By Hoa Quach
Shoppers unsure of their fashion choices no longer have to look far or shell out to find good style advice — one Mission Valley shopping center now offers it for free.
Fashion Valley recently announced that three personal shoppers are now providing complimentary advice. The mall’s decision to add the service reflects growing interest in the personal shopper industry, which now generates roughly $761.7 million in revenue across the U.S., according to market research company IBISWorld.
The personal shopping program at Fashion Valley is simple: two hours of complimentary engagement that is prefaced with a “style assessment” customers complete. The personal shoppers can do the shopping for the customer or escort the customer through the stores.
Chris Lane, director of marketing and business development at Fashion Valley, said the mall is one of three Simon Propery Group malls that’s offering personal shopping services.
The program, which launched in September 2013 with just one stylist, recently grew to a team of three stylists because of the high demand, said Lane.
“There was a need to enhance the shopper experience for everyone,” Lane said. “We wanted to show off our new stores and introduce people to new brands and styles that they may like. San Diego people aren’t always familiar with some of the stores we have, so the stylists help us articulate the changing fashion and the new brands.”
Lane said the three personal shoppers see about 30 clients a week at Fashion Valley, and the feedback from both the shoppers and the businesses has been positive.
“It’s like having a friend at the mall,” Lane said. “The stylists are very easy to get along with and you know they have the credentials to make you look and feel good.”
Mahjuba Levine is one of the three personal shoppers recruited by Fashion Valley Mall. She has been a personal shopper for 12 years and said the industry attracts people from all walks of life who are seeking services.
“I started working for mostly wealthy people but over the last five years it’s gotten more popular,” Levine said. “Now, I help teachers and stay-at-home moms who just need advice.”
Levine, who said she’s worked with thousands of clients during her career in the industry, said people seek personal shopping services for various reasons.
“It saves a lot of time because people are just so overwhelmed with the amount of options available to them,” Levine said.
Industry research backs Levine’s thoughts.
“Over the past five years, consumers have been searching for higher quality and more personalized customer care, which increasing disposable income has allowed them to pay for it,” stated the IBISWorld report. “Consumers overwhelmed by an abundance of clothing choices, or too busy to shop for themselves, have sought to outsource their shopping to professionals who specialize in style consultations, wardrobe edits and a variety of other specialty shopping services.”
There are now tens of thousands of businesses that offer personal shopping services and it’s estimated that the industry will see an average annual rate increase of 2 percent over the next five years, according to IBISWorld.
The report estimates that womenswear purchases make up 31 percent of total sales whereas menswear purchases make up 10 percent.
But for Levine, the experience is more personal than just color blocks and numbers. She said the client who most stood out to her was the first woman who cried when she first looked at herself in the mirror after being styled.
“It was very emotional,” Levine said of the moment that happened nine years ago. “She cried in the dressing room. It happens a lot. Many women stand in the mirror and they are literally in tears because they’ve always imagined themselves that way but never knew how to put the clothes together.”
But for those who still want to hit the plaza without guidance, Levine offers one piece of advice.
“If you have a gut feeling that it doesn’t look good on you, it probably doesn’t,” Levine said. “If you’re questioning it, just put it back.”
Shoppers interested in the personal styling service can contact Chris Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a text message with the code ADVICE49 to 74666 to arrange an appointment.
—Hoa Quach is a freelance writer in San Diego. She can be reached through her website, hoawrites.com.