We went to Barneys' New York flagship store shortly before the retailer filed for bankruptcy. Here's what it was like.

Shoshy Ciment/Business InsiderManhattan’s Barneys store towers nine stories over Madison Avenue.


Barneys – the high-end department store known for its designer offerings – filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday.

The New York-based retailer serves a clientele with an eye for luxury. It has 22 stores located in hubs like Boston and Beverly Hills and will close stores in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Seattle, as well as five concept stores and seven Barneys Warehouses.


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Barneys’ Madison Avenue store accounts for about one-third of the company’s revenue, The New York Times reported in July. But when the annual rent on the 275,000-square-foot store increased from $US16 million to $US30 million, the store found itself struggling.

“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,” CEO and president Daniella Vitale said in a press release on Tuesday.

She continued: “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 optimise 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.”

In July we visited the Barneys store on New York’s Madison Avenue, which will stay open, to see what led the retailer to file for bankruptcy. We found that Barneys wasted valuable space in its showrooms with elaborate sitting areas and almost-empty racks.

Here’s what else we saw:


We stopped by the Barneys flagship store off Madison Avenue in New York City.

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The building has nine floors, excluding an entire floor of cosmetics. Needless to say, the building projected an air of grandeur even outside.

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Once inside, we were enveloped in the magical world that only a luxury department store can create. The warm lighting, sweet aroma of perfume, and soft music made the massive store come alive.

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The first floor was filled with men’s clothes and accessories and some designer handbags. We found everything from shirts …

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… to socks, some of which were going for $US85 a pair.

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There were items displayed behind glass cases throughout the floor. We noticed this on other floors as well. This made the store appear more like a museum showcase than a place to go shopping.

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We travelled down a wood-and-glass staircase to check out the cosmetics section.

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We didn’t find anything out of the ordinary here.

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So we went upstairs to the floors with clothing. This was the most revealing part of the entire journey.

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Almost every room was characterised by vast amounts of empty space with a few surrounding clothing racks. Each section was teeming with associates who flocked to every customer who walked by.

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But overall, the store didn’t appear busy enough to warrant that kind of staff presence.

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The clothing itself was scant in most places. There were a few items on every designer rack.

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Many of the floors also had large and luxurious sitting areas that took up massive amounts of space. Madison Avenue is considered prime New York real estate, so this allocation of space felt wasteful.

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The prices in some of these sections were unsurprising for a designer department store. This floral sweater from Chloé was almost $US1,500.

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And this red dress was close to $US600.

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Despite the high prices and vast open space in the store, there was little to criticise when it came to creativity. This tire seat section looked like it could have been an installation at a museum.

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We also found these special-edition Barneys New York “goth Crocs,” some of which were going for nearly $US90.

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Source: Business Insider


On another floor, we found this lips-shaped loveseat with ribber spikes protruding from the surface.

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And we found these glass-enclosed golden handcuffs near the undergarments section.

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The shoe section was massive overall. There were some cool designer sneakers that caught our eye.

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Nothing about the clothing at Barneys was bland. These metallic puffer jackets were the perfect balance of retro and chic.

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Barneys had clothing for every possible occasion. We found fur coats and shawls …

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… as well as bathing suits.

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As we rode the escalator up the nine levels of the store, we couldn’t believe the size of the property. Barneys also has a cafe in the building.

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The top floor was by far the most whimsical. Here’s where we found the home goods, artwork, and children’s section.

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There was a whole wall devoted to china for wedding registries.

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A lot of the items we saw seemed to have little practical value, but they were fun to look at.

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This section evoked the atmosphere of a museum more than anywhere else in the store.

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They were even advertising a limited-edition signed book of the photographs of renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz. The book and tripod stand were going for $US3,000.

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After this final stop, we began the trek back downstairs. Once we were outside, it felt like we had just emerged from a different city. But outside, we were immediately confronted with the harsh reality of retail stores, especially on Madison Avenue.

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A quick walk down the street revealed that the once-bustling avenue is not the top shopping destination it used to be.

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Calvin Klein and Jonathan Adler are among the designer brands that have closed flagship stores on Madison Avenue recently. With empty storefronts becoming more common, it is no surprise that skyrocketing rent rates contributed to Barneys’ filing for bankruptcy.

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Source: Architectural Digest


Overall, we found that Barneys wasted valuable space in its showrooms with elaborate sitting areas and nearly empty racks. Barneys has joined the growing list of retailers that have filed for bankruptcy, finding itself in the same situation as many other stores that neighbour it on Madison Avenue.

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Source: Associated Press

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