Explore Chicago

Chicago Makes Shopping Personal

The inside scoop on what celebrities already know about personal shoppers.

BY JANE BOKUN

As Macy’s personal shopping regional director, John Borgeois has heard it all and seen it all—including, possibly, a starlet or two—but he’s not telling. “I have shut down a small portion of the store and shopped with celebrities,” he admits, refusing to disclose names.

Borgeois is one of many Chicago personal shoppers who exercises discretion to ensure the satisfaction of his rich and famous clients. And yet, that’s the myth. The majority of consumers who use personal shoppers at Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom aren’t A-listers. And why not? Here’s the big surprise: Personal shoppers are free of charge and there’s no tipping.

“At Macy’s By Appointment, we’re the best kept secret,” says Lauren Rapisand, Macy’s media relations manager. “Customers are working professionals who don’t have time to shop. Our [personal] shoppers will tell you when something new comes in and give you a heads up.” Indeed, Bourgeois, who has worked for Macy’s and its predecessor Marshall Field’s for the past 17 years, has been known to scour a whole store to find just the right accessories and clothing—even for ladies who don’t fit the standard size 0 or 2 of the fashion world.

“We see people of all sizes and even people who have body issues come to us,” Bourgeois said. “After I helped one client they even said, ‘Why don’t you come and redo my house?’” Although that’s actually a no-no in the personal shopping world. Shoppers can help in the store or, in some cases, ship or drop off clothes for clients, but no in-home consultation. 

At luxe Bloomingdale’s, professionals like head shopper Zoe Bracilano score the most amazing finds for customers with discriminating tastes from pristine aisles of designer collections, including Lily Pulitzer, Burberry and Theory with some items marked at more than $1,000 and some—hard to believe, but true—listed as low as $10.

Like other upscale department stores, Bloomingdale’s makes privacy its signature. Personal shoppers work from an unassuming office called “At Your Service” on the fourth floor of the 900 N. Michigan Ave. building. “When people come here, I gauge their sense of style and look at what they’re wearing,” Bracilano says. “We want to find something to fit into their lifestyle.”

In fact, according to the Bloomingdale’s website, the company’s personal shoppers find more then just clothing; they pluck must-haves from other departments, including gift and home items. They'll suggest merchandise for any occasion and keep you abreast of the latest trends, in-store events and sales. They'll coordinate everything from alterations to gift-wrapping, and they'll organize the delivery or shipment of your purchases.

Nordstrom personal shoppers also pride themselves on their global knowledge of the store’s offerings. Ira Evangelou, personal stylist manager at Nordstrom Michigan Avenue, considers her group of stylists fashion and customer service experts. “Stylists are great at partnering with all departments to make sure we help customers find everything they need, and they get to know the whole store,” Evangelou says. 

It’s all about convenience—even if you don’t shop that often. “Some people will come in and buy maybe a $100 sweater twice a year, but we’re looking at long-term relationships,” Bracilano says. By the end of a personal shopping session, she and the client are like old buddies. “I get to know their entire closet,” she says. “I want them to feel comfortable with personal shopping.” And that goes for anyone, all myths aside.