For the increasing numbers of cash-rich, time-poor consumers, internet and teleshopping were thought to be the perfect answer. Traditional modes of shopping were seen o be all too time consuming and the geographic spread of stores impossible to cover. But Australians are not taking to these new modes of shopping in the great numbers they were expected to. (Australians spent $150 million dollars over the internet last Christmas, while US residents spent $11 billion).
Compared with many Northern Hemisphere markets, Australian consumers are generally very mobile with a high incidence of car ownership. A relatively mild climate means that in most areas the weather does not discourage shopping outdoors.
Initial studies of Australian home-shoppers have indicated reluctance due to concerns about the remoteness of the shopping experience. Around twenty percent of consumers complained that merchandise looked better on TV.
Many are apprehensive about losing the tangibility of the shopping experience. And most actually enjoy the experience of spending money, revelling in the acquisition of new purchases. Physically carrying purchases home seems to give some shoppers pleasure. The lack of physical interaction with other shoppers also diminishes the experience.
Simply put - home shopping is about as close to retail therapy as a Bex and a good lie down is to seeing a shrink.
By far and away the department store has always been the domain of those suffering the Imelda syndrome. Where else can these divas of the dollar fulfil their escalating range of desires without even going outside? If packaging and labels are an aphrodisiac, then the DJ's signature houndstooth is consumptive pornography, the store itself is a shopaholics sex shop.
DJ's personal shopper Nasrin Nakhai has been assisting both established and aspiring Imeldas for the past six years. (The service has been offered by David Jones for the last 14 years).
With 26 years experience in the fashion industry, both as a designer and dressmaker, Nasrin is well suited to the job. Her clients range in age and background, but all share a common bewilderment with the modern shopping experience.
"They used to enjoy shopping when there were just a few shops around. Now there is no-one there to help them and there are too many shops to choose from. They hate getting undressed and dressed again," she explained.
"But they know what they want... and they want to look good."
Nasrin sees her role as not just a style guru but as a surrogate best friend, mother, sister and husband.
"Having a second opinion helps them to make up their minds. Sometimes it gets to the stage where they won't even buy a top without asking me first."
And shopping for a living has not quelled Nasrin's own Imelda syndrome.
"I'm crazy about shopping. When I feel stressed or depressed, if I buy something new it gives me a lift. It helps to get rid of the stress. I even shop when I'm happy - it helps all the way," she said.
Nasrin's clients usually have a twenty-minute consultation where they discuss style, sizing, and lifestyle requirements. On a second appointment Nasrin has clothes ready for them to try on, which they do in her office change room. She also keeps their purchases on file to co-ordinate future acquisitions.
These days Hunters are driven by their mission both metaphorically and physically. The Bargain Bus or warehouse tour has become the perfect province as the hunter seeks out her prey on a savings safari.
Zinnia Gelsthorpe has been a shopping tour hostess for the last six years. She guides groups of up to 40 women (with the odd man) on tours of Sydney's retail factory outlets.
As a retail therapist for the Great White Hunter, she sees her job as part facilitator and part motivator.
"That's what I'm here for - to make sure that people have a good time while they spend their money and to get them excited at the prospect of spending money."
She says routine stops for champagne help her with her task.
"Champagne is usually called a leg opener, but we call it a purse opener. It also helps the ladies to get acquainted and have some fun."
Despite shopping for a living she says her own desire to shop has not been quelled.
"Things can go wrong on a tour day, but I never walk away wishing I hadn't been there. I really love what I do. It's therapeutic."
And she loves to shop.
"I go into a shop to get one thing and I'm there for three hours - I call it research … I love getting a bargain. You can always justify a bargain - even if you never use it, it was a bargain," she says.
For more information contact:
David Jones Personal Shopping Service
Ph: 02 9266 5564
Fax: 02 9267 7326
Warehouse Shopping Tours
Ph: 02 9834 4333