By  on April 15, 1994

LOS ANGELES -- Barneys' black has struck gold in Southern California.

In the seven weeks since Barneys New York opened its long-awaited Beverly Hills store here, volume has gone over $8 million, according to sources.

Charles Bunstine, senior vice president and chief operating officer, declined to comment on the figure, but said, "We had planned a business relative to the numbers for Magnin's and Saks, roughly in the $50 million range, and we have been running 20 percent ahead of that."

While some questioned whether Barneys' trademark black-dominated fashion would be a hit in this color-happy area, it has been hot since the March 5 opening.

Bestsellers have included Jil Sander's black nylon and rayon ribbed sleeveless turtleneck, seven units sold at $140; Dries Van Noten's black silk tank dress, 28 units at $245; Giorgio Armani's black wool dress with scalloped side slits, 10 units at $1,495, and Dolce & Gabbana's black chiffon wraparound dress, 12 units at $385.

Other strong sellers, the store said, have been Azzedine Alaia's white skating dress, five units at $825; Liza Bruce's white cotton French cuffed, cropped shirt, 24 units at $135; CK's pink and cream wool cotton blazer, 12 units at $396, and Helen Kaminsky's heavy straw "Hillary Clinton" hat with black ribbon, 12 units at $150.

Barneys success in Beverly Hills has spawned speculation here that the retailer may accelerate plans for a San Francisco store.

"We are very interested in looking at other markets, and San Francisco is by far at the top of the list," Bunstine said. "There may be only one or two markets left like Beverly Hills that we can build, but San Francisco is probably three to five years off."

While Barneys rings up business in Beverly Hills, nearby retailers are feeling the heat. For some, the new competition has brought a drop in sales. For others, business is heating up because of an influx of new shoppers.

A few blocks west of Barneys on Wilshire, I. Magnin has reported an increase in business since the New York store set up shop here. Joseph Cicio, chairman and ceo, said Barneys has brought to Beverly Hills exactly the customer I. Magnin has been trying to attract: younger, hipper and more fashion forward.Sources estimate I. Magnin has experienced a 2 or 3 percent volume increase due to the new Barneys customers.

Other, smaller specialty stores, however, haven't experienced a Barneys bounce. Herb Fink, owner of Theodore on Rodeo Drive, said Barneys probably has knocked 2 percent off his sales in the last month.

"It isn't anything I didn't expect," Fink explained. "I expected everyone to go over there and take a test drive, but some of them forgot to come back and pick up their very faithful old automobile.

"Business was spotty before they came, and it's still spotty," he said. "The good news for Theodore is, we are entrenched with a California look for a California lifestyle that they don't come near touching."

"The traffic has gotten better, but business is still very tough," said Linda LoRe, president and ceo of Giorgio Beverly Hills on Rodeo Drive. "It hasn't brought the throngs of people that we had thought."

Jerry Magnin, owner of Polo/Ralph Lauren, said, "It has brought more people to Beverly Hills but not new business to other businesses. This is not unusual. Usually, the first trip is a destination trip and people don't go anywhere else. Later people will venture to other stores."

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