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Featured in the September 2019 issue

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Downtown, Grantham are offering even more fashion inspiration to their customers with the creation of a new personal shopping service. Lincolnshire Life went to meet Karen Mackay who is heading this latest innovation.

Personal style is close to every woman’s heart but sometimes it is hard to keep perspective on those changing trends and special occasions highlight even more the need to evolve your wardrobe. Putting your trust in a stranger to offer their advice may be a leap of faith but in the right hands it is a revelation.

Karen Mackay has already acquired many regular clients in her role advising shoppers on the fashion floor but having a dedicated Personal Shopping area has been a long-held ambition.

“I really felt there was an opportunity to create a unique experience in the store,” said Karen. “We offer a huge choice of brands in fashion and footwear for all the family but being able to curate outfits with individual clients in mind takes this experience to a more personal level and really showcases the choice and variety we stock at Downtown.”

The deliciously decorated Personal Shopping suite has been designed and built on the first floor by the in-house visual merchandising and shopfitting teams. If you are just as tempted by the sofas, rugs, decor or accessories which furnish the room, these are all also available from the store’s leading collections of home interiors brands.

It’s hard to believe, but Oldrids have been trading for 215 years, which makes them one of the world’s oldest retailers and Downtown, Grantham has been established since September 1989, staying at the forefront of retail in Lincolnshire for more than 30 years. The Oldrids & Downtown group are always coming up with great ideas and they are now planning for the future, with the Downtown Grantham Designer Outlet development due to deliver an exciting new premium brand shopping and leisure experience to customers within a couple of years.

Our experience had begun with an email from Karen a few days prior asking questions about sizing, favourite colours and occasion. Were there any brands or palettes we did not like? This is a conversation which you could also have by phone but I was intrigued to see how Karen had interpreted our details into key outfits.

There were two of us but the suite can accommodate groups of up to six; ideal for a mother/daughter treat, hen party or outfits for a special occasion. We had chosen a Day at the Races for our theme.

The spacious suite is private and tranquil with comfortable sofas and chairs, laminate flooring and a tea and coffee making station. Two large changing rooms have their own mirrors and floor to ceiling curtains. Step outside and there is another large mirror and room to get a more distanced perspective and feedback from others. The hanging rail was already prepared for our arrival with six outfits neatly arranged with matching accessories and shoes lined up beneath. We had a chance to look through them while we sipped our lattes and wonder if Karen might be a mind reader as well as a stylist. She had chosen some pieces which instantly appealed.

Karen continued: “I know that clients, especially those who haven’t had a Personal Shopping experience before, might be nervous at first. I am here to put them at ease. The appointment is an hour and a half so plenty of time to relax. I try to pick pieces which I know will be within the brief but also to push those boundaries too. Some clients may have lost confidence about their wardrobe, others are looking to refresh key pieces, while a smaller number are looking to re-establish their style after life-changing events such as weight loss or illness.” 

A Personal Shopping service is certainly a way to evolve your tastes and lifestyle and accept the input of an impartial fashion expert. Karen is also key in making it huge fun. A bit like being let loose in a fashion sweetshop!

From the six or more complete outfits which Karen had pre-selected there were four which really fitted and flattered. The labels which most closely suited our style and occasion were Masai, Adini, Gerry Weber and Betty and Co teamed with Van Dal shoes. Karen was very fleet of foot bringing different sizing and carefully chosen scarves, fascinators and accessories from the shop floor to complete our outfits.

The final choice for our Day at the Races was a stunningly soft tailored dress and coat in red Damask patterning by English design house Adini. Teamed with a wide brimmed hat by Elegance and Van Dal suede heels in navy blue, this was an outfit which would be a joy to wear and have versatility beyond our special occasion.

The final part of the experience was a visit to the beauty department; leading French skin care brand Clarins was our choice, where Kathy expertly cleansed and then applied make-up to complement the outfit. Alongside us were a bridal party who were having an equally enjoyable time having their makeover ready for a wedding later in the day.

Our conclusion was that we need to smuggle Karen and Kathy home and bring them out each morning to get us perfectly styled every day.

It would be hard to find a similar Personal Shopping experience of this quality in the county and appointments are free. Clients can add to the experience by booking afternoon tea in the café or a glass of fizz to enjoy in the suite. Karen Mackay is available on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays but can accommodate other appointments by special request.

To arrange a free appointment, please call 01476 512346 or email: personalshopper@oldrids.co.uk

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