What’s the point in paying an independent personal shopper when you can get one from your local department store, right? After all they do the same thing and they’re free, so why would I bother paying someone? These are the questions as an independent personal shopper I typically come across when explaining to people what I do. They’re valid questions and they’d be right if all personal shoppers were equal, but as you’ll find out that’s not really the case.
I’ve worked as an in-store personal shopper at Harvey Nichols. It was a good experience. But for the customer, when they walked into that suite it was both a blessing and a curse. I’ll start off with the great things about these in-store services.
- They know the stock inside out – There’s no one better in that store, be it a branded chain like Topshop or a department store, at knowing the stock like the personal shoppers (or they should do).
- You can put your feet up and shop in comfort – most good personal shopping suites should make you feel comfortable and relaxed. They’ll offer you drinks and snacks and a great chinwag too.
- They’ll offer you additional services you wouldn’t get outside of the suite. This maybe extra hold time if you can’t make your mind up on a particular item or free alterations.
So those are some of the things they’ll advertise to ‘woo’ you into the store’s personal shopping department, the blessings if you will. But why did I say it was also a curse?
You won’t find people working in these departments that can’t sell. Point, blank, period! Typically, only the top sellers make it here. So beneath that smile and polite demeanour is a finely tuned selling machine. Some stores offer their staff commission as an incentive to sell more. I recently watched the documentary Scatter My Ashes At Bergdorf’s and you know how much a top sales advisor can make in commission at NYC’s finest department store?
Yes that’s about £240,000 approx at the time of writing! So when they’re talking you through the reasons you must have that jacket or dress they’re thinking about how they’re going to get paid. Now not all stores offer commission. But they do all give their departments targets to hit. That could end with them receiving a bonus if they successfully achieve it. So there’s always an ulterior motive at play on some level. That complimentary cup of coffee and biscuit you received upon arrival, now doesn’t seem free when you left with an extra 3 items you never intended buying.
Habits of Highly Successful Shoppers
So how does an indie personal shopper differ then and why bother paying one?
- They should know the stock of not just one store but every store in your city. You’re looking for a new white shirt? They should know where the best quality one is for your budget. You don’t spend anymore than you have to. If there’s a similar quality item down the road, minus the fancy name they’ll tell you about it.
- They know about body shapes and what suits yours. Most in store personal shoppers don’t receive any sort of formal training on how to identify someone’s body shape and what styles and lines suit different ones. They’re also restricted to the stock they have within their store. An indie personal shopper will know which shops to take you to and which to avoid based on your body shape, personality and lifestyle. They’ll educate you on how to become a savvy shopper and give you tips and tricks you can use when shopping alone to make every trip a successful one.
- We’d always have to kill people’s dreams when I worked at Harvey Nichols by informing them we didn’t talk about body shape and just selected clothes they were looking for. These TV transformation shows had motivated them to take action only for their hopes to be crushed by us.
- All advice should be impartial. I always advise my clients it doesn’t matter if an item’s Mango or Marc Jacobs as long as the quality is there and it fits correctly I have no preference where they get it from as I’m not on commission from any store.
- They think about the full image. While some in-store personal shoppers will do this as well by trying to ‘upsell’ items ie: you only wanted a dress but end up walking out with shoes, clutch, statement necklace, bracelet and perfume. An indie shopper will ensure every item works hard for you. It won’t be a one hit wonder, it will slot into your wardrobe and work with your existing clothes or the other pieces you’ve bought or intend to buy that day. They’ll explain how each item does this and also explain what to do to look after each piece too.
- They live and breath the place. They’ll know about the best places to get your shoes repaired, where to get your clothes dry cleaned. What stores to avoid and which ones to visit as well as give advice on cool cafes and swanky cocktail bars.
So there you have it as ever, I’d love to know your thoughts.
Have you ever visited an in-store personal shopper or even hired an independent one?
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