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Online Academy - Module 2 > Personal Shopping / Personal Shopping education
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You have undertaken a wardrobe consultation which has no doubt resulted in your client’s clothes being cast in a number of roles:
In any case, your client’s wardrobe will be well organised so she can see exactly what she has and what she needs. You will know her quite well, you have a good understanding of her lifestyle needs and the kind of image she wishes to portray and now it is time to bring everything together and give her a complete and functional stylish wardrobe.
The personal shop has two purposes: Firstly to purchase key pieces that you’ve identified as missing from her existing clothes and that will provide her with a complete, hardworking stylish wardrobe that serves her lifestyle, reflects her personality and enhances the image she wishes to present. Secondly to introduce her to styles, colours and collections/shops that she would never have previously considered - an education on how and where to shop.
There are many and varied reasons why clients should opt for a personal shop following a wardrobe consultation. Here are just some of them:
Shops now seem to be on permanent sale or have regular special promotions. In addition we seem to be having a shift in our climate, like milder winters and late summers which effect how people are shopping. However, there are still the key times of the season to consider.
September to November is the winter season, but items become thicker the later in the season you get. December is party wear month; this means the shops are full of sparkly evening clothes. It’s important to remember that evening wear makes up a tiny proportion of most clients’ lives so the key shopping months for the Autumn/Winter season are really September to early November. Coats and boots are often delivered at the end of August/September so for the best selections, buy early. The end of December/January sees the start of the sale period.
Towards the end of February through to May, the spring collections will be in the shops. Early spring clothing often uses fabric that can be used all year round.
The later in the season, the lighter the fabrics get. The end of May is high summer and July to August is the sale period. Swimwear is often delivered first so February/March is a good time to buy. The key months for buying clothing suitable for a typical British summer are end of February to the beginning of May.
A lot of thought must go into a shop before you actually hit the pavement or start researching online. In most instances you will have a list of what your client requires, which you have determined during the wardrobe consultation. However there are many things to consider even when you know the specific garments and/or accessories required.
A personal shop is not a girl’s day out. You must PLAN in advance! You should know what you are looking for; know your client – her lifestyle, her budget and what she wants from her clothes and you must know where and when to shop to get the right pieces.
When we talk about the customer’s budget, I personally have never asked a client how much they would like to spend. I believe you should have an idea after spending time with her at the wardrobe consultation. What she is looking for and the type of brands in terms of cost that you are going to show her. Remember this is also a shopping education, an opportunity to show her new styles, colours and brands. It doesn’t mean she has to buy them all that day. I would mention this during the consultation so she doesn’t feel under any pressure.
Show whole outfits, if possible, in one shop. If not, let your customer in on your overall plan and how the piece she is trying on will work with what you have seen elsewhere, so she can imagine the whole picture.
You must always consider how items are going to work with what she already has.
Research is the key
Your aim must be to give the client the best shopping experience she has ever had; one that she will never forget for all the right reasons. Your job is to take the pain, hard work and worry out of her shopping experience.
Where to start…
Research is the key, whether this is online or in the stores or both. You need to know your stock; where it is, and who it is for. Remember that stock is delivered frequently so new items are appearing all the time. You may have selected items for your client’s Wednesday shop on a Monday, so always arrive slightly early and have a final flick through the rails to see if anything new and appropriate has appeared in the meantime.
When selecting pieces, always remain structured - you can’t look at everything and time is limited. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:
Key points for shopping with your client
Think about building your client’s wardrobe with good quality items and don’t forget the basics that she will wear time and time again.
In most cases the way we shop for clothes is to impulse buy. We are either so busy that we rush in and purchase anything remotely suitable for the occasion, or we shop for pleasure or leisure and buy things that look pretty, or that we like the colour of, regardless of its quality or whether or not it will fit in with our existing wardrobe. The worst scenario is when we proudly boast about an item we got for a bargain in the sale, not realising that by the time we purchase the accessories or remaining parts of the outfit, that we have actually spent more than we intended.
You have purchased a top that is mainly browns that has been reduced from £100 to £25. The ultimate bargain? NOT! You have now got to purchase a bottom, a pair of shoes, a jacket and possibly accessories to enable the top to be worn. WHERE’S THE BARGAIN NOW?
If your client is the sort of person who enjoys shopping and likes to impulse buy, suggest that she always considers:
The most common shopping mistake is to go without a shopping list. Know what you need and why you need it.
Consider your client
Before you buy anything or even make any purchasing decisions, review again who your client is and what she needs her clothes for:
Consider size and fit
Time is of the essence so you must get to know collections and sizes really well. What is a size twelve? You know from your own experience that in one store and with one collection you may be a size twelve but in another you could be a ten or a fourteen.
When you are presenting your client with outfits, it is a sign of your professional expertise that in most instances you choose something in her size. It also makes it less likely that you will offend her by choosing something that is way too big or too small for her. If she does comment on the size of a garment that whilst fitting her is a larger size than she would normally wear, just advise her that for this particular brand, their sizing is wrong and everyone has to go up a size.
If you are ever unsure of sizing, either ask the sales assistants if they know how a particular garment is fitting or save the garment in two sizes so you are covered.
Always ask the sales assistant if you can’t find what you are looking for as some of the best items come from the stock room. Also remember to look online if you can’t find the size in the store. Some stores will also look to see if other stores have it, if not available online. Nowadays there are many different ways to find what your customer needs - it’s all in the service you give.
Preparation, preparation, preparation
With any undertaking in life, the more prepared you are the better the outcome, and undertaking a personal shop is no different. When you first undertake a personal shop, the amount of preparation time is scary (so charge accordingly) but as you become more familiar with the stores and the collections and as your expertise and confidence grows, you will find you will be able to achieve more in less time.
There are a number of things to consider when preparing to take your client shopping so let’s review them now.
The first thing to consider is you: what you should wear, how to look and the tools you require.
How to dress
The most important thing to think about, is you have got to be well groomed and stylish, but comfortable - especially your footwear as you are about to spend all day on your poor little feet. Jeans and a top accessorised well are often enough as you don’t want to overpower your client; the day is about her but what you’ve got to remember is that she is taking advice from you. Make sure you give her a good impression of yourself. You are also your best advert as you are walking around your town or store. I have picked up new clients from changing rooms as women are watching and listening to the advice I am giving to my client.
The tools you will need:
A shopping plan
You can’t visit every store so you must decide in advance which stores are right for your client. You must also decide in what order you will visit the stores. We find that we can visit 4 to 5 shops in a four hour shopping trip and we suggest starting with the shop that has the largest selection of items your client will like. That way, if you run out of time, you’ve already shown your client the best pieces available to her.
Preparing your client for a personal shop
If your client wears a particular heel height regularly then either ensure she wears that height on the shopping day if her feet can stand it, or locate a shoe with the same-sized heel that she can use when trying on trousers to ensure their length is correct. Alternatively you could get her to bring her shoes with her.
Ensure your client is wearing the correct underwear with the clothes that she is trying on. This is most important because as we learned in Module One, the underwear can have an enormous bearing on how the outerwear looks. Depending upon what she is trying on, remember to consider the type of bra necessary to achieve the right affect – t-shirt versus balcony or plunge. If she isn’t wearing the correct style of bra or pants, be sure to point out what she should be wearing to give the perfect look. If her bra doesn’t fit her, be sure to take her for a bra fitting before you do anything else. Until she experiences what the perfect fit bra does for her shape and her clothes, you will never truly give her the perfect image.
Being in control of someone’s clothing budget is a huge responsibility and you must take your accountability for this very seriously. In order to spend her money wisely you must consider the following very important points:
Where Do You Start
If your client has not already been to have an underwear/bra fitting, this is your first port of call. Alternatively make arrangements for your client to visit your recommended bra fitter and get their boobs measured. You should also suggest appropriate styles and makes of bras for her to purchase. As you get more confident with bra fitting, give her a guide to what size you think she should be wearing.
Remember the following points:
Keeping a record
Throughout the consultation you must photograph and make notes as appropriate about a variety of things including:
In case at a later date your client may want to purchase those items you listed but for whatever reason she didn’t purchase on the day.
Taking a break
As your client tries on the various outfits and considers them a purchase possibility, ask the store assistants to save those items until the end of your shopping day. Once you have exhausted the shops you have in your plan, take your client for a coffee and discuss the various clothes she has seen and tried. Discuss what she likes, how she will wear the items with each other and with the items she already has in her wardrobe and how they will fit with her lifestyle.
During the shopping trip there might have been items that your client fell in love with, and which do not compare with any other item you have yet to show her. If this is the case, purchasing those items before you leave that store would be advisable as you would possibly be able to use these items with other garments you have in mind in stores coming up.
After you and your client have made the final decisions on what to purchase, depending on the time you have, you would either return to the shops with her or make a phone call to the relevant stores to let them know that your customer will be returning and what she would like to purchase. Make sure that your customer has a contact name and knows where to go to purchase her items.
After the consultation
Following the consultation you must provide your client with a report that covers what she bought, how she should wear it, what existing clothes it can be worn with and the various tips you gave her during the day.
Here is a typical overview of what your report should contain (which is provided as part of the overall personal shop service and fee):
Don’t get disheartened if some of the items you show her don’t work. What something looks like on a hanger or online, can look so different when tried on. Instead explainwhy it hasn’t worked, as this is as much of a learning experience as getting something right.
It takes time and experience to know where to shop for what and which collections will suit your client best. Time and practice is the only way you will learn and even then, how collections fit can change, even from one season to another.
During any and every shopping expedition, observe how certain makes and styles of clothing fit. Try on a wide variety of styles and collections yourself and notice how big or small they are on you and what they do to the various aspects of your body. Remember that your body shape will have elements that will relate to some of your clients i.e. tummy, boobs or thighs.
Don’t forget that in principle, the same styles in so many collections are repeated each year; only the colour and fabric will change, which means that once you are familiar with a particular piece, you can generally expect to see it repeated. Do be aware however that a change of fabric can change the fit of a garment.
If you show the same outfit to different clients who have the same body shape and it works for them all, then as long as they don’t know each other, use it. You don’t have to know and understand all the stock; certain combinations work well and if you discover them, then be confident enough to use them more than once.
If you are suggesting the right pieces, you can then vary the accessories to create a style that is unique to a particular client.
Your relationships with stores are crucial so you must develop and nurture them. You should get to know managers of stores and explain what you do and some of the benefits you could offer them:
A store personal shopper works for a particular retailer and their job is to SELL. As an independent personal shopper you work for the customer – your client.
Your job is to find out what your client’s wardrobe is lacking and track it down whether it’s in Marks & Spencer’s, John Lewis or Selfridges. You need to explain this to your customer, as so many people still don’t understand the difference. They think that they can have a free personal shopper in House of Fraser, but forget that person is concerned with separating them from their money, not understanding what they need, why they need it and how it will work with everything else in their wardrobe.
The other side of the coin is that stores with their own personal shoppers can be hesitant about working with you, as they feel that you ‘compete’ with their personal shopper. You need to explain to them that you’re bringing potential new customers into their store and how useful it is if they have a personal shopper as that person can act as an ongoing point of contact for your clients outside of their shopping trips with you. It’s always good to have the in-store personal shoppers on your side as they should have excellent stock knowledge and can be a valuable resource when you’re doing your pre-shop research.
You will need to become familiar with these sizes. You may not always know where a particular collection comes from but again the staff in the shops will help you with this. This knowledge will come with time and experience.
Your objective is to make your client look and feel good in the clothes you select for her. You can tell when you have achieved your aim because she will stand more confidently, smile more positively and her posture will have improved.
Make sure the store manager is happy for you to be there. A good way of making this happen is by explaining to them beforehand the following benefits:
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