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Barneys New York Revamps Co-ops

Retailer is rebranding two of its largest Co-op units as a prelude to the transformation of its entire Co-op fleet.

Inside Barneys Co-Op.

NEW YORK — Barneys New York is rebranding two of its largest Co-op units as a prelude to the transformation of its entire Co-op fleet, including the possible elimination of the nameplate from freestanding stores.

This story first appeared in the March 5, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Co-op stores at 2151 Broadway, on the Upper West Side, here, and The Grove in Los Angeles, will be rebranded as simply Barneys New York come summer.

Co-ops are known for a more casual mix of jeans and contemporary apparel and accessories for men and women. After the renovation, the Broadway and Grove locations will no longer sell men’s merchandise, with space to be given over to designer ready-to-wear. In addition, rebranded Barneys New York units will feature more handbags, shoes and jewelry.

The retail concept is closer to the vision chief executive officer Mark Lee outlined for the Co-op business early on in his tenure, explaining that the offering “has to be more designer, more special.”

Sources close to Barneys said the new Barneys New York stores will be “all about the edit. The size and location will inform the edit. To add in women’s in designer, you need more space.” The retailer “assumes it has more women shoppers in New York.” Besides, there are nine floors devoted to men’s wear at the Madison Avenue flagship.

One of Barneys’ first Co-op locations, on West 18th Street, which was also the site of the retailer’s famed warehouse sale, was shuttered in February because the lease expired and the landlord has redevelopment plans for the building. While some Co-op units outside of New York have had mixed results, the downtown Co-op here is said to have had a strong performance, including record sales in 2012, and Barneys was “extremely pleased with the holiday season,” sources said.

The Broadway and Grove stores will be renovated along the lines of the clean aesthetic of the renovated Barneys Madison Avenue flagship. The stores will be remodeled in three stages and will operate throughout the construction. Co-op stores average about 8,200 square feet.

Designer-driven brands, including 3.1 Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang, Carven and Isabel Marant, are playing a more important role at Barneys, as customers continue to cross-shop. The lines between the dedicated Barneys New York shopper and the defined Co-op consumer are blurring. “It’s the whole idea of ladies wearing designer denim,” said one expert, adding, “The Co-op market has changed to become more designer-driven. A lot of the most important brands sit in the Co-op and at Barneys New York [flagships], depending on the store. They’ll all sit together in the women’s department” of the new Barneys stores.

The retailer will be providing an edit for the new Barneys New York units that includes Co-op brands along with designer labels. Barneys declined to comment on the impending changes to the Co-op format or designers the new units might carry, but the designer list on the retailer’s Web site includes Balenciaga, Balmain, Comme des Garçons, Fendi, Tom Ford and Yves Saint Laurent.

Last year, Barneys closed Co-ops in Dallas, Chevy Chase, Md., and San Diego. The retailer in 2011 closed stores at the Galleria in Houston and The Westchester Mall in White Plains, N.Y. and a Co-op store at Phipps Plaza in Atlanta will close this summer. On the other hand, Co-op locations in 2010 opened at 194 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and Santa Monica Place in Los Angeles. The Co-op chain celebrated 25 years in business in 2010.

A source close to Barneys said the retailer is evaluating the 10 remaining Co-op units. “They’re looking at these Co-op stores,” the source said.

Barneys has been moving toward streamlining its Web site as well. Barneys.com, which used to feature a separate section for Co-op, merchandise, has been mixing Co-op and flagship products without identifying where the items are sold.

It’s part of the retailer’s more cohesive approach.