Hit by rent hike at New York flagship, Barneys New York gets lifeline with $50 million in credit

Key Points
  • Luxury retailer Barneys New York has extended the term of its credit line by $50 million, people familiar with the talks told CNBC.
  • Rent at Barneys' flagship on Madison Avenue jumped from roughly $16 million to approximately $30 million in January, the people said.
  • Barneys says the extended credit line will support business growth, including new store openings and international growth initiatives.
A pedestrian walks past a window display at Barneys New York department store in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009.
Jin Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Luxury retailer Barneys New York just got a lifeline.

The retailer has extended the term of its credit line by $50 million, giving it money for growth, as well as needed liquidity to weather industry challenges and a rent hike at its famed New York flagship, people familiar with the talks told CNBC.

Rent at Barneys' flagship on Madison Avenue jumped from roughly $16 million to approximately $30 million in January, nearly wiping out its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, the people said. Barneys unsuccessfully tried to halt the rent hike. The company says it still has positive EBITDA and projects positive EBITDA for the year and beyond.

The retailer has roughly $850 million in sales, a person familiar said.

Despite reports earlier this week that Barneys is looking to downsize its Madison Avenue store, the company has no such plans, a spokesperson for Barneys said.

The financing, which comes as an extension of the company's current credit agreement with Wells Fargo adds in new lender, TPG Sixth Street Partners. TSSP, which was established as a strategic partnership with private equity firm TPG Capital, is a long-term oriented fund with over $30 billion in assets under management.

A Barney's spokesperson said in a statement, "Barneys New York has a long-standing business relationship with Wells Fargo. Our most recent agreement is an extension of our current credit agreement that we have had in place with Wells Fargo since 2012. The additional capital will support our business growth plans with new store openings and renovations, innovative in-store and digital experiences, and international growth initiatives."

The company recently announced it will begin to sell high-end cannabis items in its stores.

Barneys has been backed by Perry Capital, the fund run by Richard Perry, since 2012. That deal, structured as a debt-for-equity swap, helped the tony retailer prevent bankruptcy. But turmoil continued to rattle the retailer as Perry closed his fund four years later, citing industry and market headwinds.

Perry Capital has since largely existed as a "zombie fund," in which it has owned Barneys but has not put more money into it. After its deal with Wells Fargo and TSSP, Perry Capital will continue to own the retailer, the people said.

Barneys, like many of its peers, is struggling to combat the rise of online shopping and brands that are looking to sell directly to their shoppers rather than go through a third-party stores.

Adding pressure to luxury goods brands, including Coach-owner Tapestry and jeweler Tiffany, is the slowdown they've seen as Chinese tourist spending in the U.S. tapers. Chinese shoppers are expected to comprise 46 percent of the global luxury market by 2025, according to consulting firm Bain. This ties the fortunes of the luxury market closely to the economic swings of the Chinese economy.

Online luxury sales, meantime, continue to grow, as premium websites like Farfetch have developed services and technology that can replicate online the high-end shopping experience for which brands like Chanel are known. Shares of London-based Farfetch, which listed on the New York Stock Exchange last year, are up 47 percent this year, giving it a market capitalization of $8 billion.

By 2025, online shopping will make up a quarter of the luxury market, up from 10 percent today, according to Bain.

With that backdrop, the Manhattan luxury retail landscape continues to evolve, as retailers can no longer afford to use the city's expensive midtown property as a marketing tool. Ralph Lauren closed its Fifth Avenue store in 2017, while Hudson's Bay Company's Lord & Taylor closed its Fifth Avenue flagship in January.

Outside of midtown, new openings continue. Saks Fifth Avenue opened a women's store in Battery Park's Brookfield Place in 2016, before shuttering roughly two years later. A men's store is still open. In March, premium shopping area Hudson Yards opened on the far West Side, with high-end Neiman Marcus as its anchor. The same month, the retailer reached a deal with its lenders to extend the maturities of $2.5 billion of its nearly $5 billion debt load.

Barneys dates to 1923, when Barney Pressman opened a men's discount clothing store on Seventh Avenue and 17th Street. In the 1960s, Barney's son, Fred, helped transition from a discount store to a luxury retailer. Barneys soon made its imprint on New York luxury fashion, building on its foothold in menswear and introducing designers like Giorgio Armani.

Barneys has more than 10 namesake stores, in New York, California, Chicago, Massachusetts, Las Vegas, Seattle and Pennsylvania. It also has a number of Barneys Warehouse outlet stores and Fred's restaurants.

In 2017, it named its former chief operating officer, Daniella Vitale, as CEO.

The people requested anonymity because the information is confidential. Wells Fargo and TSSP declined to comment. Perry Capital wasn't available to comment.

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