With Barneys in Hand, Boneparth Seeks to Double Its Size

Peter Boneparth doesn’t shop at Barneys, but the Jones Apparel Group ceo will be spending more time there, trying to turn it into a billion-dollar baby.

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Boneparth said the Jones senior executives “intuitively” understand the luxury business and are, in many cases, Barneys customers.

“What this business is about is diversification, by brand, by channel, by demographic,” Boneparth said. “When you first put your toe in that demographic, whether it be moderate or luxury, it looks like somehow you’re going far afield.”

Boneparth pointed to the acquisition of Nine West, which gave Jones entry into retail and was similarly questioned by analysts. He said that move has paid dividends and is a strategy the company added to with the purchase of Maxwell Shoe Co. for $346 million in July.

Jones expects to gain more than girth from Barneys.

“We will learn about fashion,” Boneparth said. “We will learn much more about design. We’ll understand their vendor base much better and you never know where that will lead. Jones is going to evolve in line with where the customer’s evolving. We need to go where they’re going.”

The move into luxury is also a chance for Jones to help support a core business that isn’t growing as quickly. Sales of better-priced apparel, led by its Jones New York brands, are slated to grow by low-single digits, while moderate, with labels such as Bandolino and Gloria Vanderbilt, is slated to grow somewhat faster.

The retailer requires little in the way of integration for Jones, said Boneparth, who nonetheless said no more deals were on the immediate horizon.

“We’re very cognizant of absorption, meaning we’re not going to stretch ourselves too thin,” he said.

For Socol, who has been conducting “presentation after presentation after presentation” to potential buyers, the deal with Jones means he can get back to spending more time on the business of retailing.

“This enables us to take a longer-term view and have a little bit more money in our pockets,” he said.

Socol seemed at “home” with his new parent, noting how Jones is a good fit for Barneys and how having a permanent “home” with a strategic buyer allows it to plan for the future as opposed to facing another change a few years down the road had a financial buyer bought the firm.
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