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the 1991 Neiman Marcus Deal: How Barney Made a Mark in the Retail World

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

In 1988, the release of two VHS tapes, "The Backyard Show" and "Three Wishes," marked the beginning of an incredible journey for Barney, the lovable purple dinosaur. These tapes quickly became a sensation, with "The Backyard Show" selling 16,000 copies within the first five months, equivalent to approximately 335,000 in sales. By the end of that year, these tapes were available in 3,000 stores across the nation.

Among the countless children who fell in love with Barney was 18-month-old Dana Feiwus. Dana's fascination with Barney led her to learn how to operate the VCR, watching and rewinding the tapes repeatedly. Impressed by her daughter's profound connection with Barney, Leslee Feiwus, Dana's mother, decided to reach out to the Lyons Group, the company behind Barney.

1991 Barney costume
Barney visiting the Neiman Marcus headquarters in Dallas.

To her surprise, Leslee found herself speaking directly to Sheryl Leach, the creator of Barney. She shared how much her daughter adored the lovable purple dinosaur. In response, Sheryl invited Leslee to become involved with the Lyons Group by making cold calls to sell the Barney tapes. Leslee eagerly agreed and became one of Sheryl's Mom Blitzers, although she admitted that she didn't sell much.

As Leslee continued to advocate for Barney, she recognized an opportunity to combine her daughter's love for Barney with her stamp business. In 1990, she obtained the license to create Barney roller stamps with various designs. The Lyons Group added these stamps to their product catalog, further expanding the Barney merchandise line.

Leslee's involvement with Barney continued to grow, and at one point, Sheryl entrusted her with the original Barney costume, stored in her garage and used for promotional events. Leslee even arranged for her friend's son to perform in the suit at various occasions.

Dana remained an ardent fan of Barney, and in 1991, she had the opportunity to appear on stage during "Barney in Concert" and participate in the Alphabet song. Leslee played a pivotal role in organizing the song, recruiting children from Dana's Jewish school to sing in Hebrew and enlisting children from an international school to sing in French.

The Neiman Marcus Boutiques

Neiman Marcus Barney Botique
Barney Boutique at a Neiman Marcus store, August 1991

The Lyons Group reached their monumental deal with Neiman Marcus in early 1991. This collaboration with the esteemed high-end department store validated Sheryl's vision and the success of Barney. Leslee's husband happened to be the president of Neiman Marcus's Catalogue division, which sparked the idea of opening Barney boutiques inside their stores.

With the support of her husband and Sheryl, Leslee embarked on this venture. Neiman Marcus facilitated the process by connecting the Lyons Group with buyers and assisting in developing the boutique concept. The allure of these boutiques was the exclusive availability of the Barney tape, "Rock with Barney."

Although the boutiques were not present in all of Neiman Marcus's 23 nationwide stores, they showcased an array of exceptional merchandise. From two different-sized exclusive GUND plush dolls, Barney watches, clothing, art kits, furniture, tumblers, duffle bags, sleeping bags, and more! The boutiques boasted custom display shelves and cutouts, as well as a tv playing "Rock with Barney" on repeat, creating an immersive Barney experience.

1991 Barney Boutique Neiman Marcus
Some of the items offered at the Barney Boutique

The Neiman Marcus boutiques proved to be a substantial success. At the time, Barney was still relatively unknown, and these boutiques played a vital role in increasing his exposure. Just a year later, Barney struck a deal with JC Penney's nationwide, and the experience gained from the Neiman Marcus collaboration paved the way for further success.

The Neiman Marcus deal marked a turning point for Barney and solidified his place in the retail world. Through the passion and dedication of individuals like Leslee Feiwus, Barney's popularity skyrocketed, ultimately leading to broader recognition and further partnerships in the future.

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13 de set. de 2023

Wish i could go back to one of these boutiques!! That standing cutout is something else- Barney looks so fashionable with his top hat and bow tie; and with pointed claws on his toes!! Very cool to see! Thanks for sharing 💜💚💛

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