Barneys New York: Employees Are on Edge, Vendors Are Asking for Merchandise Back

As luxury department store chain Barneys New York prepares itself for what many presume will be a Chapter 11 filing, morale among employees is low, and vendors are asking for their merchandise back, according to a Barneys retail employee JCK has been in contact with this week, who asked to remain anonymous.

The source, who works full-time at one of the company’s flagship locations, has forwarded JCK emails that show at least one well-known designer fashion brand has reached out to Barneys to “initiate transfers” of merchandise from several of the retailer’s locations directly back to the brand—bypassing the company’s usual return to vendor (RTV) process, which would route RTVs to a distribution center before returning product to the vendor.

A call to Barneys New York’s corporate office in New York City seeking comment for this article went unanswered (no one picked up the main phone line, but JCK was able to leave a message).

However, the company told Footwear News, “Our board and management are actively evaluating opportunities to strengthen our balance sheet and ensure the sustainable, long-term growth and success of our business.”

JCK was also sent an email from Barneys’ payroll department that went out to employees this week informing them of a onetime change to payroll that would essentially pay them two paychecks at once, before the company returned to paying on its normal schedule.

The source says inventory levels in the unit have dropped significantly in the last three weeks. “Managers [are] taking all their vacations,” they said, and “corporate is not answering questions.” But “everyone in the store knows what’s happening—there’s a big pink elephant in the room and one of our HR people has been walking about saying they’re praying for a miracle [to save the store].”

The silence from upper management prompted the source to reach out to their union—the New York New/Jersey Regional Joint Board of Workers United, which represents more than 7,000 workers in the retail, manufacturing, and garment industries.

In the email chain, which was also forwarded to JCK, the Workers United representative said the retailer has “completely shut down with respect to responding to my inquiries,” and added, “Right now, the situation in NY is very grim. They are starting to cut hours of our members, they have not paid health insurance premiums, they have not sent us our members union dues or made their pension payments…in NY we have decided to hold off on filing charges at this time. We are waiting to see if they file Chapter 11.”

JCK called and emailed this union representative, but has yet to hear back.

(Photo courtesy of Barneys New York)

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JCK Magazine Editor