Education and Training: None
Salary: Median—$30,000 to $57,500 per year
Employment Outlook: Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Personal shoppers help people to select and purchase clothing and other merchandise. The scope of the job ranges from gift buying for their clients to providing advice for a complete change of image. In this emerging field several other job titles are used, including fashion consultant and image consultant.
Personal shoppers vary considerably in the services they offer and in their methods of working with clients. Those who work for a department or specialty store provide advice about purchases of clothes and other items from their store. These personal shoppers may coordinate items from several departments within the store to save the client time. Fashion consultants or image consultants who work for consulting firms or who are self-employed usually meet with clients to learn their needs, budget requirements and professional status, and to analyze their current wardrobe. Then the consultant researches which stores have the clothing and accessories that will suit the client best. The consultant may then take the client shopping to make final selections. Many personal shoppers offer advice on makeup, hairstyling, and colors, in addition to shopping assistance. Some even provide an entire "makeover" service, including posture and public speaking skills, for clients who wish to change their image.
Education and Training Requirements
Personal shoppers have emerged from a number of fields, including marketing, fashion design, and communications. There are no particular education or training requirements, but the Association of Image Consultants International does offer certification through a continuing education program. A potential personal shopper must have strong interpersonal skills and a good sense of style. Experience in retailing and buying is also helpful.
Getting the Job
Since many personal shoppers work on a consulting basis, breaking into the field may involve little more than finding a few initial clients, working with them successfully, and getting permission to use them as references to attract new customers. Working as a salesperson in a clothing store might give you a good start, enabling you either to work your way up to personal shopper for the store or to find your first clients from among the store's customers.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
For personal shoppers who are self-employed, advancement usually comes in the form of gaining a good reputation, expanding their clientele, and charging higher rates for their services. Some become consultants for design companies, and some offer training to aspiring consultants. Personal shoppers for major stores may eventually manage the personal shopping department or start an independent service.
The outlook for personal shoppers is good through 2014. More and more men are seeking shopping assistance, and this trend will continue to create more opportunities.
Personal shoppers are likely to have irregular hours, including some evenings and weekends, because most clients have jobs that make weekday consultations inconvenient. Personal shoppers spend most of their time in stores, and unless they work for one store, they may have to visit many shops in a short period of time. Tact and discretion are essential qualities for a fashion consultant.
Where to Go for More Information
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings in this field depend on the type and level of service provided as well as the reputation of the shopper. Independent personal shopping consultants may charge from $25 to $300 per hour for consultations with a minimum of three to four hours. They may also charge from $20 to $80 per hour for shopping time. Some charge a commission based on the price of the items purchased. The median salary range for a personal shopper is $30,000 to $57,500 a year. Benefits for personal shoppers who work for stores or large consulting firms include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans. Self-employed personal shoppers must provide their own benefits.