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What's the difference between an independent personal stylist for men & an in-store personal shopper?

If you've been tossing up between working with an independent personal stylist like me or going to see a personal shopper that works in a store, but are not sure of the differences, then this blog post for you!

I've explained the main differences between us so you can see which is most appropriate for what you need, and help you make your choice. If you've got any other questions that I haven't answered here, then do feel free to drop me a line, and I'll get straight back to you.

1. An in-store personal shopper works in a store, and a freelance stylist / shopper (like me) is independent.

As the name suggests an in-store personal shopper works in a store - usually a big department store but some of the smaller shops have them too now. And a freelance personal stylist is independent and not attached to any stores.This is the main big difference, and there can be pros and cons to both.

In-store personal shopper:

Pros: If you'd like to stay in one store / room and get everything done there, it makes it simple and easy. Everything is brought to you and you can try it all on together.

Cons: If you can't find everything you need in that one store, then you're a bit stuck and don't have the option to go elsewhere. If your size isn't available, they might be able to track it down online or in another branch of their store but not in an alternative store. Depending on the store, the stock could all be at one price point so you may not be able to get a variety.

Independent personal stylist for men:

Pros: I tend to do a bit of high / low shopping with my clients - we buy some things at a more premium price but have the option to go more high street for others Eg; you might like to get some key pieces at a higher price but stock up on basics at a lower price point. 

We can find out of stock sizes in a variety of stores, so it's not too much of an issue if one store doesn't have it. I sometimes start in Harvey Nichols so you have the benefit of everything being brought to one room, and then we go elsewhere so you get the best of both worlds! You'll also have the option to find lots of new shops and brands you may not know about by being free to go to different stores.

Cons: You might not want to walk around different stores, and get changed multiple times. We'll need to carry the bags of things you've purchased with us. If you're getting things tailored, then you'll have to pick up from multiple places afterwards. 

"She introduced me to some great stores of varying price points and styles." (Comment from one of my clients)

"She excels in enlisting the help of sales staff to have the right items ready to try on and where appropriate was ready to negotiate for discounts on my behalf" (Comment from a client)

Independent personal shoppers vs in store personal shoppers for men

2. A freelance personal stylist is more likely to have been to your home and knows what you have in your wardrobe already


In-store personal shopper:

Pros: You may want a completely new look and don't want your personal shopper to be swayed by what you previously had, Or you may be starting from scratch and it's not necessary for them to see what's in your wardrobe already anyway.

Cons: They may suggest similar items to the ones you already own, which you don't need. They won't be able to take into consideration how the new pieces will fit in with what you already have. It's harder for them to know what your current style is and how to move on from that, if they haven't seen what's in your current wardrobe.

Independent personal stylist:

Pros: I often do a wardrobe edit with my clients ahead of going shopping with them, which means I've got a good idea of what's needed to fill the gaps. I won't be suggesting things that are too similar to what you have, plus I can take into account anything that specifically needs matching and may ask you to bring it along too. 

Cons: I haven't always seen your wardrobe either (though you can send me images ahead of the session if you like). You may not have enough in your wardrobe to warrant doing a wardrobe edit anyway, and want to replace most things.

See the comments below from a couple of my clients:

"Sarah also kept on reminding me that I should not only get things I liked but items that I needed. This is a very helpful mindset for me."

"Her particular genius is in reviewing the clothes you already have and finding a few key new pieces that can revitalize your wardrobe - she has always made suggestions that I find surprising, but in the end she has always been right." 

3. An in-store personal shopper is free and an independent personal stylist / shopper charges a fee


In-store personal shopper:

Pros: It's a free service which is obviously beneficial, as there's no risk involved if by chance you don't like what's suggested. If you only have a couple of things to get, or have something very specific in mind it may work out better.

Cons: Personal shoppers in store are generally on a commission, which means that it's possible they'll introduce you to the higher priced things in the store - an example of this is when I once went to see a store based personal shopper (as an experiment to see what it was like) and she showed me a few things including a jacket that was half of the budget I'd set - I didn't think that was a very helpful suggestion to get me the whole new wardrobe I'd hoped for.

They also might not be advising you purely based on what suits you, and works best for your lifestyle, if they're earning commission. Some places have a minimum spend.

Independent personal stylist:

Pros: I charge a flat fee (£660) and it doesn't matter to me how much or how little you spend as long as you go away happy with what you have. I'm 100% honest and a rubbish lier! I take into account your budget and if it's a strict one, then I'll cost things out before a shopping trip, so I know roughly how much we can spend on each item. 

Cons: You will have to add the cost of my service to your overall shopping budget. If you look at these comments below though, these previous clients have felt it was money well spent:

"Appearance is really important in my line of work, so the value I’ll get from working with Sarah will be huge - money very well spent!" 

"The whole experience was well worth the time and money invested."

"In many ways I think it actually saved me money because Sarah gave me the confidence to buy items which were not always that expensive but looked very good on me."

4. My appointments are a whole day and in-store personal shoppers are around 2 hours


In-store personal shopper:

Pros: If you're extremely time poor or absolutely loathe shopping, then it may be beneficial for you to spend the maximum of a couple of hours shopping, and if you can get it all done and dusted in that time, then that's brilliant!

Cons: If you need to spend extra time, then you're unlikely to have the option. 2 hours is not very long if you're looking for an entire new wardrobe, or a variety of things from beachwear to suits. You've got to make decisions very fast! 

Independent personal stylist:

Pros: You may prefer to have more of a look around and see what the options are before making your decisions. Although a day (which is usually around 5-6 hours) sounds like a long time, I promise you it goes really fast. 

It gives us a chance to visit a good variety of stores and I can really get to know you and your preferences too. We'll be able to cover most things in this time. 

Cons: You may not have a day free to spend on shopping (though I do work at weekends too). It's quite a long time to shop if you're not used to it, but most people say it was fun, as they were achieving what they wanted to, so it was worth spending the time. 

"Sarah is great company and fun to spend a day with, although her shopping stamina is something I couldn’t match!" 

"I found shopping with Sarah really fun."

"The shopping trip was very valuable and enjoyable at the same time."

Pros and cons of in store personal shoppers vs independent personal stylists for men

5. An in-store personal shopper has a small selection put by in advance and an independent personal shopper will usually prep the day before


In-store personal shopper:

Pros: They'll have a pre-selected rail for you when you arrive in the right sizes. They have the option to go back onto the shop floor to find more things or swap sizes. 

Cons: Some in-store personal shoppers wait till you arrive and then ask questions about what you'd like to get and source it on the shop floor whilst you wait. They might not have seen photos of you ahead of the session and only have basic details of what you need, and your likes/dislikes.

Independent personal stylist:

Pros: I ask all clients to fill in a detailed questionnaire ahead of our meeting, and I go to the shops the day before and make notes in all the stores on what I can find where. Sometimes I use the styling studio at Harvey Nichols so I can put by a selection for you in the correct sizes, like they would for an in-store appointment.

If there's something specific you're looking for, or you're a more unusual size, I can narrow down the selection a lot ahead of the day and know exactly where we can find it. And if for any reason, we can't find it, you'll know I've checked everywhere first!

Cons: I can't put things by in all the shops, so will have to go round and collect everything up when we arrive. Sometimes the sizes aren't available as I won't have been able to check this in every store necessarily.  

"She had done very thorough research in advance," (Comment from a client)

"Sarah had spent a lot of time checking out the shops the day before which saved a lot of time and work." (Comment from a client)

"Her "scouting" ahead of a shopping trip saved me masses of time". (Comment from a client)

6. I send clients a list of outfits afterwards, whereas an in-store personal shopper session is focused just on the appointment


In-store personal shopper:

Pros: They'll probably suggest whole outfits for you when you're shopping with them, and will have accessories for you to try in-store, even if you don't buy them. You may already be confident about how to wear things and not need any suggestions sent afterwards. If you've shopped with them a few times then some in-store personal shoppers may send you items to consider in between appointments.

Cons: Most in-store personal shoppers are unlikely to put in much time after the appointment as it's a free service, you'll just get the attention whilst you're there.

Independent personal stylist:

Pros: I nearly always write a list of outfits for my clients after the session which they find incredibly helpful and refer back to for ages afterwards. I also follow up with links to any other items we saw but couldn't get in the right size or things they wanted to think about, and may get at a later date (or wait till the sales!)

Cons: I'm not actually sure that there are any cons to receiving useful information afterwards!?

"The following day Sarah sent me a document with a list of outfits I could put together with both my new clothes and items from my existing wardrobe."

"Sarah followed up with useful tips and reminders afterwards."

7. Personal shoppers in-store are more into trends and an independent personal shopper is more likely to focus more on what suits you 

In-store personal shopper:

Pros: They'll probably have information and advice direct from the designers. or brands on what the inspiration and trends are for the season and how to style them. It's likely they'll have priority access to harder to find pieces, or popular collaborations. They'll understand how to style the latest trends.

Cons: They may try to dress you in current pieces which might not suit you or your lifestyle, and you end up not wearing.

Independent personal stylist:

Pros: My focus is more on your colouring, body shape, lifestyle and budget, plus the practicalities of dressing too. I want you to look modern and up to date but I won't suggest trends if they don't suit you or your style personality. I'm aiming for the best version of you, rather than the latest 'must-have' trends. 

Cons: I won't necessarily have access to exclusive collaborations, or hard to find pieces, or be first in line for restocks of sold out items. My clients tend not to be looking for this anyway though. 

"She shows genuine enthusiasm for finding clothes that suit me and and are what I am looking for."

"She is very committed to help you, and make you feel comfortable with the decisions made in the process."

"She took great care to understand my style--or rather lack of style--and what I was looking for." 

You may want to try out a free personal shopper in store first, but if you like the sound of my services, then you can book in for your Personal Shopping trip for men by clicking the button below: