Do you hate shopping ? Don't have time? Groan whenever you open your wardrobe? No idea what to wear? Haven’t a clue what outfit you want for your best friend’s wedding? The personal shopper could be your solution, writes Hilary Alexander OBE. Gone are the days when having a personal shopper was an exclusive luxury enjoyed by an elite band of celebrities. Today, personal shoppers are a vital part of the whole 21st century retail experience; someone whose job is to take the stress and worry out of finding what works and what fits - whether you are a teen going to her first prom, a mum of three returning to the job market, a mother-of-the-bride or groom, or a would-be glamorous granny going to her godson’s graduation – and what’s more, it’s free. The Fenwick group of stores introduced the personal shopping service nearly two decades ago and today there is a team of 13 personal shoppers throughout six stores, from Newcastle to New Bond Street. ## Who’s who at your Fenwick store:
Whatever your wardrobe woes or stylish occasion needs, our experts will help you find the perfect look.
#### Norma Waters, Personal Shopper at Fenwick Canterbury Norma, alongside Elaine Purt, are the masterminds behind Fenwick Canterbury. “Our customers are divided between regulars and first-timers. The regulars know what to expect, they trust us and leave it to us and because we know what they already have in their wardrobes, we know what will work for the new season,” says Norma. “First-timers are always very excited. We advise them to start with underwear so they get the right, flattering shape for the new outfit. Our Personal Shopping in Fenwick Canterbury works for everyone because we have the thrill of finding something that makes a customer feel great and she walks away knowing she looks good.” ###### Favourite labels: LK Bennett, Phase Eight, Coast, CC, and Max and Ellie for hats and fascinators
#### Becky Patsianas, Personal Shopper at Bentalls Kingston Becky has been the personal shopper at Bentalls Kingston for eight and a half years and has two part-time assistants. “When we started, it was mainly by word-of-mouth, but now we get a lot of bookings online and the girls on the fashion floor promote the service, which is great. We do a lot of working wardrobes, it’s more an ‘item jacket’ rather than the full suited-and-booted look these days. Our typical customer is 35-55, but some regulars bring their 16 or 18-year-old daughters or granddaughters. We have a lot of cool, casual mums, so there’s a lot of call for jeans, and special occasions are mainly weddings and the racing season, especially at Sandown.” ###### Favourite labels: Max Mara, Hugo Boss, Paul Smith, Jigsaw, Eileen Fisher, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Warehouse Spotlight, French Connection
#### Sophie Macdonald, Personal Shopper Fenwick of Bond Street Sophie has been Bond Street’s personal shopper for six and a half years and says the personal shopping option is more accessible than it’s ever been. “People say all women love shopping, but it’s a myth. Many are time-poor and appreciate the thought an expert can put together a rail of clothes that will fit and suit them. We do everything from casual capsule wardrobes to more classic tailoring for women who are lawyers or accountants, and girls going to their first prom. Then there’s the whole bridal scene – mother-of-the-bride, mother-of-the-groom, guests; and we have the most wonderful hat department. We have every age from teenagers to octogenarians. Older women want to look modern, but not mutton-dressed-as-lamb. I had one 80-year-old who bought a dress by Preen and looked amazing”. ###### Favourite labels: Paule Ka, Preen, Pleats Please, Jonathan Saunders, MaxMara, Elie Tahari, LK Bennett, agnes b, Paul Smith, Joseph, Hugo Boss
#### Samantha Beadle, Personal Shopper at Fenwick Colchester Sam says most of her customers are personal shopping at Colchester for special occasions, such as weddings and garden parties. “But we do get some men shopping for their wives or girlfriends. One Christmas, we had a man shopping for his fiancée. He’d got all her measurements and had photographs on his mobile, so we could see what she looked like and what would suit. He spent a fortune – lucky lady.” Sam says the most important qualities for a personal shopper are to be a good listener, be patient, adaptable and open-minded, understand your customers’ needs, and be a good communicator. ###### Favourite brands: MaxMara and Weekend, Luisa Cerano, DKNY, Michael Kors, Gerry Weber.
#### Janice Straughan, Personal Shopper at Fenwick Brent Cross Janice has been working her magic in Brent Cross shoppers’ wardrobes for seven years. “Our biggest increase has been in customers who are time-poor - younger mums and working women who don’t have hours to go shopping. We also get a lot of mothers who are going back into the job market and that can be stressful as the working wardrobe has changed; it’s not quite so structured. Our other popular group is the 45-50 market who want a wardrobe refresh or need a total change of direction. ###### Favourite brands: Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Forever Unique, Linea Raffaelli, Gina Bacconi (with matching hats for church, synagogue or mosque)