updated 15 Jul 2012, 13:59
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Tue, Dec 22, 2009
The Business Times
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Personal shoppers to the rescue
by Melissa Lwee

IT’S close to Christmas and your wife has been dropping strong hints about an original Paul Poiret but you have no idea what it is or how to get it. Check your speed dial for ‘concierge’ because whether you’re looking for a vintage dress by the late couturier or a Himalayan crocodile skin Birkin, ’tis the time for your friendly personal shopper to step in and save the day.

Pomellato's one of a kind Pom Pom rings.

With more money but less time, harried business executives are increasingly looking towards gift concierge services to ease the festive hassle. While not as widely used in Singapore as in, say, the UK or the US, the demand has been strong enough to justify the London-based Quintessentially’s ( Singapore presence since December 2007.

Among its shopping coups, Quintessentially has succeeded in sourcing and engraving a Rolex watch in just three hours, locating a discontinued classic Chanel handbag and even organised a Christmas day soiree complete with a three reindeer-sleigh, Mrs Claus and some elves.

Given its clients’ penchant for exclusivity, the company has just introduced Quintessentially Bespoke, a collection of limited edition products from brands such as Matthew Williamson, Richard James and Jessica McCormack to ease its members’ shopping woes.

“Before the year-end rush, our dedicated account managers are already in direct contact with our members to offer any assistance as well as proactively provide a list of unique gift ideas to take away the stress and hassle of gift-giving,” reveals Quintessentially Singapore’s head of operations Anastasia Ling.

“Whether it is recommending a list of items based on members’ requirements and budget, sourcing for items locally or globally, liaising with stores for private shopping sessions or even personal shopping services that include gift wrapping and delivery, Quintessentially can most certainly sort it out.”

Likewise, at DFS Galleria, members of their Platinum Services Club have, since four years ago, had the luxury of having a personal shopper on hand to help with their gift lists.

For the festive season in particular, these customers are also given first dibs on exclusive holiday products and gift ideas that are not available elsewhere.

“As we develop a close tie with our customers, we usually keep a portfolio of our customers profiles so that we know what items are of general interest to our clients,” says DFS’s personal shopper Lily Teo.

Jessica McCormack's cufflinks

“We will also arrange a private preview when special products comes in and offer reservation or special order services.”

She adds that these special limited edition products appeal to many of the socialites who tend to frequent DFS Galleria.

“As they always appear in events and magazines, they enjoy accessorising themselves with the show-stoppers that will make them stand out from the crowd.

As Christmas season is typically a time to splurge, some of the more interesting items which we have sourced for are limited edition timepieces, or exclusive luxury items from our stores at other countries, which we have had to place a special order and fly in especially for our valued clients,” she says.

Others who find themselves busier than ever during the Christmas season include Vertu’s famed concierge service.

“The festive season is a busy time with many people going on holiday, where travel arrangements need to be made or entertaining both at home and away from home, with restaurants or caterers to be booked. There are of course also gifts to be bought for family, friends and clients, so it is a time during which Concierge can offer services to make life that little bit easier,” says a Vertu Concierge spokesperson.

“At Christmas there may be seasonal special editions, which through our relationships with suppliers we may be able to increase members' chances of successfully purchasing that specific item ... We also have clients who cannot source a particular product, such as a specific pair of shoes, in their home country and Concierge will purchase on their behalf and ship it to them.”

For those who do not have the luxury of having access to a concierge service, there are other options on the market. Retail consultancy Glamour Incorporated ( is one of them.

It extends sourcing services to many of the private clients that frequent the company’s seasonal trunk shows although the service is available to the public upon special request.

“Because we hold a seasonal trunk show, we are in a position to shop for our clients when we go on sourcing trips especially for those who want to buy special gifts that are yet to be commercially available in Singapore so the recipient cannot put a price tag on the present,” explains its spokesperson Cary Cheng.

“Or sometimes one of our clients would call us and say, I saw this thing in a magazine, can you get it for me because I can’t find it in Singapore. Because we have an office in Europe, we are able to look for the item overseas and have it shipped over. Furthermore, if it happens to be a supplier that we know, we will see if they can reproduce the product even if the product is sold out. Otherwise we'll offer similar alternatives.”

Jessica McCormack's Wings of Desire earrings

Sourcing experts aside, during this festive season, there are other gift shopping services on the market that are simply aimed at making the gift finding process easier.

Luxury lifestyle emporium Vanilla Home at Palais Renaissance ( has a Christmas service that makes gifting a walk in the park. With just a simple phone call and a budget in mind, its founder Stefanie Hauger will pull together 10 to different options for their clients to choose from.

“We can send photographs of the products over so they don’t even have to come into the shop to choose before we deliver the gift straight to the recipient,” says

Ms Hauger with a laugh. “Very often, it is people who don’t have the time to shop or people who are overseas who want to find gifts for their friends in Singapore. We also do lovely hampers which make great corporate gifts.”

Otherwise, those looking for a more personal touch can seek help from top wedding planner Renee Leong who has had so many non-wedding clients asking for unique or personalized gift ideas that it might as well be full-fledged business.

“It started off with casual conversations in my boutique during my clients’ dress fittings that my clients asked if I had any idea on Christmas gift baskets or unique gifts? Due to my busy schedule I have no time to go shopping with them and I ended up suggesting fun "Gift within A Gift" idea for them created specially by Renee L Collections,” says Ms Leong who has previously custom-designed unique gifts such as a “stylish fashion influence” tree for a fashionista.

“This year we came up with pretty handmade handbags donned with handmade flowers, crystals filled with Xmas treats custom made for each and every person (gift with a gift)”

Over at Club 21’s Style Services ([email protected]), for its inaugural Christmas season, its director May Kong and her team have come up with a way to help their Club21 members with their Christmas lists.

“What we do is we invite our members to submit a list of names for the people they want to shop for; their genders, ages, sizes and of course, their budget and then with that list on hand, we help them to pick out the appropriate presents,” says Ms Kong.

“After which, all they have to do is to come down and vet the presents to see if they are appropriate although sometimes the really busy ones just leave it to us to pick out the gifts.”

She adds: “Some of these are looking for individual presents such as husbands whose wives are our clients. They come to us for help finding a surprise present that their wife would like such as a piece of Pomellato jewellery that might have caught her eye previously.

Richard James' pea coat

“Others include busy corporate individuals who have no time to shop but have a lists of between 50 to 100 people to shop for! You can imagine that without our help their previous Christmas shopping trips were absolute nightmares!”

More often than not, clients go to her for advice on gifts for people they don’t know very well because these are the people who are “the most difficult to shop for”.

As a tip, she recommends something like a nice lacquered tray for home use or small things like home fragrances.

Agrees Glamour Incorporated’s Cary Cheng who frequents both the fashion and gift fairs: “It is very difficult to buy clothes for people unless you know them very well. Try to look for more general gifts like homeware.”

He recommends something like the VERY chic home parfum that can only be found at the Tyan boutiques and BL.V.D. at Mandarin Gallery.

“It is a general gift but yet unique enough because Singapore is the only place outside of Italy to stock the two month old product and it is a perfume for the home presented in a smart wood casing and all products are refillable,” he says.

With all that said and done, despite the shopping worries, the festive season should be about showing your loved ones how much you care, something that was made evident to Club 21’s Ms Kong while helping her clients shop.

“I think this service has opened my eyes that there are a lot of generous people out there who remember Christmas as a time of giving, make an effort to find time to shop for people they love and admire,” she concludes.

“I think that it is wonderful that for once a year we don’t just think about ourselves and think about the people who matter to us.”

[email protected]

This article was first published in The Business Times.

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