If you’ve ever been offered a cold bottle of water by a sales associate, you know how good it feels to be pampered while shopping–even just a little bit. In the case of cold water during a marathon shopping spree, you feel physically replenished (shopping is cardio, okay?). But there are other ways that stores can make you feel special just for shopping there: imagine that cold bottle of water is a glass of Cartier brand Champagne or even a Tiffany blue mini cake. Now, you’re really living the good life.
There are many perks that retailers use to incentivize their customers to come back (and spend more money when they do), whether it’s a glass of champagne, a private shopping party for you and 40 friends on your birthday, or a free handbag at the holidays. The savvy shopper is aware of these perks and knows where to shop to get them. These policies are rarely advertised because they vary from store to store and manager to manager, so you need to be in the know to enjoy them. We’ve rounded them up so you’ll never miss out again:
Let Them Eat Cake!
According to Jason Branson, a retail expert who has managed several high-end stores including Gucci, Tory Burch, Catherine Malandrino and Frye, complimentary water, Coke and Diet Coke are almost always available to shoppers, whether they are making a purchase or not.
“We offered ‘Tory’ bottled water at Tory Burch,” he says, describing mini bottles labeled with the iconic Tory Burch logo. “We also served some sort of goodies–‘Tory cookies,’ for example.”
Tory Burch isn’t the only store that brands its refreshments. A source at Cartier described the Cartier Champagne (yes, they have their own) that is “always offered to those sitting with a sales specialist.” (Even if you’re trying on engagement rings with an imaginary boyfriend? Yes, even.)
Rival jeweler Tiffany and Co. ups the ante with branded desserts. “They sit you down in cushy velvety chairs, bring you glasses of champagne and feed you super cutesy Tiffany blue box mini cakes,” photographer Allison P. described of her experience at the 5th Avenue location, where she snapped a pic (above).
According to Yelp reviews, at the Vera Wang boutiques in New York, Chicago and San Francisco brides are offered hot tea served on Vera’s own China line (as well as champagnes and cupcakes) while they wait to try on the gowns.
And if you’re traveling abroad, be sure to stop by the Louis Vuitton store at the Champs-Élysées in Paris where champagne is served in crystal Louis Vuitton glasses. Oui, oui!
Party Like It’s Your Birthday
Another VIP experience that shoppers might not know they have access to is private parties. Several store managers we spoke to talked about their willingness to host these parties free of charge–sometimes even providing catering and music for the events.
“We hosted private shopping parties all the time,” Branson explains of his various retail experiences, including at the Tory Burch store in the Meatpacking section of New York. “If a customer was having a birthday, they could invite 20-39 friends and they could have the store to themselves for a couple of hours.”
At the Gucci store in Boston’s Back Bay, private events happen monthly, including a “Celtics Wives Night” where ball players wives are invited to drink and shop after hours.
For those of us who aren’t married to professional athletes, the takeaway is that stores are happy to throw these events (“It brings the customers closer to the brand!” Branson explains). If you visit a store regularly enough that you are on a first-name basis with the sales staff, you probably have access to these perks–even if you don’t spend a lot of money there.
The Best Things In Life Are Free
What better way to keep customers satisfied than with freebies and gifts? Around the holidays, many stores reward their top clients (top 10 spenders, for example) with gifts. “I’ve sent out champagne, scarves, candles, books, food and of course free product,” Branson explains.
Other in-store freebies are available throughout the year, such as the free monogramming program at Henri Bendel in New York. According to public relations manager Corie McCabe, the specialty store offers complimentary monogramming of their W 57th Street handbag collection.
How To Save Like The One Percent
Stores like Manolo Blahnik reward customers who spend five or six figures on shoes every year by granting them highly-coveted non-transferable invites to their annual private Press Sale. The event, which is not open to the public (so don’t even try!), includes mark downs of up to 75% on Manolo Blahnik heels. What’s the expression–you’ve got to spend money to save money?
For the serious (and seriously busy) shopper, personal shopping services at stores like Bloomingdale’s are meant to alleviate the most stressful aspects of shopping, like scrambling for last-minute gifts, finding a dress for a fast-approaching date, or spending hours on your feet during one of those marathon sessions we mentioned earlier (like back to school or prom dress shopping).
Personal shoppers will “pre-shop the store for you, then present an array of items for your review in a private setting at our store.” They’ll even keep a calendar of your important dates and give you a reminder call as those dates approach (say, your wedding anniversary or nephew’s graduation).
[Photo: A.Pic And Her Camera]