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May They Help You?

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Elaine Mack thinks that Bergdorf Goodman is "the best candy store in the world."  

Elaine Mack
Head Personal Shopper, Bergdorf Goodman

What’s your domain?
I have a private office and a private dressing room on the 4th floor, but I have full reign over the entire store from beauty up to the 7th floor.

What’s a typical day like?
I started working at Bergdorf Goodman 30 years ago, when Mr. Goodman only allowed women to work 13 1⁄2 hours per week, something he called the “housewife schedule.” Now I work three twelve-hour days a week, starting at 7 a.m. First I check messages from my two assistants or any messages left on my machine overnight. Then I call a group of clients that like to be called between 7 and 7:30 a.m., before they leave for work. At about 7:30 a.m., I start pulling clothes for the day’s appointments.

What do you love to sell?
Akris and Etro. I go to Switzerland once a year and work very closely with the designer who does Akris. He even flatters me by calling me his muse. Douglas Hannant is a lot of fun. I do a lot of business with Oscar de la Renta. Each year a designer comes out with something so great that I have to sell it, like Narciso Rodriguez this year. It’s a clean, polished look—good for slim bodies.

What do you love to wear?
Akris, Agnona, and Etro. Lots of designers cut differently each year, but I know those designers are consistent.I like to buy a lot of funky things that I wouldn’t wear to work, like Gaultier, Dolce & Gabbana, and Sempione. I wear a lot of Chanel. I’ve probably bought every designer in the store at least once.

Where do you like to shop on your own time?
I only shop at Bergdorf’s. This is the world’s greatest candy store; why would I go anywhere else? I have a fabulous wardrobe because of it. When I first started working here, my accountant told my husband, “If you break even, consider yourself ahead.”

Merchandise moved?
I am the number-one person in the store. I hate to say that because it sounds so overly proud, but I am proud. Let’s use yesterday as a prototype: My first client bought a Galliano suit, five sweaters, and a fabulous Missoni sweater coat. Then two very high-powered executive women came in together. One bought a coat, a jacket, two sweat-ers, and two pairs of trousers—all Oscar. Her friend picked up two suits from Akris and a Sempione pantsuit. The next client was the mother of the bride, and she picked up a very beautiful and fairly expensive evening dress from Vicki Teal. My last client bought two dresses, three sweaters, a pair of trousers, a jacket, and a suit—Akris, Narciso, Dolce, all top brands.

How do you close a deal?
I can always find my clients something to buy. I have them try jackets on first, and then I ask “Does this fulfill the need you came to me for?” or “Will this take you to the places you need to go?” I never say “That’s you” or anything trite like that. I’ll say “I know the things you must buy,” and the rest are up for grabs.

Greatest lengths ever gone to for a client?
When I lived in the suburbs, I sold to a lot of people I knew. They would stop at my house on the way to a party so I could tie the bow on their outfit just right.

Oddest request ever from a client?
Someone once requested a cowboy outfit. We ended up finding a boot that could pass and a skirt from Roberto Cavalli. We faked it. But it looked great.

Thing you would never tell a client?
It’s all how you say it. If someone comes in with the wrong shoes, I’d say “Have you thought of wearing a shoe with a thinner heel? It might make your legs look long and slim.” I would never say “Oh my God, those shoes are so ugly.”

Is it ever okay to lie?
Lying about fit and fashion is an absolute no-no.


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