eTail Coverage | An Interview with Barneys
On the brand’s equity, translating the in-store experience & the potential future
BY: The Lead Editorial Team
It is a sign of the times. We recently listened to a wonderful interview with Barneys Chief Digital and Technology Officer Katherine Bahamonde Monasebian at the eTail East conference in Boston. With the bankruptcy news already in the press (though the look to a Farfecth acquisition not yet known) there were three key points we took from the interview:
Brand, Brand, Brand
The Barneys New York brand carries incredible equity. And we heard Katherine discuss the ways that equity can be converted to capital by way of extending the brand into a more experienced-based economy. We have seen The Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton expand into condominiums, private home rentals, and luxury travel — it would not surprise us to see Barneys New York exploring opportunities to leverage their brand into hotels, travel and concierge services.
A Neutralized Asset
The Barneys New York experience is aspirational, tactile, artistic and luxurious rolled into one. It is as much a show as it is a shopping destination. And the store staff carries a level of professionalism and knowledge seen in very few places. This is the brand. The challenge is translating that live experience to a mobile device or any screen for that matter. Such an incredible brand asset is completely neutralized by the screen and associated form factor.
The Whole Foods Move
What we found most interesting was the open discussion and interest around a ‘digital first retailer’ acquiring Barneys. While Katherine did not discuss the ‘why’ around a digital-first buyer being preferred, we can assume it is to help with translating the brand experience to digital, as mentioned above. But what stands out here is the concept of selling brand equity. And if the expectation is that a ‘more digitally savvy’ organization is going to revitalize the Barney’s business model with digital fairy dust – we hope that magic is real.
A special thanks to Katherine Bahamonde Monasebian for being open and forthright, to Kim Bhasin of Bloomberg News for his well-formulated and direct questioning, and to the eTail team for a professional, engaging and well-attended conference.