At Bergdorf Goodman, they’re not called personal shoppers. They’re “personal stylists.”
It’s indicative of how the luxury emporium seeks to differentiate, present an air of exclusivity, and how by-appointment shopping is as essential as ever if Bergdorf’s is to recover lost business stemming from the pandemic and the bankruptcy of its parent corporation, the Neiman Marcus Group.
Below, Bergdorf Goodman president Darcy Penick discusses BG’s by-appointment strategy, its heightened relevance in a world impacted by COVID-19 and how it provides a first-rate personal shopping experience. The service began last week with phase two of the restart of New York City’s economy.
WWD: How many appointments can BG women’s and men’s stores handle at any one time?
Darcy Penick: Because we want the client experience to be luxurious, all appointments are with a sales associate one-on-one, and we are managing the amount by day and by the hour, so we provide the best and safest environment for both our employees and our customers. With 11 floors between our two buildings, it’s manageable for us to strike the right balance and gives us ample space for appointments while adhering to social-distancing requirements and every critical protocol that we have put into place. And we introduced a new private appointment booking tool that gives associates tremendous fluidity to serve our clients while allowing our customers to seamlessly book appointments online.
WWD: What are people buying during private appointments?
D.P.: It’s clear there is pent-up demand for a shopping experience. We are seeing emotional and coveted pieces purchased across all categories — items that are timeless and unique and still providing a sense of joy that comes from buying something special. Our associates have incredible and deep relationships with their clients, and the product purchased reflects a truly personalized experience.
WWD: When a customer arrives at BG, what is their journey? What screening can they expect?
D.P.: When a client arrives, they check in with the concierge and have their assigned store associate meet them. All associates and clients are required to wear masks, and our associates are required to have daily temperature checks. At the Fifth Avenue entrance, hand sanitizer is offered to the customer and then used by the associate. The client is then escorted throughout the store, or to a fitting room that has been prepped and assigned to them. We have ample housekeeping staff to continuously sanitize all areas as well as ensure fitting rooms are appropriately sanitized after each use. Not all fitting rooms on each floor will be used to ensure we observe social distancing and cleaning protocols. Additionally, after every try on, items are pulled from selling circulation for 24 hours, and then heat steamed as a double precaution. We make every effort to ensure a safe and clean environment for our clients and associates while delivering a highly personalized and exceptional experience our clients expect from us.
WWD: How many appointments have there been?
D.P.: In the first few days, we have served hundreds of clients across our women’s and men’s stores. The client response to our reopening and the number of clients we’ve welcomed back has exceeded our expectations.
WWD: How many private appointments can happen simultaneously?
D.P.: We are managing the daily appointment volume with a balance of safety protocols and providing the highest levels of service. We can share we have had hundreds of appointments in the first few days, with an average sales per trip on the first day at 3x more than our average pre-COVID-19, demonstrating the eagerness of our clients to be back in store.
WWD: What’s selling?
D.P.: We are seeing business in all categories and a lot of activity in fine apparel, jewelry, shoes and handbags.
WWD: Are clothes selected before a client arrives?
D.P.: Merchandise can be pre-selected specially for the client or by their request, and placed in their private shopping area or fitting room. Or if the client prefers to browse while in store, the associate provides a tailored guided shopping experience.
WWD: Describe the online communication in advance of an appointment.
D.P.: Prior to each appointment, our associates connect with their clients to learn more about what they are looking for and how they can provide a truly personalized shopping experience. Additionally, the client will receive a series of e-mails and reminders with details on their private appointment, the date, time, associate, categories desired to shop and safety protocols.
WWD: When will BG reopen for in-store shopping without private appointments?
D.P.: We don’t have an exact date to share at this time, but we will continue to offer private appointments through advance booking online and through sales associates, as well as opening for walk-up appointments prior to a full reopening. Our associates will also continue to connect with our clients virtually to deliver channel-less selling across both the digital and physical environments.