My favourite places to shop around the world are department stores, which vary in target market and price points. There’s De Bijenkorf and HEMA in the Netherlands. In the United Kingdom I love John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Selfridges. Canada has Holt Renfrew. In Japan and Hong Kong I love to visit Sogo, Isetan and Takashimaya. In Singapore there’s Tangs. And of course, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s in the US.
I love shopping in department stores because they offer enormous variety, my size is normally available, there’s lots of space, helpful service when I ask for it, the best return policy, and brilliant restrooms. As a shopper I can be anonymous, focussed, independent and comfortable. I am not overwhelmed by the mass of merchandise, because I’ve had lots of practice shopping in huge stores. Usually I’m able to zone in on the areas that interest me quite quickly and get on with it. And last, some department stores have the BEST delicatessen and food halls. If you haven’t been to the food and florist floors in a Japanese department store, you are missing out. It’s sublime.
I am less comfortable shopping in a small boutique because it’s harder to be anonymous and independent. Personally, I don’t want the sales assistant bringing me items by way of suggestion, and waiting outside the dressing room to tell me what he or she thinks of what I am trying on. Although that type of service and camaraderie is part of the charm of shopping at a boutique, it tends to have a negative effect on me. More importantly though, boutiques and small stores lack the variety I am after, and hardly ever stock my size. I also seldom seem to be drawn to the merchandise in a boutique, unless on the off chance, it’s a brand that I can get in a department store. And in that case, I would rather buy it at the department store.
I fully understand that many prefer to shop in small boutiques, and my guess is that Team Boutique will win this race. You receive personal attention, get to know the store staff (possibly even the owner), and the amount of merchandise is very manageable. You might even get a discount when there isn’t a sale, and above all, you love the merchandise.
I bat for Team Department Store. Over to you. Do you prefer shopping in boutiques or departments stores? Tell us why and no batting for both teams. But if you happen to find yourself on the bench, I’m serving chicken lettuce wraps with peanut sauce, and gelato for dessert.