Credit & Capital

Barneys New York Files for Bankruptcy; Closing Most Stores

The luxury department store chain has faced rising rents and unsuccessful attempts to find a buyer.
Lauren MuskettAugust 6, 2019
Barneys New York Files for Bankruptcy; Closing Most Stores

Luxury department store chain Barneys New York filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after facing increasing rents and unsuccessful attempts to find a potential buyer for the iconic retailer.

The retailer will close 15 of its 22 stores including five smaller concept stores and seven of its warehouses. It will continue to operate five flagship stores, two warehouse stores, and will maintain its two websites, and The five flagship stores expected to remain open include two New York locations on Madison Avenue and downtown New York City, two in California in Beverly Hills and San Francisco, and the Boston store at Copley Place.

Barneys secured $75 million in new financing from Hilco Global and the Gordon Brothers to help the company continue to operate as it goes through the bankruptcy and sale.

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In its bankruptcy filing, Barneys said it had been struggling to pay its expenses due to sky-high rent at its Madison Avenue flagship, which rose to almost $30 million from $16 million. Bankruptcy court documents show that Barneys owes nearly $10 million in unpaid rent to its major landlords.

“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,” Daniella Vitale, Barney’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

“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,” said Vitale.

Within luxury retail, Barneys’ revenue base of $800 million is well below that of competitor Neiman Marcus. Saks Fifth Avenue, another competitor, is part of Hudsons Bay, which generated around $7 billion in revenue.

“Scale allows these competitors to invest significantly in long term growth initiatives around customer-facing elements like websites and store remodels, and infrastructure like robust supply chains. And because Barneys is a more fashion-focused department store than Neimans or Saks, it could have been more impacted by fashion cycle changes,” said Fitch Ratings Senior Director David Silverman.

The 96-year-old company has 2,300 employees. While other retailers rely on part-time workers, 90% of Barneys’ workforce is full-time. Nearly half of the 1,900 hourly employees are represented by a union, which is also a rarity in modern retail.