I do a lot of shopping. Actually I lie. I do a lot of wandering round town and buying little bits and pieces I need, but rarely do a browsing shopping trip. And I’m talking clothes. I usually buy jeans from M&S or Sainsbury’s when I need them, but rarely shop for myself for clothes apart from sale season. I’m usually looking out for clothes for N instead.
But I seem to have a reputation amongst friends for being a bit of a shopaholic (I probably was at one stage), and for being a good person to shop with. Maybe I should have been a personal shopper in another life.
I think I’m a pretty efficient shopper. I can shop a lot faster in store than I can online – because many online stores are so big, with my slow internet connection it takes ages to shop. But in stores, I’m a faster more efficient shopper than a lot of my friends.
I’ve a couple of work friends who always take me shopping when they need to buy items – clothes for them and their children, gifts, general houseware items, beauty. They tell me what they need to buy, I suggest the shop, direct them to what they’re looking for, and give opinions if they’re trying things on. All those years of watching Trinny and Susannah, and reading a random ‘Colours for you’ book I once got given as a child, have obviously rubbed off. And a friend from 6th form always used to say that shopping with me was like being with her mum (hopefully a compliment) because she could rely on buying nice but practical clothes because I’d be there checking fit, washing labels and crease factor for her!
The other day I decided to nip into town to try my luck finding a couple of black tops to wear for dancing. Until now, for general class nights I’ve just been wearing old black tops I’ve had from my previous time dancing years ago. But they’re getting a bit old, and I need a few spares to choose from. When I shop I am quick picky. I’ve usually got an idea of what I want to buy. So these black tops – I wanted sleeveless, vest style tops (not spaghetti straps), plain blacks because I don’t want sweat patches showing, not too tight-fitting, and maybe a little detail for a bit of interest. The problem has been that summer wear is in the shops so there’s not a lot to choose from apart from fitted vests galore.
But I went into 1 shop – Debenhams – did a fleeting whizz round ladieswear including the sale and ended up with 7 tops for dancing. Yes 7 tops. 2-3 for normal class nights, and the rest for being a bit more dressed up for freestyle nights. I’d bought from Debenhams own brand and 2 concessions, and spotted a couple of other possibilities which they’d not had in my size so I may also check online if I remember. From arriving in store, browsing, choosing, paying and exciting, it only took me around 10 minutes and 5 of that was queuing to pay.
When I got back to work, my colleagues were amazed, firstly because I’d bought 7 tops in one go (ok maybe a bit OTT, but it means I’ve got plenty to last a couple of years, a few were in the sale, and I got an additional 10% off for one having some foundation on the neckline), but also wondering how I’d nipped out for a half hour lunch break and managed to come back with so many items.
Obviously there’s a time and a place for being a speedy efficient shopper. If you’re out for a girls day out without the kids, then maybe you want to take your time. But I find that going shopping with friends when I also want to buy gets annoying because they’ll go through every rail in detail while I’ve have perused the store and be ready and waiting to leave in under 5 minutes.
If you want to be a more efficient shopper (more time for cake, coffee and chat!), then here’s how I do it:
Tips for being a more efficient shopper
1, Know what you need or want
This applies to any type of shopping – write a list. I never remember anything so a paper list is my method, but use your phone if you prefer. If you’re buying clothes – have an idea of what styles fit you best, what will work with your existing wardrobe, what you definitely don’t want. Sometimes you may want to just generally browse, but knowing where you want to wear an item will help focus.
2, Go shopping in an area you know
This isn’t going to be possible all the time, but if you know a town well, then you’ll know the shop locations and the best route around town.
3, Work out the priority order to purchase in
I’m rubbish at writing my shopping lists in order, so I tend to write my list of items, then number them in order of the shop location around town.
4, Recce out the shops in advance
With online shopping you can easily check out sizing, what shops are available in the area you’re shopping in, range offer, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye on shops themselves. I work in town and go for a walk most lunchtimes, so I know when new season stock comes in, or sales start. Yes you can buy online, but nothing beats being able to see the products in store, and you don’t have to pay for postage. Before sale time, you should also check out what’s in store and have a think about what you might want if it goes in the sale, and how the store is set up at sales times. The key one is Next who generally start marking sales items with a dot the day before.
5, Take coupons and vouchers with you
I always forget them, and usually don’t have a good enough signal to check apps while I’m in stores (I’m sure they put blockers on mobile signal in stores to prevent shoppers from downloading apps with vouchers – supermarkets especially!). So check in advance online, screenshot on your phone, take photos of them, or print out paper copies. Oh and don’t forget to use them once you’re at the till.
6, Take a tape measure with you
Ok, it’s a fuddy duddy thing to do, but if you’re inbetween sizes or don’t know a shop for their sizing, then unless you try items on, you won’t know if they’ll fit. I rarely try items on unless they’re from a shop I’m only visiting as a one off when somewhere away from home, so a little tape measure can be handy.
7, Stay focused and no dawdling
If you want to be an efficient shopper you need to stay on track.
No gently caressing the clothes on every rail
You need to learn to scan a store quickly to spot the items you need, and go straight for them.
8, Learn to read labels quickly
All stores price and label items differently, but get used to what you’re looking for. Look for the UK size and price in stores which include international options.
9, Perfect the flick when clothes shopping
I watch people shopping and they push each hanger along to find a size, then do the next rail and the next. Instead flick hangers once you’ve spotted items that suit your list. Most (unless it’s a decimated Primark at the end of the day) stores size from smallest at the front to largest at the back. You don’t need to check each size, just head for the area that your size will be in.
10, Shop with purpose
Shop assistants will wander over to speak to you and sometimes try to upsell. If you interact and get help from them, it’ll be harder to let go of an item if they’re telling you how great it is. Be strong, tell them you’re just browsing, go to the item you went in for, pay and leave.
By doing these things it means you stay focused and don’t end up daydreaming about what ifs, or buying items just because you like them and then finding they don’t fit. I still touch a lot of items in certain shops as I pass (Monsoon have a lot of gorgeous feeling silk) but I try not to now. I spend my time telling N to stop touching everything but then realise he’s obviously copied what I do!
How to scan a store quickly
There’s an art to being able to spot what you want in a store quickly but you can practice and it’ll get easier over time. Here’s how I do it:
Stand in the store and ask the following questions
1, How is the store laid out? Is it merchandised by product type, colour, range, outfits, collections, size?
Stores employ people to do merchandising plans (often known as category management – my old job – which was perfect for me liking and knowing logical order) and the stores then implement the layouts in store. The rational for store layouts depends on the importance of products, e.g. putting high footfall products like milk at the back of the store so people pass the rest of the products to get to the essential, or putting good deals at the front of shops to draw customers in.
2, Do you need to shop across different areas of the store?
If you have a couple of seconds to work these out, you can think about a logical route around the store
Use your route to work your way from area to area and be aware of what’s around you.
When you watch people doing shopper research with eye trackers on, you see the eye moving around from place to place. If you plan what you’re after, and scan the store first you can be more direct and avoid distractions.
Speed up your shopping with these tips, and you’ll find you’ll buy less stuff you don’t need and save money…just don’t forget to return any items that turned out not to be quite right.
How do you shop? Do your friends come to you for tips? What would you recommend to make shopping in store more efficient?
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