Changing rooms are alien territory to me


Mrs Choueke loves to shop. It doesn’t seem to matter what she is aiming to buy or how, she’s a natural. She’s amazing at finding the perfect gift, instinctive with impulse buys (cleverly filling our flat with stuff I didn’t even know we needed) and is a tireless strategist when planning a major purchase for herself.

How I feel about shopping depends greatly on what I’m buying. I love buying gadgets, music and books. I also have no problems doing the weekly grocery shop, whether online or in a store. But I’m terrible at buying clothes. I have precious little understanding of changing fashion which means the entire process of choosing from “this season’s finest” is at best an exercise in confusion and at worst humiliation.

I take no pleasure in trying out “new looks” in alien changing rooms and on the off-chance that I feel confident enough to buy, I’m utterly incapable of patiently waiting my turn in a long queue and often walk out before I reach the till.

One time, however, I bought a pair of jeans so quickly and painlessly that on leaving the store I immediately turned round, walked back in and bought two more pairs (ensuring the delay of any future shopping trips).


It was on a visit to New York several years ago. I’d been tasked by my fashion-conscious older brother to find for him a specific pair of Levi’s jeans that he knew only to be available in the US. My elder sibling had given me the name of the garment, the style, the exact colour and his size but even armed with all that information I didn’t expect it to be as easy as it was.

On entering the extra large Levi’s store in NYC I was approached by Joseph, a young member of staff who volunteered himself as my personal shopper for the duration of my visit. I assured him that his all-American approach was neither necessary nor particularly welcome. But he gently insisted.

I tried to shake him off. I acted increasingly awkward and tried to display my disinterest at his descriptions of the varying qualities of his denim products but Joseph was like a very pleasant, very informative limpet.

Personal shoppers of this kind don’t exist in the UK without you seeking them out in certain department stores. Maybe they should. Joseph was actually a pretty cool guy and knew how to handle a grumpy, reluctant shopper like me.

There are dozens of tricks and tips, sometimes entire strategies, that retailers could consider applying that might see them grow amid the current gloom. We talked to some of the most successful retailers on the high street to put together our five-step retail survival plan. Let us know what you think and what is working for you at


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