What Makes a Good Shopper?

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of shopping with the vibrant and lovely Ariadne. Not only was it fun but it was also successful. In large part, I attribute that to Ariadne herself. Why? Because she's an excellent shopper.

As someone who needs all the shopping lessons she can get, you'd better believe I was grateful for the instruction. Here are a few of the tips I picked up from watching and listening to her.

Number One: You learned it first here from Angie. Be patient, picky, and practical.

Practical: Naturally, in stores full of the holiday collections, we both saw MANY lovely items that either of us would have chosen for a fantasy life. But Ariadne quickly put them down after perhaps a loving pat or two. "Fantasy life!" she said. And we moved on.

Picky: Occasionally a lovely item comes along and it is a great price and looks fantastic...but something is "off" about it. When that happens, leave it alone, as Ariadne left the super cool lurex thread sweater from the sale rack that had a noticeable flaw.

Patient: Ariadne has been looking for a jacket to wear casually for four years. Four years, and no luck. Yesterday we hit pay dirt with not one, but TWO lovely jackets. Her patience paid off! Now she has one pop of colour jacket and one neutral.

A few more suggestions I gleaned from watching her in action:

Don't be afraid to ask questions or request assistance. That's what the SA are there for!

Know the merchandise. That allows you to ask more intelligent questions. Browse online or via catalogue first.

If you aren't sure, put it on hold and ask a friend for advice.

Try the item against the colours you hope to wear it with.

If the choice is a tough one (two items that are both good) go with your gut. Pick the one you were initially most drawn towards.

What other qualities make a great shopper, do you think? Besides stamina and comfortable footwear, that is? ;-)

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Raisin replied 8 years ago

    I think you hit the nail on the head here! All great qualities of a great shopper!

  • Mo replied 8 years ago

    Don't shop hungry, or when you are pressed for time to be somewhere else. Don't let others 'enable' you into something if you yourself aren't convinced (especially if they stand to make a profit off your purchase!)
    Keep focused on what you are there for, but eyes open for possible serendipitous finds.

  • Sara L. replied 8 years ago

    I should print this out and keep it in my purse because I am definitely NOT a good shopper. My biggest problem is that I have no patience. Luckily, I have no time to shop anymore so there's less opportunity to make mistakes.

  • Carole replied 8 years ago

    I'm not a good shopper! I need to make a formal plan and stick with it, but somehow I forget all about my "plan" when I'm in the mine field!

  • Angie replied 8 years ago

    Having fun along the way is also very important.

    Nice summary, Suz :)

  • JR replied 8 years ago

    Great list! Along the same lines I would add, when in doubt, go for coffee! LOL. Gives you time to think it over.

  • K. Period. replied 8 years ago

    Love! I'd expand on one of your points. In addition to not being afraid to ask the SA questions, you should know or be committed to learning what they can do for you. A lot of perks are available if you know to ask for them.

    Many stores will give you free hemming on merchandise that is full price (or NAS sale price if at Nordstrom): Nordstrom, JCrew and Banana Republic all will. Nordstrom even gives you a "credit" toward alterations every year if you open a Nordstrom account. You can use that credit to get non-full price items hemmed or altered and to have more involved alterations done on full price items.

    Some stores, like JCrew and Eddie Bauer will waive shipping fees (but not EB's ridiculous "handling" fee) if you order from their catalog in-store.

    Almost every store will check for merchandise that is out of stock at their store and see if it is available at another store or on their website. Many will then ship it to you for free!

    Almost every store will give you a price adjustment if the item you buy goes on sale within a short time. Some are very short (a few days), most are within two weeks or a month, and some (like Express) are just "one-time" but can be months after you bought the item!

    If you work with a personal shopper at JCrew or Nordstrom, they will alert you to sales. My JCrew personal shopper will also honor on-line-only discounts for me in-store.

    There are lots of perks out there, if you know to ask for them. The best sales assistants will volunteer them, but sadly there aren't a whole lot of s.a.'s out there among the best. So ask!

  • Gaylene replied 8 years ago

    It fits, the price is right, and it looks good on me just puts the item in a "to be considered" category, NOT the "buy it now" category.

    To make the leap into the "buy" category, I try to follow Angie's advice and think of when, where, and how I'd wear the piece. Then, if possible, I try to move away from it for a few minutes. Like JR says, go for coffee, or walk around a bit more before heading to the cash register. I can't count the number of items I've put back after giving myself some time to think it over. There is a reason why sales people are told to push for a close when someone looks interested.

  • catgirl replied 8 years ago

    Great list and love the additional suggestions!

    I was really in control for me during Shoptoberfest because I had browsed several items I wanted to try online and had some focus, even though I was also just looking. For me, with so little brick and mortar availability, it was actually overwhelming to see everything IRL, and familiarizing myself with Zara and j. crew online ahead of time really helped.

  • Aziraphale replied 8 years ago

    Great list, Suz! I will try to implement those things next time I go shopping.

    The only other quality I can think of in a great shopper is that she (or he) must enjoy taking breaks in nice coffee shops.

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Great additions, everyone, thank you!! I forgot about the crucial importance of coffee and a full tummy. Yikes! Not to mention a sense of humour.

    K can, that is a great list of possible perks. Some of these are (sadly) not available to Canadian shoppers. But some are, and Ariadne was on top of one of those. We tried on jackets in J. Crew and she knew that they would ship for free if I ordered in the store. But I was being patient, picky, and practical and wasn't yet ready to order! :-)

  • cheryl replied 8 years ago

    Wonderful advice from everyone. Suz, it sounds like you Ariadne had a fantastic time together.

  • Laura (rhubarbgirl) replied 8 years ago

    "Don't be afraid to ask questions or request assistance. That's what the SA are there for!"

    Ugh, I am so horrible about this. Generally I just want them to leave me alone! In my experience the people who work in stores are not helpful at all, and in fact try to talk me into things that don't suit me.

    I think being willing to walk away is good - not every trip will be successful. Also, knowing your own figure and being able to eyeball sizes and fits is very helpful, but also being willing to throw caution to the wind and try on something wacky every once in a while.

  • rachylou replied 8 years ago

    There's nothing like an example to illustrate the principle! Awesome post, Suz :D

    I will add one thing - try on things you have no reaction to or reject out-of-hand. I like my bf to come with me when I shop for trousers. My ideas are very fixed and I buy the same things over and over again. When my bf comes, he pulls out things that I pass right by. He's found me quite a few pairs of great trousers.

  • krishnidoux replied 8 years ago

    Thanks for this great list! Very useful. I need to remind myself of this every time I walk into a store. I don't know what to add.

  • replied 8 years ago

    Educate yourself about fabrics and fabric care, and about quality workmanship.

    Learn about proper fit and how to dress your body shape/type.

  • Caro in Oz replied 8 years ago

    Great list & extras. I always check the care labels too. Mainly because I hate dry cleaning things so I try to find things that are washable. But also because I won't buy things with wool (I get hives) or too much synthetic content because they don't last.

  • DonnaF replied 8 years ago

    Something I've learned while shopping with DD: Understand your shopping partner. Some will encourage you to buy, even if it is something less than perfect (in color or fit) or that you don't really need because if you buy, that somehow gives permission for her to buy. Also, understand if that person has a good eye for fit and flattery since not everyone does. Finally, not everyone will be brutally honest about color/fit/flattery.

  • Janet replied 8 years ago

    I have to say, we have some good shoppers here on YLF, as I've found in person on the meetup shopping trips I've been privileged to attend! I have some friends who are very, shall we say, enabling, who don't really challenge me when an impulse buy looms. But I've found YLF ladies to be great at reality checking me and giving honest feedback. And of course, Angie is the shopping master. :-)

    But I agree with all the attributes listed so far. Fun is a huge part of it! As are needed coffee/tea/snack breaks.

    So, when are we going shopping again? :-)

  • replied 8 years ago

    I second the coffee/tea/snack breaks! :)

  • Ariadne replied 8 years ago

    I just saw this and now I'm both blushing and laughing, because I usually wander around like a lost zombie with glazed eyes when I'm shopping, feeling shy and a bit like an imposter, until I give up in frustration and overwhelmed-ness and go home empty-handed. Therefore, my theory is that what makes a good shopper is a great shopping buddy!

  • Joy replied 8 years ago

    What a great thread. I'm at my best if I have at least a mental list but still browse with an eye for something fabulous I've not considered. Shopping partners are tricky. I've experienced those who talk you into buying something you know in your gut is not quite right and those who are very helpful. SA's can be great when trying to narrow down the right size or color, maybe better than your shopping buddy.

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Such great insights. Cheryl, we DID have fun! And it sounds as if we helped each other get over our glassy-eyed tendencies. I'm usually completely overwhelmed when I shop, too, but I found it much easier than usual yesterday.

    Laura, I usually just want sales people to leave me alone, too. And you are right, sometimes they only want a sale and don't pay attention to your figure or your needs. And some are just plain ignorant. At the same time, if you have a question about the merchandise it is better to ask than to wander out of the store still wondering (as I often do.)

    Rachy, my husband also suggests things I wouldn't otherwise try and that can be very helpful sometimes in getting me to push my own style boundaries. It also leads to the occasional buying mistake, but less so now as I get closer to knowing my own style.

    Ruth, that's an excellent point; we need to know about fabrication in order to know if an item is truly practical for us. And Caro, I agree about looking to see how to care for an item.

    Donna, that is very astute psychological analysis! It's so true. Some people just want you to buy (regardless) and others can't tell a good colour from an awful one and have no idea about fit. And still others impose their own taste on you. I remember bag shopping with a friend who kept insisting that I should look at bags with more surface detail and bling. It's just SO not me. But she found the ones I was drawn to boring.

    Janet, totally agree. YLF shoppers are in general much pickier! We have learned well at Angie's feet!

    Joy, that's very true about SA. Even if they are generally lousy, they're always going to be the best for SOME jobs! ;-)

  • Jjsloane replied 8 years ago

    It's good to find someone who compliments your particular shopping style or needs. I do much better shopping alone, but enjoy shopping in a fun group (YLF especially) but rarely buy anything in that scenario. I am a serious bargain hunter so I must shop often and know my favorite spots. I do get overwhelmed in new areas. I was intrigued to watch Angie in action on what she honed in on (and what she glossed over). We all have our beacons that draw us, but need to be selective in the actual purchase. I do think it helps to try on more than you think you should to get an idea of things that might work you would not have considered. I also have a mental list of certain items that I"m on the lookout for first and others that if a good enough deal and I can see them working in my wardrobe I'll grab (but I'm not afraid to return them once the fog clears or I can photo them)

  • Aida replied 8 years ago

    Great thread,so full of goodies! I agree with all that's been said. Not sure what to add! But certainly, knowing your shopping partner is a big, big help.

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