I posted a comment on Brenda Kinsel E.T.C. Facebook page today about shopping with clients during the pre-season big store sales in July. Sue Jacobs in London, Ontario (www.personalstyleconsulting.com) had a question and the answer needs a little more space than a Facebook comment. Here’s for Sue and anyone else interested in being busy in July while serving your appreciative clients.
Sue writes: ” Brenda, I always see you report this at the start of each season. I have rarely done this with clients as what we are focusing on is sorting out wardrobes for summer, events & travel packing mostly. Are you working from records from last season and filling in wardrobe gaps on these pre fall sale outings?”
The truth is I used to avoid these sales with every cell of my fashion-loving body. As a professional shopper I hated being in the stores when they were mobbed with people. It was nearly impossible to get a dressing room and getting quick service from store staff was not a sure bet.
On principle, I ‘m annoyed by the frenzied drum roll build up to these sales. I feel a bit manipulated. It seems unfair to me that a leather jacket in July will cost $665 and in mid-August the same exact jacket will be $998. Besides, why would I want to leave my summer activities in July to go look at wool sweaters and thigh high boots instead?
It’s a good thing I can accept being wrong with a fair amount of grace. Maybe it comes with plenty of practice! I have in recent years seen the flip side of this whole experience which is that it can be much appreciated by certain clients who can enjoy being in an air conditioned dressing room in July trying on pounds and pounds of clothing that won’t be worn for many weeks when they’re there with a pro guiding them. And another benefit to someone who owns her own business (like you and me!), is that it can keep us busy and engaged with our wonderful clients during a month that might feel too slow.
Here are some ways these early sales have benefited my clients.
- We were looking for more casual lifestyle pieces for a client and in the pre-fall sale one year there were several Vince pieces that were in the sale. It was good timing to start developing that part of her wardrobe. It made buying things for a new slice of her lifestyle more inviting when she was seeing good value at the same time.
- Some items that show up in the sales will be so popular and when they’re gone, they’re gone. I have an Elie Tahari leather/knit Moto jacket that I wear a lot. It’s a perfect layer for where I live. Erin, my assistant and daughter, has the same one. Because this experience happened to me where I found a great layering item that did sell out quickly, I like to scout the sale for those “it” pieces that could be really useful to certain clients and get them early. One year it was a topper that had a Jackie O. feel to it. It was perfect over pants or dresses and our client always shares her joy about owning that piece. It was one of those items that sold through and wasn’t available by mid-August. So using your style eyes to imagine ahead of time what those sell-out pieces will be is a fun and useful exercise.
- Designers and the big stores work together to create items that will be manufactured and delivered specifically for the sale. It’s a great time to look at what was created by favorite designers or labels that have worked really well for a client in the past. Right now there is an Alexis Bittar group of cuffs, bangles, rings and necklaces that are being offered in the Nordstrom sale. I’ll be letting any client of mine who has lusted after my much used Alexis Bittar cuff know that they can start collecting his work while the sale is on. Certain colors will be perfect for specific clients.
- For clients that are traveling to states, provinces or countries in October and need warmer layers, I will want to shop with them now during these early sales as they’ll be out of town when we may otherwise have planned to shop. They love that I’m thinking ahead and watching out for them.
- Lafayette 148 New York and Hugo Boss offer great clothes for women in business. Since several of my clients need clothes for that category, I’ll always check out what the colors are and whether they’ll be good for my clients.
- Theory is also a brand that works well for several of my clients. They usually offer great basics during these sales. So if a client has nearly worn out a pair of classic Theory pants or their favorite jacket (and I have a client in mind right now!) I know she’ll love starting over this fall with a new set of her tried-and-true workhorses at this great price.
I prefer to not shop on the opening day of these sales but once that initial crowd has dispersed, it’s safe to shop and get the service you’re used to. It does help to have a sales associate or two that you have a good relationship with who can reserve a dressing room for you and be available to help you and your client.
Now that I’ve had a few years of success booking clients for the sales I have these suggestions for you.
- Get the dates early of the pre-sales from the stores you use already and get them in your appointment book. This is also true for companies that show their merchandise seasonly through sales reps like Carlisle/Per Se, Worth, Doncaster, etc.
- Think ahead for your clients. While the sale works well for some, it’s not going to work for everybody. This year I had a list of items that I’d scout for and if I found them I’d alert the client and we’d make a time to shop. For one person, those items just aren’t in the store so we’ll pass this year. But have that discussion a month before the sales start. “Are you interested in shopping the pre-season sales and see if we find things that are perfect for you?” is a good way to start. Pre-season is a good time to shop with the client at your side so together you can discover the things the client can’t live without. Having a goal of shopping for “wants” rather than “needs-it-by-Tuesday” is a great way to shop. It’s more relaxing to address a category before it’s a fashion emergency.
- Clients that are hard on their clothes are likely to benefit greatly from the sale. I have some clients who have items in their closet that they’ve had for ten or more years and although they wear them, they look brand new! And with other clients we just know that we’ll be replacing items, sometimes within the same season, because they’re just so much harder on clothes.
- Mini-shopping appointments are great at this time, especially when it comes to shoes and boots. This is a pricey category so getting good prices in July on items they may not pull out for another three months is worth it.
- Be aware that while you’re in the store looking at the items that are on the pre-sale racks that other clothes that are in for fall and not on the sale will be wiggling their hangers at you and flirting for your attention. It’s important to be clear with your client about the expectations of the shopping trip. Although you came for the sale, would they entertain looking at other items not on sale? You can bet this is the store’s strategy as well so be prepared and prepare the client.
- Pace yourself! I’m so aware of when these sales are on that I plan other appointments around them, including personal appointments or getaways. I want to make myself available for my client’s during this limited sale season. I used to start getting my clients ready for fall starting in mid-August. I’ve trained myself to follow the stores lead based on their promotions so I am also training my clients to start earlier as well. Again, it’s not for everybody but once I started offering my assistance during the sales, it’s now almost a tradition with certain clients.
Remember, what’s good for them is good for you, too! It’s nice to be busy year-round if you want to be. The sales season will help you do that. And the smiles on your client’s faces will remind you to plan for it again in six months when it starts all over again. Have fun!