How-to guide to finding your personal shopper

How-to guide to finding your personal shopper

Q. What can you suggest for a man who has very little imagination when it comes to clothes, but knows what I like when I see it all put together on others or when they line up right in my closet?

A. Unless a man spends most of his waking hours devouring fashion magazines, he will often share your problem – not knowing for sure what looks good with what. And if he does consult fashion magazines, that may be worse, as he may be even more confused by the multiple clashing examples in the illustrations. This explains why upscale clothing stores are still in business despite the popularity (and price advantages) of discount stores and of catalog/online shopping.

Quality department stores and fine men’s specialty shops (from Brooks Brothers to Baumann’s) display handsome, and helpful, combinations. They are good places to shop for ideas even if you can’t afford to do all your shopping there. The best stores offer advice and service from knowledgeable salespeople. And what most customers don’t know is that the better the store, the more likely it is that the sales help will be working on commission.

So, it behooves them to turn a single sale into multiple sales. Experienced salespeople make it a habit to check out new merchandise when it first arrives. In their less busy moments the top salespeople often experiment with mixing and matching newly-arrived items with other garments in the store; they can suggest to you several good looking combinations – creating what women refer to as “outfits.” In this current casual dress climate, where the old business formula of suit-shirt-and-tie is seen less often, and where men more and more often are wearing just a shirt and trousers, it has become increasingly difficult to assemble a distinctive look. Here is where the advice of a good salesperson can be invaluable.

All this helps explain why I always suggest that a man should not necessarily accept help from the first salesperson who approaches him in a store. It’s better to look around a bit, observe which salesperson seems to know his stuff, is friendly . . . and well dressed. Why take advice from someone who is dressed in a way you do not admire? When you have narrowed down your choice, you can approach that person and ask for help. Your few minutes of pre-screening will almost always pay off handsomely.

Don’t worry that you may have been “tagged” by one salesperson as his particular customer. It is not your problem that you want the more capable one, just as you will return to the same specific barber or hair stylist.

Once you find the person whose taste you click with, be loyal. Return to him (or her) in the future. In effect, the salesperson becomes your own “personal shopper.” While it may seem strange, some of the best dressed men often phone ahead and make an appointment. This “heads-up” can also give your salesperson time to pre-think which items you might find appealing enough to actually buy.

Over time, and with observation, you may begin to recognize just which combinations work best for you and become more skilled at creating them yourself. Or, you may always need assistance. This is not a weakness. Who says you have to be a master of all skills? Recognizing where input is needed is always a strength. Follow these tips and you are likely to get better service than you could ever imagine.

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