Target Launches Collection at Barneys

Discussion
May 13, 2008

By Tom Ryan

In a move perplexing fashion insiders, Target is introducing a line of eco-friendly clothes by American designer Rogan Gregory at Barneys. It’s believed to be the first time a luxury American retailer has carried a collection from a discount chain.

The line is the latest of the Go International collection — a rotating line of clothes developed by young up-and-coming designers sold at budget prices at Target for a limited time. Rogan for Target was launched at Barneys’ Madison Avenue flagship from May 9 to May 11, and will again be sold at Barneys’ Los Angeles store from May 16 to 18. After that, shoppers will have to wait for “Rogan for Target” to roll out at Target stores nationwide on May 18.

Barneys sells designer Mr. Gregory’s primary line, which features trousers for $230, dresses for $320 and anoraks for $450. Rogan for Target will be priced between $15 and $45.

Since both retailers aren’t discussing the deal, speculation has been rampant on the reasons behind it. Some believe it’s just a clever marketing ploy.

“Clearly what Target is doing with Barneys is all about marketing and branding,” Wendy Liebman, president of WSL Strategic Retail, told Women’s Wear Daily. “To have that opportunity to present the line there for a few minutes…In terms of the New York market, there’s the prestige and it’s a good marketing tool. For Barneys, this is a way to surprise people. There’s all this fast fashion going on; Barneys is saying, ‘We can take a little poke at [ourselves] and have fun with it. We can give our Barneys shoppers a chance to get a good value for a few days.’ It will create a little bit of anarchy and a little bit of buzz.”

For Target, the move may also be a step to rebuild its apparel business since it will lose its best-known designer line, Isaac Mizrahi, at the end of the year. For Barneys, partnering with the upscale discounter may convince more middle-to-upper consumers to trek to Barneys instead of Bloomingdale’s or Nordstrom the next time they trade up.

Still, fashion pundits remain befuddled. In particular, many believe having one designer selling at two drastically different price points in the same store only confuses customers.

“It’s one thing to have Karl Lagerfeld do an H&M line. It’s exciting, it’s news and everyone understands what that means,” Michael Lichtenstein, owner and founder of Group L Consulting, told WWD. “This doesn’t tell anybody what’s happening and why it’s happening. It’s merely doing something to be different than thinking about what the [Barneys] customer wants. I don’t think a Barneys customer wants a Target product.”

“I think it’s really odd,” concurs Erin Armendinger, managing director of the Jay Baker Retailing Initiative at the Wharton School. “I’m not sure what everybody’s getting from this…I’m not sure a Barneys customer is going to be a Target customer. It is Target, but at the end of the day, it still is Target. You have to be careful with these partnerships and who’s casting what on whom.”

Discussion Questions: What do you think of Target’s move to launch a collection at Barneys? Will Target benefit from Barneys’ cachet? What will this do for Barneys?

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10 Comments on "Target Launches Collection at Barneys"


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Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
14 years 9 days ago

Two companies that share the same customer can create unique and innovative collaborations. They both benefit because they’re looking at the world through the eyes of their customer.

Particular kudos extended to Barneys. They were most at risk, and they had the guts to participate. Even luxury brands can have fun every now and then.

Bonny Baldwin
Guest
Bonny Baldwin
14 years 9 days ago

Both companies share a certain hipness and cheekiness even if their price points are wildly divergent. I first noticed a Barneys/Target connection when Marcia Kilgore from Bliss Spa launched her Soap and Glory line. The two places where it was initially available in L.A. were Barneys Co-Op and Target.

Rick Myers
Guest
Rick Myers
14 years 9 days ago

Target Couture, featured in the LA trendy boutique called Intuition in ’06 was a way that Target could get the bullseye logo in front of people who were buying neckties and necklaces for over three grand. So why would it surprise anyone that a similar tactic would be employed with Barneys to get front and center with that customer? There is a mystique behind the Target bullseye and it appeals to many different groups who want to be trend-right and edgy. It makes sense to me especially with Isaac Mizrahi going to Liz Claiborne.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 9 days ago

Definitely a surprise move; definitely an innovative approach. Having two price points at Barneys doesn’t hurt them because it was only for about 4 or 5 days in one store. It probably did cause people to stop and notice and may even encourage some Barneys shoppers to go to Target–especially in today’s economy. For Target it certainly was an interesting way to introduce the new designer line of clothes as a real fashion statement and create some buzz about the clothes.

Creating designer clothes for a mass merchandiser is always a challenge and it will be interesting to see whether this introduction creates demand and whether Target consumers like the clothes.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 9 days ago

Target isn’t just interested in shopper publicity. They also want investor publicity. They have a stock price to support. And Barneys is on the same small island as Wall Street.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
14 years 9 days ago

You can hear both Target and Barneys’ marketing guys on the phone, “Hey, what if we…would that get great word of mouth or what?” Calculated. Unexpected. KBs of press. Customers will want to look for themselves. And discuss. And maybe even buy. Brilliant.

Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 9 days ago

“…to maintain the element of surprise–do the unexpected…” or something like that. Sun Tsu on the art of war, if I recall correctly. Works pretty well in retailing, too. Eh? (Hey, it got US talking about something that would otherwise only matter to a few thousand people in Manhattan, didn’t it?)

Dick Seesel
Guest
14 years 9 days ago

Target definitely benefits from the PR buzz surrounding this move. However, it’s at a tricky crossroads: How to burnish its image as the headquarters for “cheap chic” and fast fashion, while underlining its value positioning against a resurgent Wal-Mart. Merchandising within Barneys may help the image question but does nothing for the value positioning.

From Barneys’ perspective, however, this is a puzzling move. The Barneys brand image has never been about price but about exclusivity. Carrying mass-merchant goods feels more like a stunt than a strategy.

William Passodelis
Guest
14 years 9 days ago

Interesting, Surprising, Shocking– A Complete WIN for Target. Also, we are all talking about it so another win for Target. Target really gets A LOT out of this little cross-pollination. Some of the lessor healed Barneys shoppers may even venture into Target if they haven’t already.

The true Barneys customer will likely brush off the merchandise as junk and move on — if they bother to notice or think about it at all. Barneys customers do seem to be fairly loyal and the merchandise mix at Barneys is unique and clever.

From the Target vantage, this is Brilliant, and I applaud them! From the Barneys perspective, I do not understand it. It may simply be a little tongue in cheek play and kudos to Barneys for them to be able to have a little fun. If I were part of the Barneys team I probably would have voted -=No=- on this little experiment. Wonders never cease.

Stacey Silliman
Guest
Stacey Silliman
14 years 8 days ago

Barneys has been carrying Rogan’s line for years (Edun and Loomstate included). Because of the relationship they have with designer Gregory Rogan, they have decided to do this. It’s not a trend that will be pursued, unless they have that connection with other Go International Target designers.

Barneys shoppers support Rogan and are happy that the high end retailer is carrying all of his products regardless of price points.

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