Photo by Salt Water New England

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Reader Question: In clothing stores, for what do you look in a salesperson?


A reader question for the community:
I have a question for the SWNE community.  With a clothing store, what do you look for in a salesperson? How do you find that all important depth of knowledge and taste?   Are there salespeople you can recommend by name in various favorite stores?  I hope stores will take this into account when moving forward past these difficult times.  Thank you!

  

37 comments:

  1. One who'll leave me alone, to browse, until they are asked a question!

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    1. Agreed! It drives me nuts when they pounce on you as soon as you walk in the door.

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  2. Someone who's the exact opposite of a "salesperson"...more drawn to someone who acts as an advisor.

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  3. Someone who'll stay as far away from me as possible.

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  4. For years I used exclusively Carol Dohra at the old Brooks Brothers on Main Street in Houston. The store is long gone and Carol has passed away, but both, chiefly Carol, are remembered fondly. She knew her stock, sizing, quality, and everything else inside out. She did not push or flaunt her knowledge, but she readily shared it when it was needed. She would read the situation and take time to chat about my family unless she could see I was in a hurry or it wouldn't be appropriate because I was with someone she did not know. She knew I loved good deals and would snaffle stuff away for me. She knew my fit and taste so well that if I needed a new striped grey suit she could pick it, have it cuffed, and get it to me. She would let me browse if she saw that was what I wanted to do. She wore her candy striper uniform to work every week, on Tuesdays as I recall.

    I am getting to know John at O'Connell's by phone. He clearly knows his stuff as well, and placing an order is a pleasure, Their website is wonderful for the browser in me.

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    1. Willa Gaines, Brooks Bros, 1300 Main , Captal National Bank Bldg, Year 1975
      Enuff said.

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    2. I knew Willa. She was lovely, too.

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    3. ^^ Good point, Tim, I was remiss in not mentioning both John and Ethan at O'Connell's. While we're at it, talking to David Mercer is always a pleasure. And I always asked for David Wilder when I visited J. Press in NY, but I guess that was probably 6 or 7 years ago at this point.

      David knew I lived in Swarthmore, outside of Philadelphia, and would always remember to ask how things were there. He had a romantic image of a small college preppy outpost with ivy covered buildings where all the professors wore corduroy and tweed; after disabusing him of this vision the first several times, seeing how crestfallen he was, I eventually let it go.

      Maybe nine or 10 years ago I took my son, who would have been in his early teens, to see a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta in NY. We stopped by J. Press after the show, where we were assisted by Jay Walter. While I was trying on a couple of sport jackets by the mirror I saw Jay chatting with my son and slipping a navy duffle coat over his shoulders; Jay gained a customer for life.

      On the other hand, the salespeople at Paul Stuart in NY are intrusive in the extreme. Even when you tell them you don't need help, you can feel them hovering from around the corner, flapping their wings. Hard to believe such a lovely store with such beautiful merchandise would promote this sort of atmosphere.

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  5. Someone old enough to know that "button-down" refers to a button-down collar, not to any shirt that buttons in front.

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    1. Hilarious! A few years ago I asked a young grocery clerk where the ice trays were and he was completely dumbfounded. He asked what they were used for. What would someone do without a smart ice-maker on a smart frig?

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  6. All responses thus far resonate with me. I cannot recall the last time that a salesperson was truly helpful (for a litany of reasons). As the saying goes, you can't find good help anymore, and that certainly has applied to retail clothing stores for many years. In 2003 or '04, not long after grad school and in my first teaching job, I visited Hubert White (men's clothier) on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis for a couple of new neckties. There, I was assisted a much older gentleman (late 60s or 70s), who embodied my ideal of 'ideal' sales help: not pushy, not obsequious, actually tasteful, knew what he was talking about, and left me along until I asked for help. Oh, and he was genuinely interesting to talk to. I'm sure he's long gone at this point. I returned to the store a few more times for other items before leaving Minnesota in late 2004. Compare that with a trip in September 2018 to pick up some new white undershirts at our local mall, where, I swear, if salespeople weren't already morons, their senses were dulled by either the piped in music or recreational drug use. I vowed then to purchase all attire and accessories online forever after -- I know my measurements -- unless I ever have a suit made bespoke and must venture in for fittings. Jeeze Louise!

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

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  7. Someone who is attentive and honest, who cares more about how you look and if a article of clothing fits right and looks good on you than the price on the tag. I've found this is very rare to encounter these days. Most sales associates seem over extended or disinterested, you ask an opinion and they're like "Yeah, sure whatever, does the size work? Here's something similar but 50% more expensive and won't fit right."

    At the Brooks Brothers here in Pittsburgh there is one associate both my girlfriend and I use who has been exactly that for both of us. She's frankly alone in that store even for those qualities. So if anyone I know is going to that BB I tell them to seek her out.

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    1. Years ago there was a great BB staffer in the Cincinnati store. It was downtown at the time. I went in to purchase a couple of poplin suits for the summer. This gentleman looked at me and measured my shoulders and told me "No we won't sell you any poplin suits". I was very confused and he asked the tailor to come out. The tailor looked at me and said "No, I can do nothing for him, his shoulders are too wide and he has no butt"

      The sales person knew what he was doing. I was able to get seersucker and left well suited and happy to know there was someone looking out for me. I still have his card filed away, he has long retired and the store closed at that location.

      Dad had told me to buy good clothes and take care of them and find someone who will sell you what looks good on you, not particularly what you think you want.

      I consider the sales staff as professionals and trust their judgement until they do something to prove otherwise: "What's a shawl collar" 20 years ago at BB Nashville and "you could wear a black suit instead of a tux" when shopping for a tux for my wedding

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  8. Someone who lets me shop at my own pace, and diesn't just constantly hover.

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  9. Some years ago I made the error of browsing sport coats in a department store. A salesman accosted me, inquiring as to "the occasion" for which I was shopping. I was caught rather off guard, and could only stammer, "Occasion? I'm looking at sport coats."

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    1. It seems strange to me that thinking about buying a sport coat would mean that one was anticipating some special occasion. When I shop for a sport coat it might be because the one I inherited finally fell apart or because my weight had changed or because I needed to fill a gap in my wardrobe. Making a purchase of that magnitude for an occasion would be unlikely.

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  10. Parenthetically, the constant hovering of wait staff in many eateries in the U.S. obnoxious in the extreme. No, I don't want my water glass refilled (again) after two sips. Don't tell me, "I'll be taking care of you this evening" when you finally show up to take our order. I don't want to be friends, so skip the introduction. Just take our order, serve the meal, check once that everything is to our liking, and go away.

    H-U

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    1. ^ Oh, and here's the worst: In the interests of (I guess) efficiency, they pick up your companion's empty plate while you're still eating.

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  11. Well, let's see. Reading over the responses so far, I'll just say I'm with Mad Dogs, Sartresky, Ty, and Anonymous (9:59), especially the last.

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  12. This question no longer applies to me because I do all my clothes shopping online with only a few very good companies (i.e. Cordings, Arthur Beale, Ltd., etc.).

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  13. Doneckers in Ephrata PA had the most helpful and courteous staff, with good taste and suitable (ha!) discretion. I so miss that store...

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  14. I rarely shop in a real store anymore. And, when it comes to buying clothes, I'm done. I have enough classic-style clothes in my closet (even after doing the Marie Kondo thing) to last the rest of my lifetime and then some. And now, during the quarantine, I want to get rid of even more. I could be wrong, but I think the only clothing I will purchase in the future will be replacement pieces and I'll do that online.

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    1. Same here Susan. I gave away 5 large bags of clothing just this week.
      I was looking at an old men's wardrobe that I use for storing coats in my mudroom and realized how few articles of clothing a man owned in the 30's. His entire wardrobe fit in this narrow 'box' and probably lasted many years. Those were the good ole days.

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    2. My grandfather's wardrobe has three drawers, a shelf and a hanging rod that could accommodate a few blazers. Imagine! and no closets in his Philadelphia house.

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  15. A genuine interest in helping with what I need not what they need.

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  16. Salespersons are real people too. They may work on commission or maybe they have a boss that expects them to be “with” the customer. When you are greeted with, “May I assist you?”, it is far better to decline with a pleasant, “No thank you” than respond with a dismissive response such as, “No, I will let you know if I need your assistance”. As a customer and years ago as a salesperson, I found that a bit of communication about a product let both parties know how to proceed. If, as a shopper, you don’t interact somewhat, how can you come to rely on a salesperson or maybe learn that you can’t rely on their advice or maybe you know already that the gray size 40 regular runs a bit tight in the sleeve or ....

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  17. Jim Hunter at Hunter-Coggins in Asheville. Excellent!

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  18. I appreciate that sales staff are working for a living like the rest of us and likely as glad as we are to even have a job today.

    So when they ask me if I need assistance I thank the individual and let them know what I am seeking, and then thanks them and let them know when I will need additional assistance.

    These folks are hired to help. Not rip you off. A little graceful behavior goes a very long way. Especially today.

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    1. Agree completely, RCJH. And whenever I go shopping in a place where a sales clerk has been helpful, I'm always polite and make sure to mention the clerk's name if he or she isn't cashing me out.

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  19. I have mentioned this before here on the site, but it's worth saying again. One of the most useful things you can do sartorially (M or F) is to decide on what amounts to a uniform that you wear every day, excepting for special occasions.

    Men: shirt, slacks, belt, shoes
    Women: blouse, skirt, slacks, shoes

    Then get several of each kind of clothing, with whatever amount of variety you wish — and buy a sufficient quantity of each that you don't have to go shopping again for a long time — i.e., years.

    Clearly this doesn't apply to those who really like to go clothes shopping. But it offers a great simplicity at the start of each day for the rest of us.

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    1. Following this advice makes life so much easier. I found one pair of summer pants 20 years ago which I loved and, thankfully, bought 4 or 5 pairs in different colors until 2016 when the company stopped making them. There was such an outcry the company starting offering them again and I bought three pairs in January. They wear like iron, launder beautifully and I'll probably never have to buy summer pants again. (I'm old). Such a relief.

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  20. I recommend Conrad, Matthew and John in Cording's Piccadilly store.

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  21. Deference, discretion, knowledge. The customer is always right, but sometimes the customer could use a little guidance.

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  22. Excellent advice! It dovetails nicely with what I have thought for a long time. It also negates the false argument made by so many in our slovenly world that dressing presentably somehow takes lots of time. Depending on the season, I keep certain pairs of chinos or corduroy pants on hangers with certain blazers/sports jackets next to my suits. Press a shirt the evening before so it's all ready to put on, pull out a pair of leather dress shoes with matching belt, select a tie, and grab a pair of navy cotton or wool dress socks from the sock drawer. It's easy to be dressed and out the door, post-shower and shave, in under 10 minutes. Under non-Covid-19 circumstances, I've done so five days a week for years. Plus you look more pulled together than about 99% of the people you'll encounter on any given day.

    Best Regards,

    H-U

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  23. I do some vetting beforehand by never shopping in any store that says "reach out," "awesome," "genius" as an adjective, or "yay" in any of its advertising or other promotional efforts. I know that the staff of any such establishment cannot conceivably be of assistance to me.

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  24. We have had great experiences and bad ones at J Press, Washington DC. Bad, try this jacket on that is too big for you, they are wearing them this way. And overly personal stories that were of no interest. Good, a senior sales person who regaled us with antidotes about wearing the wrong tie to a tea and stopped us from grabbing a slim fit shirt for my husband.

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