One Stop Shopping
G. Bruce Boyer
From the Print Edition:
Wayne Gretzky, Mar/Apr 97
(continued from page 1)
What is perhaps not as well known but should be noted, the prestige department stores offer what is generally called a personalized shopping service, i.e., a professional adviser who helps customers plan their purchases.
It seems to be a rule that American businessmen don't have the time or inclination to shop for their clothes. These stores know that service is important and time is precious. Department store shopping for menswear has also increased in the past two decades proportionately as local haberdasheries have declined and disappeared. Local haberdasheries provided, however, friendly, personal guidance, and many men felt cast adrift, sartorially speaking, in the wide aisles. Thus enter the professional shopping service department.
Nordstrom, for example, has a service called "Personal Touch," which aims to make shopping easier by helping you, the customer (and I quote here from their brochure on the subject): update your present wardrobe; coordinate an entirely new wardrobe for business, travel or casual wear; select items from any department in the store; save time by having items ready for you to try on when you arrive in the store; select just the right gift items and have them gift-wrapped, at no extra charge.
The Personal Touch staff will even conduct group seminars on wardrobe planning, travel packing, fashion updates and the rest. This is considerably beyond the why-don't-we-find-a-nice-tie-to-go-with-that-suit type of thing. There is even an e-mail shopping service, called Nordstrom Personal Touch America.
As the amount of retail space has doubled in the past 20 years and competition has increased as well, there has been pressure to strengthen the service aspect of the shopping experience. More and more, sales clerks (often now called by the more honorific title of "associates") are being trained to understand the products they are selling. These days sales staffs at these stores continuously seem to receive current product information through training sessions, seminars conducted by buyers and vendors, and other experts, and even information sessions via video.
"At Saks," says fashion director Stanley Tucker, "we're very much aware of service. We do educational seminars for our sales force with every collection in every city. And that includes videotapes of fashion trends, and interactive live broadcasts as well. We feel it's essential that our salesmen understand how the clothing is made, worn and accessorized. They wear the clothing of the particular collection they're selling--that way they'll know it intimately."
Saks has its "Fifth Avenue Club," which operates not only as a fashion consultant, but somewhat like a European-style concierge, adept at getting theater tickets as well as the latest Armanisports jacket.
We've considered the four leading national department stores that devote most of their space to fashion. All have branches across the United States, either in downtowns or suburban malls. While there must be some quarter given to climate and lifestyle--a large stock of tweed suits in Houston would be wrong--the stores strive to maintain a consistent style and image that will work in all branches.
A department store will endeavor to outfit a man cap-a-pie (from head to foot), with jewelry, umbrellas, small leather goods and toiletries thrown in for good measure. It is impossible here to note it all, so discussion is limited to listing representative items of clothing. Addresses for flagship stores are given. Telephone for information about other venues.
1000 Third Avenue, New York, New York 10022
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