I hadn’t been in Steve and Barry’s for a while; first off I found their nickel and dime approach to retail to be almost downright pedestrian and was a bit offended that anyone was offering clothing for as cheap. When they first opened I found that they were but the newest destination for $5 jeans; now Old Navy had filled this niche in specialty store retail years back when they first opened and what I had found there at the time wasn’t much in the way of sophistication, but then again they were $5. While Old Navy had initially created consumers out of those looking for chic, yet cheap, clothing from the Gap they eventually improved in a lot of ways through aggressive marketing, improving their initial quality and becoming the flagship of the store, rather than a cheap and chic offering of the Gap.
So in time Old Navy proved themselves to be a serious competitor in retail; yet with Steve and Barry’s the formula for doing so seems to be in having famous personalities co-opt their clothing and offer designer labels within the store that sell for slightly more than their own line. I checked out the store shortly before Christmas looking for deals; I have to say that out of the three designer labels they do have, EleVen By Venus Williams, Dear by Amanda Bynes and BITTEN by Sarah Jessica Parker, BITTEN is your best deal.
Keep in mind that EleVen and Dear are marketed towards a younger woman, the former towards young African-American women in particular. Yet there is something special to BITTEN that opens up the door for Steve and Barry’s to appeal to an upscale consumer that would normally opt for H&M or The Gap. For one BITTEN has a universal appeal that none of the other Steve and Barry’s offerings have; the attention to detail and the luxury of the apparel at this price point may catch some women off guard.
On one hand BITTEN evokes similarities between WalMart’s upscale George offerings and clothing at Target by designers Isaac Mizrahi & Mossimo Giannulli; yet distinctively, Sarah Jessica Parker’s design team has a pulse on what women want to wear that few other discount retailers truly understand and even fewer have gotten right. Often the aforementioned labels are toned down replications of what would be these designers more expensive designs (Mossimo still has a nice label otherwise in the department stores but these days Isaac Mizrahi is working exclusively with Target); for example Simply Vera by Vera Wang is a definitively cheap and chic interpretation of her more expensive merchandise for Kohl’s.
By not offering her gear anywhere else one can only speculate as to what it should be, and on the strength of such an argument Steve and Barry’s has created exclusivity that is difficult to find in the specialty store business. EleVen; though a nice label for it’s price point, is very derivative of upscale Baby Phat that often sells for 4 to 6 times as much, though arguably a lot more conservative and more “Calvin Klein” like, Dear by Amanda Bynes sort of lacks identity, though it is arguably very nice clothing you can find elsewhere, but you would be hard pressed to actually leave Steve and Barry’s and look for it. So Sarah Jessica Parker has served a niche, again; lucky for Steve and Barry’s to have been a pivotal part of it…