Barneys' target

An odd pairing between Barneys and Target is generating a lot of buzz, some that looks pre-meditated, some based on praise, and some on, what was probably a less-meditated, confusion.

An odd pairing between Barneys and Target is generating a lot of buzz, some that looks pre-meditated, some based on praise, and some on, what was probably a less-meditated, confusion.

This weekend, Barneys will introduce eco-friendly Rogan designs exclusive for Target's Go International line. Some critics praise the novelty and shock value that can stem from a partnership between two retailers, and the added value from a partnership between two retailers that sell at vastly different price-points. Wendy Liebman, founder and president of WSL Strategic Retail, told WWD – in its six-page story evaluating the pros and cons of the retailers' strategy - that for Target, its' about marketing and branding with regards to the prestige of the New York market, and for Barneys, “It will create a little bit of anarchy and a little bit of buzz.”

Fashionista provides a glimpse into the product causing all the commotion.

Both retailers work with high-end designers - albeit at different price-points - and both are a little funky, so there must be at least a tiny cross-over between the retailers' core demographics: the budget shopper and the high-end shopper. However, the emphasis is on “tiny,” and critics wonder how a retailer can generate sales from a completely new customer.

In WWD, Michael Lichtenstein, owner and founder of Group L Consulting compared the partnership to a more typical high-end-designer partnership with a low-cost retailer. He calls the latter exciting. “It's news and everyone understands what that means.” But of the Target-Barneys deal he says, “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.”

Another critic further ponders how a retailer can sell both $29 jeans and $250 jeans by the same designer [Rogan] under the same roof [Barneys] without confusing and/or alienating the Barneys' customer. The collaboration might cause the customer to evaluate their shopping habits - wonder why they should spend so much more money on fabric alone – and change those habits.

Leslie Bishop, an SAE at Exposure, a creative communications agency, speculated about the retailers' goal to reach new/different segments and describes it as both challenging and exciting.

“Any time you branch out like that, there are going to be certain people not understanding,” she said.

She compared the situation to a strategy for one of her clients, Doc Martens, a brand that appeals to seemingly contrasting segments and sells at retailers that tout different audiences. Her team needs to reach both readers of high-end magazines like Vogue and consumers who don't necessarily read those pubs.

With regards to the current state of the economy and trouble at Barneys' Co-op stores, she says, “[The partnership] makes great sense.”

FabSugar agrees - ”This sudden relationship is attributed to the fact that both Target and Barneys are feeling the consequences of the recent economic downturn. I hope things get better soon but in the meantime, I'm a fan of this friendship!” The enthusiasm is echoed in the blog's comments.

Barneys' internal PR team did not return a call requesting a comment, and Laforce & Stevens, the PR agency working with Target on the initiative, declined to comment.

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Designers get a break
FaCshion, a London trade show, offers visibility for emerging designers with a tight budget.

He is his own brand
Jean Paul Gaultier steps out of his designer role to pick up a mic as a commentator at the 2008 Eurovision concert, rather than sticking to contestant wardrobes.

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