Visiting the new Barneys

barMy daughter and I hit up the new Barney’s downtown this weekend.  Barney’s was on 7th and 17th when I first moved to the city.  Then it was a singular, unique, elegant store that to me defined luxury.  It was like no other.

Coming back to the original downtown space was a brilliant move while still keeping the other one uptown open.  There was an opportunity to build something that was as unique as the original.  Ecommerce is forcing retailers to think about the in-store experience differently.  There needs to be a reason to come in to the store again and again.

I figured that the people behind Barney’s would be forward thinking.  That the architect would truly think out of the box and make the in-store experience magical.  What a complete disappointment.

We started in the restaurant for lunch.  The menu is much smaller than the one uptown which makes total sense.  The physical restaurant itself is not that interesting.  Super bright and white. The furniture is pedestrian, there is nothing on the walls except for paint, there is zero nuance or beautiful materials or unique lighting.  It is boring.

The flow of the store is circular.  Racks of clothing, obviously curated  based on what they believe the downtown customers want.  Each designer gets a rack.  There is no separation or elegance to the floors.  It is no more interesting than a basic department store from 1980.  Even the dressing rooms are bland.  The bathrooms are supposedly whimsical because they are for both men and women but they are just are large using bland off the shelf materials.

What a huge disappointment.  An opportunity to shift the downtown shopping experience completely lost.  I have never loved what they did to the uptown Barney’s but have gotten used to it.  That beautiful iconic staircase is the pinnacle of classic beauty and deserves better surroundings.  The store has too much steel, too much glass and zero elegance.  The downtown store is straight up bland and kind of sits on the side of tacky.

In this day and age when every article around commerce screams about the need to create different shopping environments to draw customers in when you can buy anything in the store on the web makes you wonder about the group behind this project.  The winners in retail for the next decade will be clever forward thinking people who will change the way we all think about retail.  This would not be the team behind Barneys.