Steve & Barry's: Another Sign of the Times

Editor's Note So what happened to Steve & Barry's? The once high-flying and much-hyped retailer of collegiate merchandise and exclusive licensed apparel is reportedly headed toward bankruptcy, store closings and p

April 6, 2018

Steve & Barry's: Another Sign of the Times

Editor's Note

So what happened to Steve & Barry's? The once high-flying and much-hyped retailer of collegiate merchandise and exclusive licensed apparel is reportedly headed toward bankruptcy, store closings and possibly full liquidation.

It is joining such other notable retailers as Sharper Image and Linens 'n Things, which recently filed Chapter 11, as yet another victim of the tough economic climate, credit crisis and highly competitive retail marketplace. In fact, even Starbucks has been affected by the struggling economy, announcing that it will close 600 stores representing 6% of its U.S. stores.

This trendy retailer had received numerous accolades including being named "Retailer of the Year" by

License! Global

in 2006 and national publicity for its low-cost, high fashion format that challenged the mega-retailers including Wal-Mart and Target.

Steve & Barry's experienced a meteoric rise with its unique approach to fashion that garnered widespread publicity and consumer acceptance. The following statement

from the company's history is an interesting description: "Steve & Barry's is about change. It's about changing the way that consumers shop for their clothes and changing the way that retailers cater to them. Steve & Barry's is about stripping away the gloss and giving consumers something real. The fact is that great clothing doesn't really have to cost that much. It's a simple idea, but also a big idea—big enough, that is, to turn the industry on its ear. By delivering on our promise to provide premium apparel at impossibly low prices, Steve & Barry's is single-handedly changing the retail landscape. We're busting the model."

The reality is that Steve & Barry's didn't bust the model, the model busted them. The apparel retailer, like the other aforementioned well-known and once successful names, is another sign of the times. It is another example of a retailer with a strong format, exclusive products, celebrity tie-ins, low prices, decent locations, and other key distinctive characteristics that succumbed to financial pressures and operational challenges.

Steve & Barry's line-up of exclusive licensed product lines, which gave the retailer a competitive edge, included: NBA star Stephon Marbury's Starbury collection, "Sex in the City's" Sarah Jessica Parker's Bitten collection; PGA golfer Bubba Smith's bubbagolf merchandise; actress Amanda Bynes' dear collection; tennis star Venus Williams' EleVen line; plus dozens of other licensed brands.

The question is, in this difficult economy, is there a white knight that believes in the value of this low-priced concept with a high price tag? The retailer was reportedly seeking emergency financing for $30 million to $40 million.

It seems that lots of people bought into the hype of Steve & Barry's as it marketed its cheap chic fashion. This is just another classic example of a small, fledgling retailer with a good idea that expanded quickly and got zapped.

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