“Trends come and go, but institutions are timeless.” This was posted to Instagram early this morning by Barneys New York following the news that the retailer had filed for voluntary bankruptcy protection in New York today. According to a release, the bankruptcy filing is part of a larger restructuring of the company that includes $75 million in funding to keep operations going as the retailer looks for a buyer. In addition, Barneys will close 15 of its 22 stores, including Chicago, Las Vegas, and Seattle, and all of its outlets except Woodbury Commons and Livermore.
“For more than 90 years, Barneys New York has been an iconic luxury specialty retailer, renowned for its edit, strong point of view, creativity and representation of the world’s best designers and brands,” said Daniella Vitale, Barneys’s CEO and president in a release. “Like many in our industry, Barneys New York’s financial position has been dramatically impacted by the challenging retail environment and rent structures that are excessively high relative to market demand. In response to these obstacles, the Barneys New York Board and management team have taken decisive action by entering into a court-supervised process, which will provide the company the necessary tools to conduct a sale process, review our current leases and optimize our operations. While doing that we are receiving new capital to help support the business. Pursuing a sale under the court’s supervision provides the quickest and most efficient means of maximizing value while ensuring we continue serving both new and loyal customers.”
Since its founding in 1923, Barneys has been a staple of New York life. Its original location on 17th Street and Seventh Avenue was a fashion mecca for the cool hunters of the ’80s and ’90s, when its rails were the among the first to feature labels like Dries Van Noten and Comme des Garçons. Its Madison Avenue outpost opened in 1993 and offered a similar level of arty polish, serving as a launchpad for a number of young brands in the early 2000s, including Proenza Schouler and Alexander Wang.
But times are changing. Shopping is less about milling through racks in 2019 and more about sharing screenshots of your latest cop in your group chat. On the digital front, Barneys operates an editorial site, The Window, and launched a podcast late last year, but has failed to keep up with the buzz of other e-commerce giants.
Barneys’s bankruptcy filing doesn’t necessarily mean an end for the store. In fact, this isn’t the first time Barneys has filed for bankruptcy protection. In 1996, the store filed for bankruptcy protection after a spat with Isetan, the Japanese retailer that had previously injected $600 million in capital into Barneys. In the years following that filing, Barneys ownership switched hands several times, with the majority of the company now run by the hedge fund Perry Capital, run by Richard Perry. As a part of its latest filing, the company is investigating a sale yet again. Whose hands it will end up in is unclear as yet, but here’s to hoping New York doesn’t lose a retail legend.