Men’s wear was the backbone of Barneys New York since its founding by Barney Pressman in 1923 as a seller of discounted men’s suits.
When Barney’s son Fred took over the business, he transformed his father’s discount men’s store into a true fashion emporium, introducing such European brands as Giorgio Armani, Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint Laurent, Brioni and Ermenegildo Zegna to the store.
Fred Pressman soon built a reputation as a visionary merchant, and he hand-picked Tom Kalenderian, who had joined the store as a sales associate in 1979, to work with him on the merchandising team.
Kalenderian, who remained with the company for 40 years and was its head men’s merchant for decades, learned his craft at Pressman’s knee and combined that knowledge with a true passion for the men’s wear business and an eye for discovering emerging luxury brands and bringing them to Barneys. Those included Boglioli, Isaia and Ovadia, among others.
Now that Barneys is gone, the luxury men’s wear consumer who had depended upon the store to fulfill its appetite for upscale classics and cutting-edge contemporary collections has to find another place to shop. Although Authentic Brands Group, which bought the Barneys trademark, has inked a deal with Saks Fifth Avenue to open Barneys shops in around 40 of its stores, those won’t materialize for a while. And how much of the mix will be men’s wear is unknown since Saks is believed to be considering re-branding its women’s contemporary floor as a Barneys.
Until then, other high-end merchants may benefit by wooing the Barneys men’s wear shopper. Among those most likely to snag that consumer are Goodman’s, Bergdorf Goodman’s men’s store, as well as Dover Street Market and The Webster, according to industry observers.
But Cardlytics, a platform that monitors banks’ reward programs, said these stores need to move fast and create aggressive customer acquisition campaigns. When physical stores close, the group said, half of competitors do not pick up their fair share of customers. But shoppers acquired in the first two to four months after a store closing are three to five times more likely to return and to spend 30 percent more, Cardlytics said.
“The natural migration from Barneys would most likely be Bergdorf’s,” especially for the tailored and more-classic luxury collections said Robert Burke, a luxury analyst who heads Robert Burke Associates. “Tom Kalenderian was one of the single most talented merchants with an amazing eye” because of the training he received from Fred Pressman. He built an “incredibly good tailored classic clothing business and also a fashion business. He knew all the vendors and every private label factory in Italy.”
Burke said that some Barneys customers may go to Saks since the store “has done a good job with designer lines so there’s a big opportunity there to attract that customer.” But Dover Street Market and The Webster are also strong options to pick up some of the more niche, contemporary labels.
“And then there are the online players,” Burke said, mentioning Matchesfashion and Mr Porter as other options for the Barneys men’s customer.
Longtime retail executive Burt Tansky, who serves as vice chairman of Traub Capital, also believes Bergdorf’s will be the top choice for the Barneys men’s customer. “Traditional has always been a strength, but they also have a good offering of contemporary clothing for men and they would welcome all the Barneys shoppers.”
William Susman, managing director of Threadstone Advisors, said that while the Barneys men’s customer “may walk into Bergdorf, Jeffrey or the new Neiman Marcus, if you were truly loyal to Barneys, you are a sophisticated shopper and you know what you like.” So they’ll seek out those brands — whether online or at another retail store that carries the collection. “Barneys was more about curation than incubation and men shop brands more than stores,” he said.