NEW YORK — Mark Lee, chief executive officer of Barneys New York, has agreed to meet with representatives from the Brooklyn chapter of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network to discuss claims of racial profiling by two shoppers at the retailer’s Madison Avenue flagship here.
This story first appeared in the October 25, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The meeting comes after two black New Yorkers filed notices of claim against Barneys over incidences in which they both claimed they were wrongfully detained after making expensive purchases at the store, setting off a firestorm of publicity.
After NAN requested a meeting with Lee on Thursday, the Barneys ceo reached out to Sharpton and Kirsten John Foy, president of NAN’s Brooklyn chapter, to schedule a meeting next week, a Barneys spokeswoman said.
Foy said NAN plans to picket Barneys if the alleged pattern of racial profiling is not immediately rectified. Further action is also planned against the New York Police Department, which NAN claimed has a history of racial profiling against young African-American and Hispanics.
Trayon Christian, 19, of Queens, filed a discrimination lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Manhattan Monday against Barneys, the city and the NYPD. According to the lawsuit, Christian shopped at Barneys on April 29 and bought a $350 Ferragamo belt. After leaving the store, he was accosted by undercover NYPD officers, who said someone at the store had raised concerns over the sale, he said.
On Wednesday, another shopper, Kayla Phillips, 21, a nursing student from Canarsie, in Brooklyn, told reporters that she had a similar experience after purchasing a $2,500 Céline handbag at the store in February.
Lee posted a letter on Barneys’ Facebook page Thursday evening, which read, “Barneys New York believes that no customer should have the unacceptable experience described in recent media reports, and we offer our sincere regret and deepest apologies. Further to our statement of yesterday, we want to reinforce that Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination. We are a strong proponent of equal rights and equal treatment for all human beings. Our mission is to ensure that all customers receive the highest-quality service — without exception. To this end, we are conducting a thorough review of our practices and procedures as they relate to these matters to ensure that they reflect our continued commitment to fairness and equality. To lead this review, we have retained a civil rights expert, Michael Yaki, who also serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The commission has been the nation’s watchdog for civil rights for more than 50 years. Mr. Yaki will be provided with unrestricted access to all aspects of our store operations. In addition, Barneys New York has reached out to community leaders to begin a dialogue on this important issue.”
An NYPD spokesman said, “The incident which occurred last April is under internal review.”
Meantime, a petition was started on Change.org by Derick Bowers, a Brooklyn-based father and entrepreneur, calling on Jay Z — who recently forged a partnership with Barneys on a promotion called “A New York Holiday” — to sever all ties with Barneys in the wake of accusations of racial profiling. “We can no longer tolerate blatant prejudice and discrimination. It is clear that the minority buying power is devalued by some. We must withdraw support to those who will not support us,” said Bowers.
Jay Z couldn’t be reached for comment.