Barneys N.Y. to Open South Coast Plaza Store

Times Staff Writer

When Barneys opens at South Coast Plaza early next year, it may be one of the snootiest--and most expensive--specialty shops around.

This is not just any old Barneys, mind you. It is Barneys New York: purveyor of $570 silk blouses and $300 cotton shirts, outfitter of Manhattan's upper crust and upwardly mobile.

The specialty apparel retailer said Monday that it plans to open a 7,500-square-foot store in Costa Mesa's South Coast Plaza and a 7,000-square-foot unit in Seattle in February, 1990. They will be the first West Coast stores for the tony clothier, which has formed a national retail company called Barneys America that plans to open five or six stores annually for the next five years.

Barneys also plans to open two stores in Tokyo and at least one more elsewhere in Japan within the next few years under a joint venture agreement with Isetan Co., one of Japan's largest retailers.

Barneys New York sells clothing to upscale, fashion-conscious customers from a 170,000-square-foot flagship operation in the Chelsea section of Manhattan and a smaller men's store near Wall Street. Founded in 1923, Barneys is known for selling contemporary clothes, as well as accessories and gifts, considered to be on the cutting edge of fashion.

"It's the most snobbish store in New York--even more than Bloomingdale's--and it has the most expensive things in the city," said Doreen Weisenhaus, a magazine editor who works a block away from the flagship. "My husband and I make a very decent, six-figure income, and we can't afford to shop there. . . . It's definitely a ritzy store."

But in affluent Orange County, Barneys hopes to find plenty of customers. "There's a high level of people making more than $75,000 a year," said Bob Pressman, one of two grandsons of the company founder, Barney Pressman, and co-president of the new retail company. "The mix and quality of (other South Coast) stores is good. . . . . This absolutely will be one of our best stores."

Merchandise at the Costa Mesa store will be 75% women's apparel and 25% men's. The stores outside Manhattan will have more of the medium-priced merchandise, said Gene Pressman, Bob Pressman's brother and co-president of the new national company.

"That doesn't mean cheap," he said. "We'll have a (bigger) proportion of younger, newer designers."

Barneys' designer lines include Comme des Garcons, Gaultier and Romeo Gigli--all designers whose outfits can sell for more than $1,000.

But the store, intended to appeal to customers aged 25 to 55, includes more moderately priced apparel, with dresses priced at around $150 and pants for as little as $75 to $125.

Barneys "is a high-service, specialty retailer, which is a niche that Nordstrom has filled very well," said Sarah Stack, a retail analyst in Los Angeles with Bateman Eichler, Hill Richards Inc. "It's an aggressive strategy. . . . . But do I see Barneys as a threat to Nordstrom? No, I do not."

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