By  on January 18, 2006

DALLAS — Barneys New York is returning here with a bang, determined to go head-to-head with Neiman Marcus in that luxury retailer's hometown.

Barneys, which abandoned Dallas in 1997 when the company was in bankruptcy and the store failed to resonate with shoppers, confirmed Tuesday that, by fall, it will open an 88,000-square-foot flagship at NorthPark Center.

Howard Socol, Barneys' chairman and chief executive officer, said the unit, offering the full breadth of Barneys' designer and contemporary collections for men, women and home, is "totally night and day" compared with the 12,000-square-foot store the company closed at NorthPark. Dallas will be Barneys' only mall-based flagship and its third largest after New York and Beverly Hills.

"It will be a very interesting and exciting store with great luxury merchandise and a great women's and men's Co-op….We're expecting great things," Socol said in a telephone interview from Milan.

Barneys, facing increased competition from Neiman's, which plans to soon announce a prototype for smaller stores selling contemporary merchandise, is seeking to build itself into a $1 billion business under new owner Jones Apparel Group and is said to be considering sites from Long Island, N.Y., to Las Vegas.

The retailer will present its signature point of view, including designer labels such as Lanvin, Balenciaga, Rochas, Dries Van Noten and Prada, Socol said. Its Co-op space will feature contemporary brands, such as Diane von Furstenberg and Marc by Marc Jacobs, plus "a lot of small resources from New York, California and Europe that you won't necessarily find around."

Other highlights will be a women's shoe department similar to the New York and Beverly Hills stores, as well as Barneys' selection of artisan jewelry, Socol said.

"One of the things we have way different from before is a very strong Co-op, and our customer base is much broader from contemporary to ultraluxury," Socol said.

While selections will be tweaked for climate considerations and some regional tastes, research has shown that "customers want a Barneys — they don't want something else — so you will know it is a Barneys store," he said.

"The Dallas customer enjoys shopping in New York and Beverly Hills, so we think we have a good beginning," Socol added. "And we think we can offer the customer something a little bit different, a little bit special."Unusual architectural elements, including an artistic cutwork metal overlay at the exterior entrance and a floating wood, glass and metal staircase, will help distinguish the retailer within the competitive Dallas market.

Barneys will occupy most of a two-level 120,000-square-foot anchor between Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom that has been vacant since Lord & Taylor closed in 2004. It will be the icing on a two-year, $200 million expansion of the mall highlighted by November's opening of the Nordstrom unit.

Dallas merited a flagship based on positive results from market research, Socol noted.

Barneys will be going head-to-head with Neiman Marcus in its hometown and against one of that retailer's top-performing stores, which does a reported $150 million in annual sales.

Janie Condon, a Dallas socialite and publicist, said she was eager to see "how Barneys has changed." She rarely shopped its first Dallas store because the experience paled next to Neiman's.

"Everything was black at a time when everyone was wearing color, and the staff was a little snooty," she recalled. "So why shop at Barneys when you could go to Neiman's?"

Socol is certain Barneys will be far more inviting this time around.

"Barneys is such a different place than it was a number of years ago," he said. "For the last two years, it's been leading the luxury industry in sales increases. It's had three record years in a row. Profitability has grown substantially, and one of the reasons is because we have put a tremendous amount of attention to customer service."

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