MIAMI — Barneys New York continues to perpetuate its image as the wittiest of retailers — whether with its “Gaga for Balenciaga” ads or the chronically high-camp scenes in its windows.
So it is with this type of requisite Barneys humor that the retailer has divined its newest Co-op store — and first freestanding outside of New York City — in South Beach. The store joins the two existing Co-ops in Manhattan — on 18th Street in Chelsea and on Wooster Street in SoHo. There also are Co-op departments in the Barneys New York stores in Manhattan, Beverly Hills, Chicago, Boston, Manhasset and Seattle.
The newest store, situated at 832 Collins Avenue, has a two-story white Art Deco facade that opens to a 9,000-square-foot space. Inside, the decor is a mixture of industrial materials offset by retro furniture found in junk shops along the South Florida coast.
“This Co-op is a combination of insanely camp pieces with utilitarian elements, like the metal shelving, concrete floors and grill work,” noted Barneys’ creative director, Simon Doonan, during a walkthrough of the new store on Tuesday.
“The mandate for this store was to make it totally memorable….With people coming from all over the globe, some with only a glancing connection to Barneys, we wanted the design to achieve that [memorability] by having those improbable juxtapositions we’re known for,” added Doonan.
With his Norwich terrier Liberace in tow, Doonan pointed out the outlandish vintage furniture finds, like an ornate driftwood table with a glass top, turquoise wicker elephants and a pair of five-foot high white ceramic greyhounds. Other novel touches include a register area lined with antique refrigerator doors, carved wooden fists for footstools and wall colorings by New York artist Carter Custera. The colorings feature both women’s and men’s profiles with names and traits scrawled underneath, like “Eunice loves a man in a uniform.” Also, showcasing the Co-op’s commitment to denim, Doonan and the visual team have fashioned a life-sized horse out of jeans for the window display.
More traditional decorative elements — at least in the Barneys sensibility — include wide-plank wood floors on the second floor, where men’s clothes are located; metal hanging fixtures modeled after hospital screens, and jewelry displays made to look like packing crates.
The Co-op, which opened Aug. 28, is nestled along the stretch of Collins Avenue, just two blocks off the beach, that houses retailers such as Club Monaco, Armani Exchange, Polo Sport, Urban Outfitters, Banana Republic and Intermix.
Opening a Co-op in South Beach made perfect sense to Howard Socol, Barneys’ chief executive and president, because of the fashion savvy clientele in the area. “We are looking in areas with a high propensity for fashion,” said Socol. “What the Co-op is all about is fashion. So those cities that have a love of fashion, that have enough customers who really get it, then that’s where we’re going to go. Obviously Miami is one of those cities.”
Socol declined to give a forecast for first-year store sales, but told WWD in April that the New York Co-op stores are generating in excess of $700 per square foot. As reported, Socol at that time projected a chain of 10 to 15 Co-op stores within the next five years.
Given the year-round tropical clime of the area, Barneys has altered its product mix to reflect the needs of the Miami customer.
“The Barneys approach is that if we open a store in another city, we have to think of what the needs of that particular customer are, that’s first and foremost,” said Julie Gilhart, the retailer’s vice president and fashion director. “It can be the coolest store ever, but if it doesn’t speak to the customer, if it doesn’t meet their needs, it’s not ever going to be successful.”
So while the South Beach Co-op carries the same designers as other Co-op stores, such as Rogan, Yanuk, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Barneys’ private label, the retailer has been careful to cut out fabrications that are too heavy and has minimized its outerwear selection. Conversely, the store has more short-sleeve tops and is selling bikinis at full-price.
“Miami is a city that starts and it doesn’t stop, and there’s a party every night. It’s also a tourist destination. It has a large South American and international clientele, and it’s a sexy city,” said Gilhart. “So all of those things combined are things we actually thought about when we were putting certain designers in the store and when we bought certain collections. It definitely all falls under the umbrella of Co-op, but with it being tweaked just by the fact that it is in South Beach. You have to think of the weather. The customer can definitely dress more bare and they are very body-conscious.”
Retail prices range from $60 for Ella Moss tops to $325 for Nassirzadeh deconstructed knit tops and $85 to $230 for jeans, while dresses sell for an average of $275 and miniskirts for $175.
Bestsellers since the store’s opening last week include Pucci bathing suits, Alice & Olivia miniskirts, Marc by Marc Jacobs pieces and Cosabella underwear.
The company has already announced its plan to open two Co-ops stores a year, although this year it is opening just the South Beach unit.
“We feel that there is really nobody that has a countrywide, U.S.-based concept like the Co-op,” said Socol. “It’s not for every city, but it is for those cities that have a high degree of customers that are interested in fashion.” Socol noted other locations where there are potential opportunities for Co-ops to open include San Francisco, Chicago and additional units in New York and elsewhere on the East Coast.
“It’s where we can find a very interesting site that’s a good real estate deal,” explained Socol. “We’re not in a hurry. We’re going to do this in a very planned manner. That’s why we didn’t do two this year, but we’ll do two next year.”
Co-op is ripe for rollout in Socol’s mind because of its unique concept and its strong customer base.
“Our strategy in terms of the Co-op has evolved,” continued Socol. “We have a very strong denim presentation. I think if you look at our denim assortment it is one of the very best in the country. So I think we have all the great brands, washes and styles. We’ve developed a lot of special things for our jean presentation both male and female. Second of all, we have the great important brands like Marc by Marc Jacobs, DVF, Y3. We have all these great brands and then we have these small specialized brands that we don’t think everybody really carries. So, I think it’s the mixture of denim, the important brands the consumer really loves and a lot of special things that the consumer likes to come and see — something different and special at Barneys. That’s kind of the strategy that’s been evolving for the last two years and it’s working.”