer is now confirming that parent company Hudson's Bay Co. has signed on for a third 30,000 square foot unit at the Liberty View Industrial Plaza in Brooklyn's Sunset Plaza neighborhood (lobby rendering pictured above). The store will be on the massive complex's ground floor with a prominent entrance, and is expected to open some time between Summer and Fall of 2016. Just above it will be the already announced Bed Bath & Beyond complex including flagship sized unites of each of its divisions including the namesake chain, Buy Buy Baby, Cost Plus World Market and Harmon Face Values.

Brooklyn Really Is Getting a Saks Off Fifth as Hudson’s Bay Signs Sunset Park Deal (Commercial Observer)


Macy's Announces New Renovation Plan For Historic Brooklyn Flagship

The fate of the lumbering behemoth known as Macy's in Brooklyn has been decided, and while the store will stay put, it will be both shrunken and dramatically overhauled.
Over the past couple of years, the Shophound has been following the state of the huge and historic but woefully out of date Macy's store in Downtown Brooklyn. The centerpiece of a renewed Fulton Street shopping corridor, the enormous nine-floor store is one of the largest in the chain, but has failed to keep up with both the newer influx of retailers to the area and the increasingly affluent population inhabiting the Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens neighborhoods that are literally in its backyard. About a year ago, Macy's officials announced a long overdue renovation for the neglected store, which began its life in 1865 as the Abraham & Straus flagship, that would renovate it from top to bottom. Surprisingly, the plan was put on hold a scant few weeks later as the store began to explore other real estate options for the valuable site including a possible sale or redevelopment of the building and a move to a smaller site nearby. The newly updated plan will include a combination of several options. Yesterday, Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren revealed a scheme that will shrink the floor from its current nine floors to the first four levels plus the basement. The upper floors will be sold to real estate developer Tishman Speyer for $170 million who will also cover the costs of the renovation below with another $100 million over the next three years.
While it sounds like the store will be substantially reduced in size, it will actually only go from 378,000 square feet of selling space on nine floors to 310,000 square feet on five. Upgrades are said to include uncovering windows to allow more light as well as renovated bathrooms, escalators and elevators along with a general refurbishment of the of the space. A walk through the store today would reveal an ungainly patchwork of poorly sequenced departments as well as an ill advised mezzanine level on half of the main floor that creates cramped shopping spaces and obscures parts of the building's original architecture. However, a closer look reveals striking Art Deco architectural details like a lavishly decorated bank of elevators at the store's center (pictured below) and carved marble frieze work framing the main entrances on Fulton and Livingston Streets (pictured above). Ultimately, it will be a few years before we see the results of the renovation, but given the store's rapidly gentrifying locale, the opportunity for a freshly made-over Macy's in Brooklyn to do big business is huge.

Macy's will spend $100 million making over outdated downtown Brooklyn store (Crain's)
Retail Renewal on Hold: Macy's Brooklyn Renovation Might Be Off Because...Real Estate



Suburban Grocery Palace Wegmans Coming To Brooklyn Navy Yard

The past 20 years have brought a bonanza of grocery shopping to New York City where we once complained of having the worst grocery stores anywhere. Cramped, expensive and low in selection, New York City's grocery stores were notoriously sub-par, and city-dwellers with access to a car would regularly brag about driving to New Jersey or Long Island for real grocery shopping, but then Whole Foods arrived in Chelsea in the late 90s. Shoppers clamored to it like it was an oasis in the desert. After a few years, it had opened some of its largest stores in the chain in Manhattan, and it continues to look for suitable locations in the city. Then Trader Joe's arrived, now with five city locations, and Fairway started expanding throughout the city with stores much more efficiently designed that its still problematic original Upper West Side store. Grocery shopping is still too expensive in New York City, but at least the stores have improved in quality and size. Still, there was one holdout that suburban shoppers spoke of with reverence: Wegmans (pictured above). Often rated as the best grocery store in America, Wegman's, known for its reasonable prices and broad selection, stretches throughout the Northeast all the way down to Northern Virginia, but has bypassed the city until now. Yesterday the chain announced its first New York City store to open in 2017 as part of the redevelopment of the Brooklyn Navy Yard (rendering pictured below). Chosen in part because of its promise to prioritize hiring in the surrounding neighborhood, Wegmans emphasis on prepared foods also requires a expanded staff ensuring even more local jobs to be available. Though the 74,000 square foot store will be about 25% smaller than the average Wegman's location, and the smallest in the chain, it will still be larger than the sizable Fairway in Red Hook or the Whole Foods in Gowanus which is also quite large. We all have a couple of years to prepare, but we can already picture the crowds including Manhattanites caravanning to Brooklyn to get to Legman's. Start your shopping lists now.

Wegmans to Open at Brooklyn Navy Yard (NYTimes)


Brooklyn Discount Diving Edition

19CRIT2-blog427Every now and then, our Critical Shoppers hit the discounters, and in today's Thursday Styles, Molly Young checks out the relatively new Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio, and it is clear that this is not her first time at this particular rodeo. For the uninitiated, Last Call Studio is a smaller, more condensed version of Neiman Marcus' larger, department store sized Last Call outlet stores. This new format is designed to be more easily inserted into urban shopping areas and suburban retail centers as opposed to being limited to dedicated outlet malls like Woodbury Commons and the like. It is the first Last Call store in New York city, but may not be the last, and not unlike Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus is following the unlikely pattern of entering New York city with its discount brand in advance of opening the full line store expected in the Hudson Yards development in a few years.
But back to the store itself, and out clearly experienced off-price shopper. Young notes that the luxury department store outlet chains like Last Call as well as Saks Off 5th (which is coming to the Financial District) and Nordstrom Rack (already here) has clobbered the old line off-pricers like Filene's Basement, Syms, Daffy's and the grande dame of them all, Loehmann's, literally out of existence. This has been at least partly achieved by creating a more pleasant shopping environment. "Loehmann’s stores were a mess, with jammed racks, communal dressing rooms (leave your dignity at the door) and salespeople who wore the ravaged masks of Goya subjects. Last Call Studio is 16,000 square feet of orderly displays and a smiling sales staff. Looks are everything," she writes, and its worth noting that the local survivor, Century 21, has thrived by expanding and upgrading its stores from cramped, dingy and messy to species, sleek, shiny and somewhat less messy.
But it's the merchandise that really makes the difference between a successful off-pricer and a collection of picked over goods. Shopper Young has an extensive list of what to consider purchasing and what to ignore, and it is very specific,

Stick to natural fibers and colors found in nature. Never buy anything with a peplum, a cow print or a notched V-neck. Avoid harem pants. Avoid fabrics that glow in the dark. Avoid jumpsuits unless you’re good at winning people over with your personality. Avoid anything eggplant-colored or printed with a pattern that causes physical distress. 

That's just the first half of the list, which are generally good guidelines, but seem pretty personal overall. In the spirit of fashion and self-expression, however,we would add that if you know you are the kind of person who can carry off harem pants —and though you are very rare, you exist and you know who you are— you should definitely go for it, off-price or not.

Critical Shopper: Cheap Thrills at Neiman Marcus’s Cut-Price Outlet Store By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio 210 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn


Brooklyn-iest Brooklyn Edition

05CRITICAL1-articleLarge-v2This week's Thursday Styles features Critical Shopper Molly Young venturing to Bedford Stuyvesant. The Shophound is old enough to remember a time not so long ago when that phrase could be translated to mean that the Critical Shopper had lost her mind and had a death wish, but nothing changes the city more than Big Real Estate, and today, Bed-Stuy isn't even the newest up-and-coming neighborhood anymore. It is, however, still a place where a directional indie boutique like Sincerely Tommy can set up a most spacious shop, for now, anyway.
Our shopper seems to be right at home, and finds a versatile top and pants ensemble.

Add a cigarette and a preposterous tan and I could be an Italian grandmother on the make in Portofino. With a macaroni necklace, I could be six years old. This is the kind of versatility I seek in clothes.

So, it's definitely not for the hotsy totsy Hervé Leger set. On the plus side, the article's photos show the kind of hairy shoes that are all the rage on Milan's catwalks for Fall. These sorts of looks will either delight or repulse you, and it sounds like how you feel about this store depends on how you feel about the more adventurous looks at Opening Ceremony, or the fashion sense of Solange Knowles. If such things excite you, then you are probably already on your way to Bed-Stuy. If not, then you can rest assured that while there will always be places to buy bombshell outfits, Sincerely Tommy just isn't one of them.

Critical Shopper: In Bed-Stuy, a New Store is Like a Petting Zoo for Clothes by Molly Young (NYTimes)
Sincerely Tommy 343 Tompkins Avenue between Monroe & Madison Sts., Bedford-Stuyvesant


Bed Bath & Beyond Mega-Complex Coming To Brooklyn's Sunset Park

We still don't know if a Bed Bath & Beyond store is coming to Columbus Avenue and 93rd Street, but we do have official word that the company is planning an enormous store for Brooklyn's rapidly redeveloping Sunset Park. The Wall Street Journal reports that the big-box retailer has leased over 100,000 square feet of space at the Liberty View Industrial Plaza (pictured above) which will combine all four of the brand's chains —Bed Bath & Beyond, buybuy BABY, Cost Plus World Market, and Harmon Face Values— all together on a single floor. While aspects of some of these chains have been incorporated into various Bed Bath & Beyond locations around the city, this will be the first time each retail concept will be presented in a single location that also presents the complete format. The store is expected to draw customers from all over the borough and is connected to a block-sized parking lot. It's a major deal for the continuing efforts to rehabilitate the vacant industrial buildings in the Sunset Park neighborhood and suggests what kind of other retailers are expected to follow Bed Bath & Beyond to the area. There's no projected opening date yet, but you should have plenty of time to make sure that you are getting all those coupons by mail, email and SMS to take full advantage of the mega-store when it opens.

Bed Bath & Beyond Takes Sunset Park (WSJ)
Big Box Rumors: Is This The Entrance To A New Bed Bath & Beyond On Columbus Avenue?



Boerum Hill Blues Edition

18CRITICAL2-blog427We aren't sure if Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica's look at the WP Store in Boerum HIll in today's Thursday Styles is an expression of his disappointment in the store itself or the neighborhood that surrounds it. That particular Smith Street corridor is where the current wave of gentrification rolling through Brooklyn  originally took root, and yet, our shopper is dismayed that the area, as reflected in the store, is now safe and boring. The WP Store is the creation of Italian Manufacturer WP Lavori in Corso, which licenses and markets upscale sportswear from old-timey labels like Woolrich, Baracuta and Palladium boots and distributes Spiewak, Barbour and Blundstone. By forming retail outlets featuring all of the brands under its umbrella —this is the first WP Store in America— our shopper says the company has created a disjointed store whose whole is less than the sum of its bland parts. "...there’s not much need for adventure here, and there’s not much on offer," he writes "WP Lavori is a store operated by a conglomerate."
Our shopper finds more interesting fare from the non-company owned labels like Engineered Garments and Barena. Apparently the more interesting Mark McNairy designed Woolrich Woolen Mills line, which would seem to be up Caramanica's quirky alley,  has been restricted to the Woolrich Store in SoHo that WP Lavori also runs. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the WP Store has taken over the space once occupied by the much admired Smith & Butler without changing the first piece of decor. The previous tenant was an upscale store that helped make Smith Street safe for less inspiring neighbors like yet another branch of Intermix, but also spoke to the idiosyncratic Brooklyn style that our shopper seems to be searching for. But this is today's Brooklyn. The moment it seems like something interesting is happening, nebulous commercial interests converge and that adventurous spirit moves on, but don't be discouraged. There's still about two thirds of the borough left that has been totally untouched by any kind of coolness, so plenty more ground is waiting to be explored and conquered.

Critical Shopper: A Store in Brooklyn Reminds Men to Take Risks By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
WP Store 225 Smith Street at Butler Street, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn


Not A Retirement Community Edition

17zCRITICAL3-superJumboIn tomorrow's Thursday Styles, it looks like our Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica has found one of the Brooklyniest stores in Brooklyn. You couldn't be faulted for confusing someplace called Leisure Life with an assisted living facility, but that name is just the kind of ironic touch that reminds you what borough you are in. The hip buzzwords are all here: Deadstock fabric, reworking vintage material and "Old World rigor". The year-old establishment has apparently been fully approved by the impeccably influential bloggers at Street Ettiquete, so it must be fairly well above reproach. "Leisure Life also offers a savvy read on what a mature hip-hop aficionado would want to wear in middle age," our shopper writes, further outlining the store's very specific focus. "I gravitated immediately to a navy shirt with a cabin-themed print, a clear nod to some of the more eccentric Polo fabrics ($120)." It sounds like a style blog come to life.

Critical Shopper: For Friends in the Know By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Leisure Life NYC 559 Myrtle Avenue, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn