Yang Yoo-jin was the first “personal shopper” in Korea. She was so good at what she did, that she managed to turn it into a career – and a lucrative one at that.
Now she’s the manager of the Members Club at Lotte Department Store’s Avenuel Luxury Division in Sogong-dong, central Seoul.
Personal shoppers are like consumer counselors. They select fashion items according to customers’ tastes and other factors. Personal shoppers hunt down particular fashion items after conducting head-to-toe and one-on-one style consultations with VIPs.
It’s a glamorous job that is often spotted in TV dramas or movies. It’s also a misunderstood one. Matching rich people’s money with luxury brands isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Yang is considered an expert interpreter of the demands of the rich: They have the money but they don’t necessarily know which luxury trend to latch on to. (Nor do they have time to figure it out.)
In an interview, Yang said five to six teams of personal shoppers visit her department store each day.
“There is a customer who talks for two or three hours when visiting. There is also a customer who buys luxury items needed from head-to-toe in half an hour,” said Yang.
The luxury division’s average monthly revenue from luxury items fluctuates from 300 million won ($272,800) to 1 billion won.
According to Yang, many VIPs ask her to select clothes, shoes and hand bags – sometimes within 30 minutes of an important function. Yang has a firm grasp on the tastes of about 200 of the store’s VIPs. Establishing mutual trust between her and her customers is an important part of her job.
“VIPs don’t open up easily but when they do, they show full trust. So it’s important to earn their trust. It’s not just about selling clothes.”
Yang says they won’t drop millions of won on a particular luxury item just because they’re wealthy. They easily see through marketing gimmicks and are aware of even the slightest exaggeration. Therefore, for a personal shopper to be successful, she has to be knowledgeable, intelligent and personable.
The VIPs Yang deals with are demanding, both in terms of service and attention. Sometimes there are occasions where hundreds of guests require service, so she delegates responsibilities to her personal shoppers.
“VIPs also have the same stories with the usual people,” said Yang. “I play a role of counselor, sometimes just listening and empathizing when they tell me their stories for two to three hours.”
What do they buy?
Men buy semi-classic suits more often than classic suits. For women, Chanel and Louis Vuitton are the most popular hand bag brands .
Surprisingly, the richer the VIP, the more modest they are in terms of showing off their wealth.
“Female CEOs seek brands such as Cucinelli, Hermes, or Loro Piana, which have classic looks and simple designs but are made of high quality material.”
Wives of business executives usually prefer luxurious designs. Lanvin or Chloe are two examples. Yang said she often suggests Balenciaga or Gucci.
Yang’s influence on the rich and famous is not lost on brand magagers. They do their best to get Yang’s attention. Recently, Fendi invited Yang to a fur fashion show near Rome, Italy.
“They wanted to inform me how Fendi’s fur products are produced – their cheapest product is 30 million won – so I can confidently suggest its fur, since I know how their products are made,” said Yang.