Retail Detail. Is or Isn’t Barneys For Sale? That is the Question…

March 3, 2009 • Shopping

Barneys Image 2

Methinks thou doth protest too much, however, parent company Istithmar swears Barneys New York is not for sale! Not only that, they hope to resolve issues with
factors in a few weeks and intend to have a new chief executive
officer in place by midyear.

At least says David Jackson, chief
executive officer of Istithmar, the Dubai-based parent of Barneys. Barneys has
been dogged by speculation that Istithmar wants to unload the business
amid mounting financial pressures.

“There are a lot of rumors about Barneys, about
what’s going on. All of these areBarneys Image

unfounded and unwarranted,” Jackson
said on Monday to WWD. “Barneys is owned by Istithmar and will continue to be owned by
Istithmar and will do everything it can to protect that investment. He flatly denies the
for-sale rumors and even contends Barneys is outperforming the

While there
have been a few reports of payment delays, Barneys, Jackson argued,
“has met all of its obligations. Barneys continues to pay people. We
have done all of the things we are supposed to do. Some of the factors
have made requests for additional support. It’s not universal. We will
do what we think is reasonable [regarding] those requests,” to ensure
timely deliveries to Barneys stores.

So far, the issues with certain factors “have not affected us from getting merchandise to the stores,” Jackson said.

Asked if any Co-ops
could be closed, Jackson replied: “We don’t have any immediate plans to
close any Co-ops. In a difficult economic environment, we are
evaluating all options. We don’t want to make any decisions based on
the market in Barneys Old
2009.” The company needs to reflect on assortments, the
marketing and other aspects as well, he added. “We just need to be
patient before we make any draconian decisions on store closings. Our
bias is we shouldn’t make any decisions based on market conditions we
find ourselves in today.”

When Istithmar bought Barneys from Jones New
York in September 2007 for over $900 million, expansion in Asia, Europe
and the U.S. was a hot topic. The new Barneys owner was eager to recoup
its investment and prosper from it by growing the size of the chain and
its volume. Since then, the strategy, largely involving building big
flagships in major cities, has simmered down. “We are not ready to
announce any of those expansion plans,” Jackson said. “We continue to
believe there are opportunities both domestic and international.”

The only imminent development is a replacement flagship in Chicago,
which is expected to open in May, though there are some “normal
ongoing” enhancements occurring, including a few men’s shops in the
Madison Avenue flagship, which should be completed this year. “I
wouldn’t characterize them as major renovations,” Jackson said.
“There’s the normal [capital expenditure] plan for these stores.”

So far,
Barneys has not announced any major layoffs or cutbacks, in sharp
contrast to its luxury competitors, including Saks Fifth Avenue and
Neiman Marcus Inc., which have each laid off hundreds of workers.

Read "Fighting Back: Istithmar Says Barneys Not for Sale" here.

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