Grown up ways to sell, from Harvey Nichols

paual reed and dom

Paula Reed from Harvey Nichols and Dom de Vetta from Shay & Blue

As we all buy more online, retailers are working hard to try and figure out how to tempt us back into their stores. The up-side of this is that our demographic (being a bit better off than the student-debt ridden youngster) is on everybody’s target customer list to woo and we’re seeing some new concepts targeting our need for a more grown up environment (less of the overcrowded, skanky smelling changing rooms and staff that know less than we do).

I went to a Harvey Nichols event last week that demonstrated a very grown-up way to sell. Designer Maria Grachvogel and Harvey Nichols fashion director Paula Reed invited customers to a space they’d made their own in the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Here, amongst giant branches of spring blossom and plates of delicious biscuits, Paula and Maria helped customers dress themselves in Maria’s summer range in a very relaxed and chummy way. It was like having the very best personal shoppers in a fantasy closet, with added food and drink.

Selling with the designer present isn’t new, but the use of ex-Grazia fashion editor Paula ramped the interest-wattage up significantly. Getting this type of intimate help from experts makes you feel you’re on a fast-track to insider information -legally at that. Paula and Maria are fashion-royalty, like celebrities only much more useful…it’s super-special-service and it felt worth leaving my screen for. The location was beautiful too and taking the clothes out of the store made it all feel more focussed on me (the customer) rather than the sale.

It was Maria’s idea to be around to help. “My clothes have zero hanger appeal but once they are on, you completely understand why they are special. I can see which style would work well on a customer and I get a real thrill out of seeing their faces when they put something on and it makes them look amazing, so it’s fun for me too”.

maria grachvogel

Maria Grachvogel dress, the knot detail can be worn front or back

Paula hovered around offering advice on what else you could put with Maria’s clothes to extend the look using her super-informed knowledge of Harvey Nichol’s current stock. She’s very clever at chatting to everyone and so personable, you could see customers were thrilled to have her around.

I’m not sure this event was perfect, it’s a little bit intimidating if you are a nervous shopper and I’d have liked to see more collections to coordinate with Maria’s clothes but it was definitely a grown up way to shop and I’d love to do it again.  The event was smallish, so everyone had a turn to be fussed over and while you waited there were mini make overs from Stila, hand massages from Elemis and Dom de Vetta from Shay & Blue perfumes to talk fragrance with.


Maria on the right, rocking one of her catsuits…which I desperately covet

The hotel is beautiful inside, it was almost worth coming for the flowers alone and the atmosphere was more intimate… the makeshift closet was pretty awesome too.

paula and customers

Paula, also wearing a Maria dress, chatting to customers

The flowers were arranged the night before, with the room’s air conditioning set to make the blossom come out perfectly by the time the event started. Just like home really…..


There were lots of shoes to try on with the clothes……

maria again

This was my favourite item from Maria’s collection, a really simple T shirt shape in opal (soft rose-pink) that drapes beautifully when it’s on. If we were ALL rich I’d make everyone buy one piece of  Maria’s clothing so you could understand what a brilliant cutter she is. As Paula said, “Women designers like Maria really understand the bodies they are designing for and how we want to feel comfortable but look amazing. It’s about producing women-friendly clothes that understand we have curves as opposed to catwalk friendly ones.” Grown up words indeed.

What do you think about a more grown up selling environment, are there things that drive you mad when you shop in stores?

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