We went to Manhattan's most luxurious department store to see how the 1% shops -- and it revealed no one's immune to the retail apocalypse

Rashad Benton/ Business Insider

Department stores across the country are doubling down on discount options to offset slowing sales, but not Barneys New York.

Established in 1923, Barneys is an exclusive department store known for having some of the sharpest and most expensive clothing items from the world’s top luxury brands.

The retailer rarely releases earnings reports, so it’s hard to tell how the company is doing.

We visited the Barneys Madison Avenue location in New York City to see how the luxury brand is doing.


We visited Barneys NY’s flagship store on a Sunday morning and found all 8 floors strangely quiet.

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The women’s section was particularly empty, but offered a very cathartic shopping experience.

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Despite the serene atmosphere, a quick look at the registers proved that a lack of customers didn’t necessarily mean poor sales for the luxury retailer.

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Barneys relies on its affluent customers who make smaller but pricier purchases to stay afloat. On Sunday, we saw one customer purchase 4 pairs of shoes for $US1,400.

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Barneys hasn’t always embraced this strategy. A few years ago amid bankruptcy scares and restructuring efforts, the stores newly appointed CEO, Daniella Vitale, decided to take a risk by focusing on the exclusivity of the brand.

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Source: Business of Fashion


Barneys shut most of their outlet doors in favour of one swanky way to shop, while other department stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s doubled down on discount outlets to offset slowing sales.

Yelp/ Barneys Warehouse

Source: Forbes


Barneys has done a great job emphasising that their stores are a luxury refuge. Customers will probably never have to dig through racks to find the style or size they’re looking for here.

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Most clothing racks in the store are kept almost bare — but it’s all part of the elusive brand strategy.

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Barneys implemented the new strategy last year called “[email protected]” that involves exclusive capsule collections and product drops to bring customers in to shop the limited amount of merchandise and styles.

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Source: WWD


The retailer has also made a point to produce fashion lines exclusive to the store that they can mark up at will. According to Vitale, these products accounted for 20% of sales in 2017.

Rashad Benton

Source: Forbes


Despite all their efforts, Barneys hasn’t escaped completely unscathed from the retail apocalypse.

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It was abundantly clear there were far too few customers in the store when we visited on Sunday. The empty women’s department was especially worrying.

Rashan Benton

The store has historically had success with male customers, and even opened a men’s only store in San Fransisco in 2016.

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Source: SF Luxe


The store was also so clean and organised it didn’t look like anyone had shopped there. Even the sale section was perfectly intact.

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It’s hard to tell exactly how Barneys is doing. As a private company, the retailer rarely releases its earnings. Barneys has, however, announced plans to expand to Florida by 2023.

Rashad Benton/ Business Insider

Source: Forbes


Only time will tell if the legendary department stores unique approach to survival will pay off.

Rashad Benton/ Business Insider

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