Shop Like A Celebrity

Personal shoppers take all the hassles out of shopping for clothing and gifts, so it’s a wonder more people don’t take advantage of this free service

Melissa Moniz
Friday - February 03, 2006
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Louisa Lynch (left) of Kailua picks up her order from Macy’s Lisa George
Louisa Lynch (left) of Kailua
picks up her order from
Macy’s Lisa George

For some people, the idea of rummaging through racks of clothes and then having to trot from one department to the next looking for the right accessories, and finally making countless trips in and out of the dressing room is a day of shopping fun.

To others, it’s a nightmare. For those who cringe at the thought of spending an entire day scouring the mall only to leave with a mediocre outfit, a personal shopper may be just the right fit.

“I would recommend personal shoppers for people who hate to shop, don’t have the patience or don’t have the time,” says Susan Fusuma, personal shopper at Neiman Marcus. “It’s also great for people who just want to narrow it down without all the fuss.”

Nyda Ulep of Macy’s takes photos of outfits she’ll e-mail to a customer who lives on the North Shore
Nyda Ulep of Macy’s takes photos of outfits she’ll
e-mail to a customer who lives on the North Shore

What many may not know about personal shoppers is you don’t need to be rich and famous to afford one. In fact, the service is free of charge and available at most department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Macy’s and some upscale specialty stores.

“It’s really a service for everyone, but some people are a little intimidated of having a personal shopper,” says Lisa George, Macy’s Ala Moana special-services manager and head of the personal shopper service. “It’s you who has to want to have someone help you.”

Intimidation and a misunderstanding about the service are probably the two key reasons why customers don’t use the service. Many people I talked to either assumed it was only for the rich, thought it charged a fee or that you were obligated to spend a specified amount. None of these, of course, holds any truth.

Again - the service is for anyone, costs nothing and there’s never any obligation to buy.

Neiman Marcus personal shopper Susan Fusuma fits the author in a gown
Neiman Marcus personal shopper Susan Fusuma fits
the author in a gown

So whether you need a new spring wardrobe or are looking for that perfect dress for a special Valentine’s date, a personal shopper can make looking your best as easy as stopping by on your lunch break.

“A lot of clients are housewives or business people who don’t have the time to shop,” says George. “We really get a lot of business-type professionals who are looking for work attire. And the majority of clients are repeats. We have some clients who have been here from day one.”

In all, personal shoppers are a service for everyone. As Fusuma explains, many of her clients come in without budgets and use their time with her to purchase new wardrobes for the season, and there are others who only shop for specific items during sales.

“I get a lot of clients who shop periodically, say four times a year, for a new wardrobe,” adds Fusuma. “Many of my clients are from the Neighbor Islands, so they don’t have the luxury of coming in a lot.”

Susan Fusuma and the author
Susan Fusuma and the

Convenience should be a motivator in itself to simply try the service. It’s really a time saver and almost effortless.

“I really think everyone should at least try it,” says George. “The knowledge we have about the merchandise is totally priceless and we basically do all the work.”

The free personal shopper service at both Macy’s and Neiman Marcus is by appointment only. Clients using the service for the first time are interviewed for some background information to help the personal shopper better assist them.

“The first time around, we talk with the client and basically we play part detective,” says George.

“A lot of my job is knowing what people like,” adds Fusuma. “I get to know the client very well, and I even get to know their husbands and their children. It can become a very close and personal relationship.”

There are never any obligations to buy or pressure, which makes the service a very relaxed and enjoyable experience. It’s absolutely painless and, in fact, really a lot of fun. It’s like being a pampered celebrity and a kid playing dress-up all mixed into one experience.

“What I do is I fill the dressing room with clothes, shoes, handbags and all kinds of accessories and all the client has to do is try things on,” says Fusuma. “A real benefit is that they get to see the entire look from bag to shoes to jewelry.”

Another real benefit is that a personal shopper can also act as a stylist - that is, if you want them to. So for the fashion-impaired, a personal shopper can really be your new best friend.

They are there to offer advice, perhaps offer a few outfits that you may never have pulled off the rack and, above all, they make sure that their clients leave happy and confident about their purchase.

“We really work hard to help people find that perfect outfit or wardrobe,” says Fusuma. “We also help people think outside of the box and try things that perhaps they wouldn’t normally have tried.”

This was probably the biggest eye-opener for me during my personal shopping trial run at Neiman Marcus. It was the dress I frowned at and almost didn’t even try on that I loved the most. And for that reason alone, I would definitely recommend the service. Well, that and the fact that I felt like a movie star for an hour.

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