All Shopped Out? Time to call a professional

Dec 8, 2006

By: Michelle Warren

It's ranked North Americans' favourite leisure activity, but for many, shopping is a chore.  There are those who outright despise it, especially during the holiday season, but for an increasing number of people, it's simply a matter of there not being enough hours in the day.

Enter the personal shopper -- a saviour of sorts for the time-pressed individual or those with an overwhelming to-do list.

"We want to take the pressure away," says Darlene Cooke, of My Personal Shopper, a Toronto-area business that does everything from reinvent a client's wardrobe to buying groceries.

Something for everyone

These days, personal shopping is no longer the domain of the elite. Sure, there are celebrities and high-end shoppers looking for convenience and a little pampering, but clients also include busy families and even seniors. "Everybody uses it -- anybody who is under stress," says Cooke, whose rates start at $38 an hour.

Needless to say, during the holiday season, the focus is on buying gifts. Employ a personal shopper and the harried task is as simple as coming up with a wish list of items or simply of people for whom you need to buy.

"We can do the running around. We can wrap it and even ship it," says Cooke, adding such services are a godsend for seniors with limited mobility or the new mom who can't get out of the house. Orders can even be placed by phone or online and most are completed and delivered within 24 to 48 hours.

Get more for your money
Personal shoppers do more than shop. Often people turn to them for ideas or advice. For instance, personal shoppers can help stumped grandparents buy the grandkids the latest and greatest gadgets, a husband find his wife that perfect gift or can help you come up with a unique experience for the person who has everything.

They're professionals and they know the tricks of the trade, such as where and when to buy certain products. "Some people don't know how to negotiate," says Cooke, adding that clients often want someone in their corner when it comes to buying big ticket items from flat-screen televisions to cars.

In addition, shoppers are often called in to entertain tourists by taking them on a shopping tour or, a personal shopper might collect your mail when you're on holiday and restock the fridge for your return. "We're a full-service company," says Cooke. "We discover what people require and we work within their budget."

What's in-store?
Another option is a professional shopper employed by a mall, department store or boutique; often the service is free as the shopper is paid via commission or salary. Sears Canada, for example, employs "Elves" to help customers tackle their holiday lists.

But what about your holiday wardrobe? Retailers such as Holt Renfrew turn shopping for clothing and accessories into an act of pampering. After discussing your goals with a personal shopper, your can lounge in a designer suite, complete with iPod docking station, while a selection of goods are presented for your editing pleasure.

"I know shopping is fun, but it can be a little stressful at times," says Ian Jacobson, personal shopping assistant at Holt Renfrew in Toronto, who understands that "walking into the store can be a bit overwhelming."

Again, the focus is on "people who don't have a lot of time," says Jacobson. "We have good knowledge of new and existing items -- it saves the customer walking around for hours."

Instead, professionals pull together an array of suitable gear in 20 minutes, while the client relaxes, listens to music or has a bite to eat. "We have clientele that have been with the shoppers for many years and developed relationships," says Jacobson. However, the complimentary service is to open to all customers, whether they're buying a couture wardrobe or a one-off outfit, and the retailer regularly hosts events designed to bring new clients into the fold.

Style and shop
When it comes to buying clothes, the jobs of personal shopper and stylist go hand in hand. Kal Mutlae is a fashion designer, stylist and personal shopper who works with an exclusive clientele in downtown Toronto.

"I make clients happy with what they look like and enlighten them," says Mutlae. It's an intimate relationship that involves understanding a new client's motivation and sense of self. The initial consultation, usually over a cup of tea or coffee, explores the client's style, current wardrobe and goals.
Sometimes people turn to stylists or shoppers because they have a big event coming up for which they need that perfect outfit. In most cases, however, they want to be fashionable, but have little time to research the latest trends and trawl the shops for must-have items. Mutlae, like most personal shoppers, will bring potential buys to your home or office, whichever is most convenient.

Costs vary widely. While Mutlae caters to a high-end shopper, Cooke and Jacobson insist personal shopping can suit anyone's budget. The service is free with some retailers, while others in private practice charge a percentage (usually 10 percent) of the total purchase, an hourly rate or a previously agreed upon flat fee (be sure to ask about expenses, such as parking or transportation and fees for shipping and delivery).

Mutlae, for example, charges $200 to $300 an hour (the consultation is free), and an average assignment is two or three hours. "My hour is very productive," he says. "Once you've been around the fashion industry, you know where to go -- I don't waste time."

And, as anyone considering hiring a personal shopper knows, time is precious.


Extraordinary At-Home Services For Ordinary Folk
Red Tag Specials

Feb 23, 2006

By: Suzan Bianchi

Remember all of that wasted time in a mall over the holidays? It doesn’t have to be that way. Personal shoppers will take care of all your buying needs — not just gifts for others — and allow you to claim back some of that lost time.

For purchases that are not apparel-related, My Personal Shopper is “designed for the ordinary individual who wants to make extraordinary purchases,” says their website. The beauty of this service is that it needn’t be a face-to-face transaction. You can place
your order online or by phone, and a personal shopper will deliver the goods to your home or office. Payment can be made through Visa, Mastercard and American Express over the phone or online, and no order is too small. Their hourly rate for purchasing and
delivering within 24 to 48 hours is $38 and they will ship outside the GTA for an extra $10.

What to wear to the office Christmas party
Durham Region News

Nov 30, 2005

By Erin Moore

Company holiday parties are just around the corner and so is the dilemma over what to wear. All the experts agree that one main rule of thumb for women is to be sure that you're not planning to wear your most revealing outfit at this year's office party. Save your sleek and sexy look for an event that's more appropriate, when your boss and co-workers aren't in attendance.

But beyond the obvious 'what-not-to-wear', what is the best way to look great, stay comfortable and make a great business impression? According to personal shopper and stylist Linda Carter, deciding what to wear to the company party this year is a little easier because fashion trends seem to be very diverse. "Fashion is all over the place these days. There's so much to choose from."

Ms. Carter suggests that just about anything from long skirts with boots to retro fashions to more formal business suits are all acceptable for office parties. Specifically, Ms. Carter says, another key to a great holiday look is the accessories you choose. "Earrings, necklaces and scarves can really make a big improvement to any look." What's more, she suggests that brightening and intensifying your makeup colours and even wearing your hair up are great tips for the transition to evening wear.

But, Ms. Carter also reminds having a comfortable outfit, especially shoes, will certainly add to the evening's enjoyment. "Keep your feet comfortable because you'll probably be standing quite a bit. There are a lot of really great ballet-style slippers available that even come in metallics for evening wear.

If the party you're attending is right after work, Ms. Carter suggests dressing in layers so that you can make the transition to evening wear quickly and easily. "Wear a camisole or boustier under a blouse with a jacket on top. That way you have a few different looks you can achieve with just that one outfit."

When it comes to men's wear, Dan Damphousse, manager of Moores Clothing for Men in Ajax, says that he's seeing a trend toward more formal wear. "Many parties, including the Moores party, are going formal with tuxedos becoming the standard." Of course if you're attending a more casual party Mr. Damphousse says that it's easy to dress down your suits by replacing your dress shirt and tie with a clean distinctive cotton-silk mock turtle or polo knit sweater. "There are also plenty of really great sports shirts than can be worn under a jacket or alone, that will look fantastic for most office party situations."

If you're still completely stumped, both Ms. Carter and Mr. Damphousse agree that you can start to clear up your confusion by first thinking about the venue for the party. "Knowing if the party is at a casual bar or fancy restaurant or downtown hotel will give you a big clue about what to wear," says Mr. Damphousse. "Plus it's always a great idea to check with the host and some of the other guests so that you choose the perfect outfit," adds Ms. Carter.