Did you know Barney's was started by the Pressman family? Barney Pressman to be exact! The company began in 1923, when he opened his first store in Manhattan with $500 raised by pawning his wife's engagement ring in order to lease a 500-square-foot (46 m2) space at Seventh Avenue and West 17th Street in Manhattan with 20 ft (6 m) of frontage. Barney's Clothes was stocked with 40 brand name suits and a big sign with a slogan, "No Bunk, No Junk, No Imitations." Barney's sold clothing at discounted prices by purchasing showroom samples, retail overstocks, and manufacturers' closeouts at auctions and bankruptcy sales. It also offered free alterations and free parking to attract customers.
Barney Pressman claimed to be the first Manhattan retailer to use radio and television, beginning with "Calling All Men to Barney's" radio spots in the 1930s that parodied the introduction of the Dick Tracy show. He sponsored radio programs featuring Irish tenors and bands playing jigs to advertise Irish woolens. Women encased in barrels gave away matchbooks with the store name and address. He also chartered a boat to take 2,000 of his customers from Manhattan to Coney Island.
1973 interview to Business Week, Fred Pressman became :"convinced that the discount route definitely was not for us. My father and I have always hated cheap goods.... I didn't want to sell low-end merchandise. Now, many of those who chose to are verging on bankruptcy." Fred Pressman's New York Times obituary stated, "With his father's blessing, Fred Pressman slowly transformed the store from a salty discount house that sold roast beef sandwiches in its pub to a purveyor of Italian designers with a cafe serving Perrier and light salads. He began to discard the types of suits that his father was prone to unearthing at auctions and bankruptcy sales, peppering the racks instead with then-obscure and top-name designers both, but continued to offer touches like free alterations that gave Barneys its reputation." Pressman is quoted saying, “The best value you can offer a customer is personal attention to every detail, and they will return again and again. Ultimately, the customer cares the most about how he or she is treated." Pressman passed away in July 1996.
In 1970, Barney's built a fifth story onto their original building and a five-story addition. The original store was renamed America House and the addition was named International House. The expanded store occupied the entire Seventh Avenue block (between 16th and 17th streets), with 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) of selling space and 20 individual shops.
International House, Fred Pressman promised, would feature complete collections of European designers, "from denim pants to $250 suits," not just a watered-down "potpourri of fabrics and models." The renovated America House, he said, would hold merchandise from "manufacturers who are in effect designers."
By 1973, the store was stocking 60,000 suits. It carried the full lines of designers such as Bill Blass, Pierre Cardin, Christian Dior, a
nd Hubert de Givenchy. It became the first clothing store in the U.S. to stock the full line of Giorgio Armani, after signing an agreement in 1976. Barneys is widely credited to have introduced Giorgio Armani to the American Public.
Women's clothing was introduced in 1976 on the third floor of the International House. The next year, the women's store relocated to The Penthouse, a new top-level enclosure. Barney's also added housewares, cosmetics, and gift departments to the store. Also in 1977, Barney's in-store restaurant was renamed The Cafe and began selling salads, soup, and sandwiches.
The apostrophe in Barney's was dropped in 1981. (The removal of the apostrophe would be short lived; it was reinserted around the end of the decade.) In 1981 the women's penthouse became a duplex. Barney's imported 80% of the women's and 40% of the men's merchandise. The $25 million, 70,000-square-foot (6,500 m2) women's store finally opened in 1986 in a row of six townhouses and two larger adjacent buildings across the store along 17th Street. The addition incl
uded a unisex beauty salon and restaurant, antiques, and accessories, gifts, and housewares departments. It accounted for about one-third of Barneys' sales of some $90 million the following year.
In 1988, Barneys opened a 10,000-square-foot (930 m2) men's store in the World Financial Center. In 1993, the store moved to the current 230,000-square-foot (21,000 m2), 9-story Manhattan store on Madison Avenue between East 60th and 61st streets. It was the largest new store in New York City since the Great Depression. The store is a 22-story building with 14 floors of offices above the store. The wood floors, a marble mosaic on the lobby floor, gold-leaf ceilings, and lacquered walls of the new Barney's store cost $267 million, according to one source.
Barney’s opened its first store outside of Manhattan in Beverly Hills, California in 1993. During this time, they also announced a national expansion of 30 smaller stores that range around 6,500 square feet.
The company filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 1996, closed stores in several locations across the US, and sold the department stores in Japan and Singapore. On December 20, 2004, the Pressman family sold its less than 2% remaining ownership to the Jones Apparel Group, which in turn sold the company in September 2007 to Dubai-based private equity firm Istithmar PJSC for $937.4 million. Included in this purchase is an estimated $500 million in debt. "The luxury market took a sharp turn for the worse after Istit
hmar's acquisition of Barneys. U.S. sales of high end clothing, fragrances and accessories slipped 14% in 2009, according to Bain & Co. Although luxury was a star performer over the 2010 holiday season, spending trends have yet to recover to pre-recessionary levels. The privately held company doesn't reveal financial results but said that EBITDA rose by $30 million in 2010." Howard Socol, Barney’s former CEO, resigned shortly after the change in ownership. The company failed to fill the position for over two years until Mark Lee was appointed in September 2010. Lee is the former chief executive of Gucci Group and has consulted and sat on the board of many other fashion companies. Since Lee’s appointment, Barney’s has experienced changes in its staff, advertising, and website. Amanda Brooks, former creative director of Hogan, replaced long time fashion director, Julie Gilhart. Lee’s former Gucci colleague, Daniella Vitale, replaced Judy Collinson as head merchant. Former creative director Simon Doonan, now creative ambassador-at-large, was replaced by Dennis Freedman . Barney’s advertisements and catalogs are usually shot in-house, but for Spring 2011 candid shots by art photographers such as William Klein, Nan Goldin and Juergen Teller were taken behind-the-scenes during Fashion Week. Some existing stores will face new renovations such as the in Madison Avenue location’s main floor and Co-Op levels. The traditional red awnings have been changed to black. Barney’s website has been revamped and has launched a new site called “The Window” which is the retailer's primary "social media landing page"--a window into the Barneys world, with news about fashion and happenings at Barneys stores.