The Death of A Department Store

Published on February 21, 2020

Famed New York City department store Barneys is closing the doors to 15 locations including the flagship store on Madison Avenue this Sunday.

The closure comes after the company filed for bankruptcy last summer. Before its recent troubles, Barneys was a staple in the New York City fashion scene for almost a century. They were in business for 97 years.

In preparation for the luxury retailer’s closing, the store held massive sales, advertising up to 90% off, everything must go style. It’s not what you usually see in the halls of a high-end department store filled with expensive designer items.

Although the stores themselves are closing, the Barneys name, purchased by Saks Fifth Avenue, will live on.

Bye Bye Barneys, Bye Bye Department Stores

The jarring closure of what used to be one of New York City’s most famous retail locations does not bode well for the future of department stores, and traditional retail in general. What some have dubbed the “retail apocalypse” is showing no signs of slowing down.

As more and more people, especially young people, switch to online shopping, stores that don’t adapt will have no choice but to close their doors. Some stores, like Norstrom, are doing just that and trying to find ways to combat this move towards online sales.

I remember the first time I ever walked into Barneys on Madison Ave. I was probably 11 or 12, and I was shopping with my stepmom. Who knows what we bought, or what we were shopping for that day, but I remember very clearly the excitement of being in a real New York luxury department store. Everything was so high-end and cool. It was Carrie Bradshaw’s mecca. To me, Barneys was the epitome of New York City high fashion. Soon all the iconic stores that represent luxury and high-fashion may be gone, the victims of a dying industry.

This a blow to any old-fashioned sentimentalists among shoppers, or anyone who still likes browsing, seeing all the options, and trying things on.

It also may be a blow to the environment in the long term. Some studies indicate that online shopping is better for the environment. However, that may not be true when all the variables are counted. Packaging, expedited shipping, and ordering one item at a time all contribute significantly to the carbon footprint of online ordering. As studies continue, and the retail apocalypse goes on, it may very well turn out that traditional shopping was the more sustainable way to go.

Barneys may be gone, but its legacy will live on in reruns of Sex and The City. Time for a rewatching marathon.

Olivia Smith is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in San Francisco, she covers events, entertainment, fashion, and technology. She also serves as a Voices contributor at PopSugar.

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