Thursday, May 23, 2024

John Barrett in Boca

In 1996, an iconic department store reached out to John Barrett and extended, arguably, the most exclusive and career-altering opportunity in hairdressing history—the chance to open the first salon at Bergdorf Goodman in New York.

Twenty years later, with history set to repeat itself starting right here in Boca, his new partnership with Saks Fifth Avenue is less a game-changer for Barrett and more a match made in luxury heaven. Barrett eventually will operate 15 in-store salons across the U.S. and Canada, the first of which has opened at the Saks inside Town Center at Boca Raton.

During his recent visit to the Town Center salon, Barrett took time to sit down with Boca Raton and discuss the Saks relationship, what his customers can expect moving forward and what the number 20 means.

Why was the Boca Saks the first salon to open?

I was approached by Saks about 18 months ago to operate in-store salons. We’ll completely redesign [the existing salon space], but what we wanted to do in Boca was just start the relationship—we wanted to get used to the store and the environment. We’ll stay open until about May, and then we’ll remodel the space and have a grand opening for next season.

The relationship [with Saks] is a win-win. In my current location (at Bergdorf Goodman) we see about 70,000 people per year—and those customers populate the store. So it’s a great customer base. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the retail metric, but it suggests that if 100 people come into your store, 20 will spend. Our metric is different; 100 percent of the people who come in have an intention of spending money.

Is it difficult to open something that doesn’t look the way you know it will look down the road?

It’s very tough for me. But I’m happy to work here this season. When you work in an environment, there are things you find out. That will be useful for me—finding out what’s good, what’s not good. It’s a time to do troubleshooting. It’s also about getting to know this client base.

We have a training program called JB Care that teaches everyone how to interact with the clients. The consistency is an important [part of the John Barrett brand], from the hairdressers to the people at the front desk.

Is there anything in your mind about the blueprint of this store that will distinguish it?

As you walk around Saks, every boutique is simply beautiful. So our space needs to be extremely beautiful in its own way; when you walk inside, it needs to be an elevated experience, a feast for the eyes.

The salon industry has become more and more specialized in recent years. Do you react to that or is your brand so unique that it stands on its own?

We’re not reacting; we’re taking a leadership position. Which is scary, but I guess the brave survive. We [already have] a unique beauty experience. But we’re trying to reinvent the idea of the salon. Part of it is total integration; in our Bond Street location in New York, you’ll see beautiful vintage Rolex watches. You walk into our Palm Beach store, and you’ll find lovely jewelry pieces. There are all these wonderful things to catch your eye; I want to do things that are curated and not readily available. We want to enhance the experience for Saks as well as for ourselves.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Bergdorf salon. What does that number mean to you?

It’s shocking. What happens in business is that there’s more looking forward than reflection—and not always looking forward in a great way. It’s like, “Let me cope with this situation, let me put this fire out,” rather than looking back and saying, “Wow.”

So many extraordinary things have happened over the years. Maybe at the time I didn’t appreciate them as such, but, really … who else has sat with Princess Diana and read the silly letters that people sent her when she arrived in the city. So 20 years is a big deal—especially to stay, consistently, at such a high level in the most competitive city in the world.

Related Articles

Latest Articles