BARNEY'S BY THE BAY: UNION SQUARE SITES EYED IN SAN FRANCISCO

Byline: Sharon Edelson

NEW YORK--Barneys New York, which has reportedly been looking for a San Francisco location for the past year, has narrowed its search to two or three sites in the upscale Union Square vicinity.
"Our store would be well suited to the historic San Francisco area," Charles Bunstine, chief operating officer of Barneys New York, said Tuesday. "Our business very much complements what that city has always been about, which is kind of a great sense of individual style. Our business is not stamped out without sensitivity to the individual market."
Bunstine, who said he just got back from San Francisco, which he visited "specifically to look at locations," added, "We have several different options we're looking at, all around Union Square."
Major stores in the Union Square area include Macy's, I. Magnin, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.
The company, which opened its most recent store last March, in Beverly Hills, also plans to launch additional units in several of its existing markets, said Bunstine, although he declined to name specific cities.
Bunstine said the San Francisco store will be about the same size as the 150,000-square-foot Beverly Hills unit.
"The target for opening is as soon as possible," he said, adding that the store could be ready in as little as nine months, depending on the space eventually selected and how much work needs to be done to it.
"There aren't a lot of buildings that size [150,000 square feet] in that area, but there are a couple," a San Francisco real estate source said.
Bunstine said one location Barneys is considering is the I. Magnin store on Union Square.
"We're in touch with those people at the moment," he said, referring to Federated Department Stores, which acquired Magnin's as part of its recent merger with R.H. Macy & Co. and is now engaged in shutting it down.
A spokeswoman for Federated, which is reportedly averse to seeing Barneys in the Magnin location, said only, "We have indicated the store is for sale."
One scenario floated by San Francisco real estate sources is that Federated would move the Macy's men's store, also on Union Square, into the I. Magnin building. Macy's main store, on the southwest side of Union Square, wraps around Magnin's. That could free up the men's store for another retailer.
Another possible site large enough for Barneys could be The Pacific Center at Market and Stockton Streets, several blocks from Union Square, a San Francisco real estate source said.
Daniel Blatteis, a partner with Blatteis Realty Co. in Los Angeles, who represented Barneys in its negotiations in Beverly Hills, confirmed that his firm is working with the retailer to find a San Francisco location.
"The store will have to be in the Union Square area," Blatteis said. "There's a real need for an upscale, fashion-oriented, very sophisticated tenant in that area. Barneys is capable of moving very quickly."
In recent weeks, retail experts have speculated that the Barneys Beverly Hills unit is suffering from the same tough economy and competitive retail environment experienced by other California retailers and that the store is not meeting the company's earlier rosy projections.
"We're very happy with the performance of Beverly Hills," Bunstine said. "Our sales there are not weak. Our business has been outstanding since we opened the store, and we're very happy with the fall season."
Bunstine said the San Francisco store would include a restaurant concept, as well as some more unusual ideas that co-president Gene Pressman is hatching, à la the membership-only gym with full-size boxing ring now under construction at Barneys' Madison Avenue unit. In addition to San Francisco, Bunstine said, "We're looking at several different markets that we currently have stores in."
Barneys operates stores in Chicago; Seattle; Dallas; Houston; Troy, Mich.; Chestnut Hill, Mass.; Westport, Conn.; Short Hills, N.J.; Manhasset, N.Y., and Costa Mesa, Calif., in addition to New York City and Beverly Hills.
"When you get outside of New York, Beverly Hills or San Francisco, 50,000 to 80,000 square feet is a really nice size for those markets," Bunstine said.

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