Glenn Dickman claims to be a card-carrying member of the "I Hate To Shop" club. The busy executive considers himself well-dressed, even trendy, though browsing department store racks is foreign territory.
For petite Judy Carter, size is the difference. "I wear less than a size 2 - a 2 that has to be taken up in the sleeve, the bodice and usually, the waist. You don't walk into a store and find my size."Jeanne Paulos was ready for a new look after the birth of her last child six years ago. A gift certificate from her husband opened the door to a new fashion direction, a direction she's been exploring since.
And for Dian Thomas, television commentator and business consultant, time to shop disappears in a demanding travel schedule.
Each shopper, with a unique problem yet similar concerns, uses a personal shopping service.
"The problem is I have to look good wherever I make a presentation. That's hard when I hate to shop and really have no interest in keeping up with the trends in fashion. I simply have other things I'd rather do than shop," Thomas admitted.
A neighbor rescued Thomas and the relationship benefits both.
"My friend loves to shop, understands me and what I like, but more than that, she has time to shop," Thomas explained.
The procedure is simple for Thomas. She hires her neighbor to log the department store miles and collect a variety of accessorized outfits, which she returns to Thomas' home.
Thomas then selects wardrobe pieces she prefers, packs another suitcase, fashionably prepared for the next conference or presentation.
And for Thomas, it's a magic process.
"I have a whole new wardrobe and I didn't have to walk out my door."
Dickman uses the telephone to shop through the Personal Touch service at Nordstrom.
"Calling Sue (Heugly, manager of Personal Touch at Nordstrom's Fashion Place store) takes away a lot of the frustration of shopping," Dickman said. "She knows what's going on throughout the store, so she can readily help me find what I'm looking for."
Typically Dickman places a personal shopper call early in the week, inquiring about the availability of a specific item or two. Heugly sets a Saturday follow-up appointment with the businessman. When Dickman arrives at the store, he finds a choice or three or four items, often complemented with an extra piece, a tie or sweater to accent the requested shirt.
"Sue has good taste. She's suggested some things that I probably wouldn't have purchased, but then I receive compliments when I wear them. It helps to have someone else's opinion of what looks good," Dickman added.
Dickman is sold on the convenience of the shopping service.
"I've used it for my teenagers, and last week I had Sue select a baby gift for some friends. I picked it up, all wrapped and ready to deliver. I've been telling my friends and business associates what a help this is. And it doesn't matter what you buy, whether it's one shirt or ten, Sue's willing to help."
Heugly offers complimentary personalized service for each client. Orientation sessions include an interview assessment of a customer's lifestyle and clothing preferences.
"That first interview tells me about the individual," the fashion consultant explained. "Then I understand their personality and the type of clothing they prefer."
As a part of the wardrobe service, Heugly does free closet analysis for individual customers as well as seminars for business, church and civic groups.
Carter, the woman who wears a size 2 or smaller, utilizes the services of Heugly as well as the small specialty shop, Bill Loya, in Foothill Village.
"I call ahead to order in advance. In my size, there's no possibility of walking into a store and finding something that fits. Having a personal connection at the store makes my life easier."
Not only does the shopping service help Carter locate appropriate clothing, it also arranges for necessary alterations.
Many specialty shops offer the shopping service free to their customers.
After the birth of her fourth child, Jeanne Paulos was ready for alterations in her wardrobe.
"My husband gave me a gift certificate at LaFemme, a boutique in Foothill Village, and that was the beginning. I met Phoebe (Marashi, owner of the shop,) and she's been a wonderful resource since. I spend a lot of time organizing my children but not organizing myself. Phoebe keeps me in line," the busy mother confessed.
Paulos grew up with a personal shopper of sorts, Mrs. Myers of Henry's in Wichita, Kan. "My mother had Mrs. Myers help with her clothes and when I got old enough, she helped me too. When I met Phoebe, it seemed like a natural and comfortable way for me to shop."
Marashi offers a broader perspective to the personal shopping service. Rather than dealing directly with in-stock items, the consultant expands inventory choices to national market locations.
"I go to market with specific customers in mind. I know their needs and their lifestyles, so when I see something I think will work, I buy for individuals," Marashi explained.
Marashi carries a computer-type fashion information list in her head. The printout button triggers when she connects the right clothing item with the right customer.
Personal shopping services create consumer satisfaction with minimum consumer effort.
As Marashi summarized, "When the customer thinks they look great, I know I'm filling a need for my client. That's my priority and theirs, too."