Where do you feel most comfortable shopping?


A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in the Neiman Marcus flagship store in downtown Dallas. I don't normally mingle with the wealthy. As a matter of fact, I studiously avoid places that make me feel impoverished, genetically flawed, and under-dressed. But I'd heard tales about the store that were hard to dismiss. Such as one-of items produced by luxury designers just for the location. And Christian Louboutain shoes, Nancy Gonzalez python bags, Cle de Pleu cosmetics, and so on and so on.

Wandering through Neiman Marcus was an enlightening experience. A respectful quiet blanketed the lobby. Salespeople were tucked discretely in corners, smiling politely. Wide walkways of the store smelled subtly of gardenias, leather, Jo Malone candles, and a mysterious scent I could only identify as money. There were no crowds, no ringing phones, no crying children. Rooms tucked behind curved archways contained most glorious colors and materials - feathers, velvet, sequins and silk. Low tables of polished wood held sparse displays of cashmere sweaters. Price tags were tucked into sleeves. Pitchers of ice water with cucumber waiting outside dressing rooms, though I didn't observe anyone making a purchase. The store seemed to encourage idle wandering rather than active buying. Shopping, here, was a recreational sport, one meant to be enjoyed and savored. This was a place to enjoy fashion, to revel in it, to examine and enjoy.

I couldn't help but contrast my Neiman Marcus experience with that of my more typical, everyday shopping climate - that of Target or the mall. Both are a sensory overload of noise, color and activity. Florescent overhead lights cast harsh shadows over aisles. Displays are utilitarian, constructed to hold the most items and allow for shopping cart maneuverability. Prices are posted alongside advertisements for store discounts, coupons, and special sales. It's a cacophony of enthusiastic children, music playing, shoppers on their cell phones and employees on the P.A system calling for backup on registers. Shopping, here, is purposeful and task-oriented. These are places for shoppers who have lists; are bargain hunting; are combining tasks (such as grocery and apparel shopping) and do not have the time or inclination to linger.

I visited both Neiman Marcus and Target within three days of one another, and was struck by how different my shopping experience was in each store. I wondered which environment I felt more comfortable in - the plush luxury of Neiman Marcus, or the utilitarian convenience of Target. Which environment you're more comfortable in is dependent on a number of factors - your income, regional location, background, and personality traits. The physical environment of a store may elicit cognitive, emotional, and physiological responses which will influence  behavior in the store - behavior such as staying longer, spending more money, and/or buying more merchandise.  Your response to an environment often depends on situational factors as well, such as your plan or purpose for being in the store. Are you there to browse, or buy? Are you shopping to socialize, or to find a specific item? Studies on shopping behavior have proven (Donovan, Rossiter, Marcoolyn, and Nesdale, 1994; Sherman, Mathur, and Smith, 1997) that when you feel happy and relaxed in a store, you will stay longer, buy more items, and spend more money. This is why luxury stores such as Neiman Marcus lavish money on plush surroundings and high-end displays - their merchandise is expensive, and the store must spend more to entice customers to buy.

In the end, I decided I'm at my most relaxed when wandering through the aisles of a Salvation Army or Goodwill. I enjoy digging for bargains. I like the thrill of the unexplored. And I love when I discover a vintage piece I know few people own. Dust and grime doesn't bother me. Neither does brushing shoulders with the less fortunate. In fact, some of my most interesting conversations have occurred with other shoppers in a Goodwill. I don't worry about how I look, how much money is in my wallet, or whether I'm carrying the latest bag. I'm just another thrifter on the hunt.

Now I ask you: Where do you feel most comfortable shopping? Do you spend time in luxury retailers or are you more of a Target girl? Have your shopping tastes changed as you've gotten older? Or, do you trade an in-store shopping experience for online ordering?

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20 comments:

  1. I'm most comfortable at most stores for clothing (other than pants - for pants, I only go to places that carry petite sizes), but not for shoes. At size 5 (sometimes 4 1/2), most stores don't even carry my size. To avoid disappointment, I only limit myself to places that definitely carry my size or self-service places (think DSW) where I can dig for them myself and don't have to ask salespeople who might look at me funny because of my small feet.

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  2. i'm for sure a thrift gal! i have no problems shopping at more expensive stores...i just never end up buying anything because i know i can find something similar (and more unique) at a thrift store!

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  3. I definitely enjoy luxury products, but I'm not a fan of luxury stores. I buy my luxuries (and most of my clothes, frankly) online, and when they arrive, I admire them and try them on in the comfort and privacy of my own home.

    If I'm in the mood for recreational shopping, thrift stores are my favorite places. I enjoy the people, and the fact that I never know what I might find.

    Places like Target and other discount stores are best for staples like t-shirts, towels, etc. But I've stopped browsing at those stores. I'd rather go to a thrift shop, or save up for a special item.

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  4. My favorite place to shop is Nordstrom. Call me snobby, but they bend over backwards to help you, and I appreciate that. The customer service is amazing, the selection is great and they will order what you want that is not in the store. Plus, there's a dude playing a piano- what could be better than that????

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  5. I mostly shop from home. Computer style. At a size 3X a lot of stores don't carry my size, including thrift stores. And I have a back problem that prevents long stretches of standing or walking. But I need to start going out more. So I've chosen the Mall. There I can walk, find seats, people watch and there are a fair number of stores I can check out. Shopping from home limits my exercise and limits my knowledge of what is out there. I suppose it would be good for anyone to get out of their comfort zone occasionally.

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  6. I've loved TJ Maxx for years and years AND years. I like it because no one bothers you, there's always something you've never seen before, lots of sales and now you can take 9 items into the fitting room. Back in the day it used to be 6.

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  7. oh NM what a wonderful land you are! I visited for the first time last year and am still talking about it--the lack of taking Visa or MC(which just now recently changed, the no registers--
    the quiet, the sales people who were just right--dressed just right, just right in being helpful but not pushy!

    I would say however that I feel most at home in a large old department store--one with the low to the high (think downtown Chicago Macy's--formerly Marshall and Fields) unless going at Christmas it's generally quiet in most areas, there's lots of sales racks to peruse, staff is helpful, and there are posh little corners to relax in (or hide a husband in) LOL

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  8. I'm pretty comfortable almost anywhere, but, like you, thrift shops are where I am totally in my element. I love the hunt, I've been thrifting for a very long time, so I'm very good at it, and have my own particular method. Heh. I'm SO experienced at thrifting that I often correctly guess the original manufacturer before looking at the label.

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  9. Oh, I love this. Really, as I was reading your descriptions of Neiman Marcus my mind was just going Gimme!, but I know in reality I'd probably feel monumentally insecure. I don't think I've really found my most comfortable shopping place yet. I avoid the mall at all costs, I just always seem to hit it with the worst crowds and that takes a lot of the fun out of it for me. Macy's is nice, but I get exactly that feeling of insufficiency that you described - and the staff have a way of validating it, too. I typically shop at TJ Maxx and Marshalls but those environments can be win or lose depending on the day, the stock and how I'm feeling. I guess I'm just a fickle shopper!

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  10. I'm more comfortable with the thrill of the thrift store or Target. Every time I enter Target, I feel like I'm receiving a nice warm hug. I went into Neiman Marcus one time. I was completely lost. I kept looking around wondering where the cash registers were and why it was so quiet! Ha! I got out of there quick because I felt out of place. I don't belong anywhere that I have to spend 90 bucks for a tie. However, sometimes I wish I could afford those things. Sometimes the prettiest things I find online are namebrand that I can't afford :/

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  11. Thrift, thrift, thrift! Oh and clearance racks. I will shop anywhere with a clearance rack. But price is King. If I know I can get a similar item at Goodwill or Plato's, then I'm putting that thing back.
    Have to be a good steward with the little I have.

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  12. I've never been in a Neiman Marcus but your discription of it sounds pretty much like heaven. Soft lighting, hushed voices, nice smells....I'm so on board.

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  13. I LOVE Target & the Mall but get immense sensory overload there because there's just too much of everything. High end stores are cushy, but I never feel like I "belong" there. Thrift stores -when they're not packed like they are the week before Halloween- are usually where I feel most relaxed, too. It's like a treasure hunt with no pressure (except when the musties bug my allergies!). :)

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  14. Target is more on point with my budget, but I love shopping in luxury stores. The way stores are decorated definitely effect the way I shop in them. I find that the sales associates are more friendly and passionate about the fashions in the store. I remember being in Target the day Missoni launched, explaining to the dressing room attendant what Missoni was. In other stores, I feel like the associates are shopping with me, and I love that!

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  15. I don't feel comfortable in those high-end department stores because I find the sales people snoby. I hate Victoria's Secret most though because it's crowded, overwhelming smells, and the sales people are the pushiest ever! I like Target because I'm free to browse what I need and most sales people get to the point hehe I'm a New Yorker. Although if I need some sales help I'll go a department store.

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