Thursday, February 9, 2012

Demystifying personal shopping - Part 1.

My foray into personal shopping started several years ago with (ahem) my 20th high school reunion on the horizon.  The reunion was in November, and I knew I wanted to look great without looking like I had tried too hard.  Tall order.

I had been trolling around Nordstrom in the months prior and this one salesperson, Loren Munro, helped me with a couple of things here and there.  With the reunion coming up, I got my nerve up and approached her in the store one day.  "Do you help dress people for events?"  The answer was 'yes', and I told her what my situation was.  Turns out that Nordstrom provides this service for free.

We made an appointment, I gave her my sizes, and I told her that I would love to have a dress but not too formal, not sleeveless, and that looked great.  (Full discloser - I also said that I didn't care how much it cost too look good. Bad, I know, but I really wanted a great outfit.)

The appointment rolled around. I had no idea what to expect.  I was nervous. I asked Lisa to come with me.  I was to meet Loren on the second floor and have her paged.  I did as I was told, and was ushered into a dressing room full of dresses and outfit combinations she pulled in advance for me.  Pairings that I would have never thought of or dared to try on on my own.

The first outfit I gravitated toward turned out to be the one I purchased.  An M Missoni knit dress, topped with a 3.1 Philip Lim black wool ruffled cocktail coat.  Cocktail ring to match too.  All there, from different departments, pulled together. I loved it, Lisa loved it, I purchased it, and never looked back.  (Being the clever one that Loren was, she also stocked the room with a couple of other items I just couldn't leave there.)

I went to my reunion in that outfit, feeling polished and put together.  I was hooked on personal shopping.

Over the next few years, not only did I become a regular client of Loren's, but Lisa did too.  Turns out that having a stylist in your corner was a good thing. That Philip Lim cocktail coat apparently never even hit the store floor - it sold out to personal shopping clients that same day it arrived, happily, the day of my appointment.  A pair of Jimmy Choos that I couldn't justify buying for full price?  Months after I had tried them on, I received a call from my contact in the shoe department (who I met via Loren) that a pair had been returned, in my size and they were now on sale, 60% off.  Did I want them?  Oui!  Lisa snagged a rag & bone jacket that was sold out within moments of their July Anniversary sale with Loren's help. (Certain fall items go on sale for a limited time during Nordstrom's July Anniversary sale and then return to normal price.)

Loren was amazing, and being so, got promoted and moved out of state to greener pastures at other Nordstrom stores.  What were we to do?

I called the store manager and asked her who she recommended.  Amy Swartz was the answer.

So, Amy and I (and Amy and Lisa), have seasonal appointments.  One in February for spring/summer, one in July for fall, and a little one in October for holiday.  I email a list of my needs to Amy prior to the appointment, tell her the price-point that I'm comfortable with (although she just knows now - that was at the beginning), and make a date.  I arrive for the appointment, and she will have a dressing room full of options, all different price points, including shoes and accessories to experiment with.

I have my February appointment on Monday, and CANNOT WAIT.  There are several things that make this personal shopping experience worthwhile:
  • Amy knows the stock on the floor and what's coming in.  She pulls pants from one department, a top from across the store, and shoes from downstairs.  It would take me hours to do that on my own.
  • It's efficient.  I'm very specific about what I need.  If the store has it, it's in that dressing room for me when I get there.  No hunting around.
  • Things can surprise you.  I bought a $69 dress that looked like a million bucks one fall. I've also made investment purchases that will last for years.  Taking the store departments out of the shopping experience makes you really look at the item of clothing for what it is.
But be warned:  not all personal shopping experiences are the same.  Hooked on personal shopping, Lisa and I made an appointment at Bloomingdales in New York City last September.  We were assigned to a gentleman (who we discovered while we were there, worked in the men's department) who pulled maybe 5 pieces of clothing for each of us prior to the appointment time.  He insisted that we walk around the store with him and he would hold the pieces we selected.  What?  Really?  Wasn't that what we wanted him to do?  When it was clear he had no knowledge of the women's departments and wasn't going to put together any outfits for us, we left.  I purchased nothing.  Lisa bought one top, which she ended up returning.  2 hours of precious shopping time wasted.

Therefore, I'm really looking forward to Monday.  I'm prepping, and will post my shopping list soon.  Stay tuned for that, and the report on Monday! ~ JH

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