How to get the most out of a (free!) personal shopper

For most of us, time is money (and/or stress), so consider a personal shopper as a filter for your needs. They can quickly pull pieces in your size, and within your budget, or offer you insight about the next expected shipment or when an item will be discounted. 

An in-store personal shopper often has insider knowledge of a store's inventory, layout, restocking days, sales, special discounts, and loyalty incentives, as well as a unique understanding of a brand's sizing and fit qualities. 

Ultimately, retailers want your business. Training employees to make it easier, or more pleasant, for you to buy is mutually beneficial. But beware of commission driven advice. You should never feel pressured to spend.

Here are some tips on getting the most out of your personal shopping experience: 

Just ask! Take advantage of this service, and don’t be afraid to inquire. There usually is no fee or minimum purchase for a personal shopper's time, and they should be more than willing to be transparent about the details. And don't assume a mid-range or value-priced store doesn't extend assistance. It's easy to visit a retailer's website and look into how they may want to improve your experience. 

Start a style file. Make a list of your information including your budget or financial comfort range, what you are most looking for help with, your numerical bra, dress, and denim sizes, what tops, pants, etc., fit best when categorized by generic XS - XL or 1X - 4X, and your shoe size. Feel free to elaborate with personal preferences such as whether you like belts or not, what neckline or hem length you feel most comfortable with, your favorite colors, and list favorite brands and designers. If you happen to be inspired, a folder of images from magazines or a Pinterest board can be a great way to share your likes and dislikes.

Find the right fit. Shop around until you find someone who you feel connect with. Are you comfortable discussing you budget with them? Or telling them that you don’t like something they've hand picked out for you? If you can answer yes then they may be a perfect match.

It's all about relationships. Look to build a relationship and investment. It’s important that a shopper be familiar with your personality, as well as your coloring, body type and lifestyle needs. Over time in an ideal scenario, the shopper will know what items you already own, your image goals, what updates you may need and will hopefully introduce new possibilities.

Stores that offer help from a personal shopper or stylist :

  • Loehmann's
  • Macys
  • Bloomingdales
  • White House Black Market
  • French Connection
  • Mango
  • Lord & Taylor
  • Banana Republic
  • Guess 
  • Bebe
  • Zara
  • Anthropologie
  • Topshop (clients who sign up get first look on new merchandise)
  • Nordstrom
  • Saks 5th Avenue
  • Barneys
  • JCrew (clients can ask store to open early or close later)
  • Neiman Marcus
  • H&M (planning to launch service soon)
  • PS Dept. — an iPhone app that connects users to personal shoppers at boutiques and department stores from coast to coast to help busy, selective customers find exactly what they want.