Barneys courts younger shoppers with cannabis products, new campaign

Retailer modernizes its approach in quest for millennials

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Barneys New York is thinking outside the box—but inside the bag. As the storied department store chain strives to attract younger consumers, it's modernizing its marketing, messaging and products to reach a younger consumer. The strategy, which comes on the heels of Barneys' recent announcement that it will be entering the cannabis space, includes a new marketing campaign that emphasizes Barneys' black-and-white shopping bag, and a new loyalty program.

"We have been around for 100 years, but the point is not to look back and allow our history and our legacy to define us," says Danielle Vitale, CEO of Barneys. At Shoptalk 2019, Vitale talked with Ad Age about the brand's new campaign, "Don't Put Us in a Box." The new work, which was created in-house, will run in print and digital; images also ran outdoors in Paris during Paris Fashion Week.

Barneys Bag Campaign
Barneys Bag Campaign Credit: Barneys

Barneys is also diversifying its product offerings. Last month, the retailer said it would be debuting a new high-end cannabis lifestyle and wellness shop, called The High End, within its Los Angeles store. Vitale says the brand is responding to consumer demand.

"Cannabis is for a luxury consumer—it's a lifestyle choice," she says. "It is something that we feel our customers are telling us they want us to be part of, this shift." She notes, however, that the new offering is upscale—not a headshop—and in keeping with the luxury brand.

This week, Barneys announced a new customer loyalty program that allows shoppers to participate and earn rewards even if they do not have a Barneys credit card. Vitale says that many of today's younger shoppers are tired of carrying around multiple brand credit cards—the new tender-neutral program enables them more access to Barneys restaurants, beauty services and events, without signing up for a card.

Vitale hopes the new moves will help continue to bring customers into stores. Already, the brand is seeing an increase in younger shoppers. Barneys saw a 25 percent growth year-over-year in young consumers, and 60 percent of them were shopping in physical stores, according to Vitale.

"Luxury means something different to everyone—who are we to say this is the definition of luxury and it's only for this type of consumer? It's not true," says Vitale. "We really embrace that in terms of our product strategy and now we need to make sure that our marketing message reemphasizes that."

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