Personal Stylist vs. "Free" Stylist - Why retail store stylists don't have your back!
October marks my two-year anniversary of leaving the retail styling world and "going rogue" with my own freelance business! Since I seem to be busier than ever working on my own, people will sometimes ask me why I decided to leave the store environment - and my answer is really simple: I wanted to stop being an advocate for the retailer, and I wanted to finally start being a true advocate for my clients!
While "free" styling services seem to be available everywhere you can shop these days, in honor of my stylistic independence, I'd like to share 10 reasons why free retail store stylists simply don't have your back:
- Nothing is EVER free. The "stylists" hired by retail stores are hired as power sales people! They aren't paid to "help you" - they are paid to SELL PRODUCTS, which means their loyalty is to the retail store, and not to you! They are chosen and paid for SALES quality, not STYLING quality.
- Incentives to sell you as much as possible. Put simply, the more they sell, the more recognition, bonuses, and commission they get. They are rated both by how many items they sell at once and the dollar amount per transaction. And at commission-only stores, the stylists ONLY GET PAID WHEN THEY MAKE A SALE.
- Incentives to spend as little time with you as possible. Retail stylists are also rated with a metric of sales per hour - "better" performers sell lots of high-dollar items in a very short time. If you need a lot of help to solve an inexpensive problem, then there is no incentive for them to spend time with you, and they may in fact get reprimanded for not up-selling enough.
- Driving repeat business. Our closets have limited space, but stylists at retail stores are trained to try and get you back in the store for every sale and promotion - whether you need more stuff or not!
- Your confusion = their sales. Retail stylists have a vested interest in keeping your closet at home disorganized and non-cohesive. If nothing in your closet can mix and match, then you constantly have to return to the store for more stuff.
- Lacking the Big Picture. Even the best store stylists are still attached to a store - they don't know what you have in your closet, in the back of your closet, or what you have forgotten about under your bed. Personal stylists can help you get the most out of what you already have, even if the added utility isn't obvious to you at first.
- Limited access. Retail stylists are locked in to their one brand or their one store - they can't access the entire mall or the entire city of competing retailers to find you the best item at the best price.
- Different training. A great personal stylist will continue to learn about skin tone, color theory, tailoring, fabric technology, organization, planning, branding, proportion, and fit. Most salespeople only get official, continued training on sales and trends, while the actual "styling" expertise is limited to natural talent and opinion.
- Restricted hours. Business hours are business hours in the brick and mortar world - but a stylist who works for YOU works on your time. I've met with clients as early as 6:30 when their schedules required it!
- Shorter, less meaningful relationships. There are many exceptions to this, especially in high-end sales, but in general the turnover rate at retail stores is very high. One of my favorite things is getting to know my clients year after year, building on my knowledge about their habits and preferences, and helping their wardrobes evolve with them!
A personal stylist is paid to be loyal to you and look out for your needs first - and many times, paying a couple hundred dollars for an honest, detailed wardrobe analysis can yield thousands of dollars in savings. Not to mention a more cohesive look and better organized closet.
Retail personnel are still great resources to use, but they are definitely not a replacement for the personal touch!