Long before there were major shopping malls or grand department stores and even well before modern transportation, retail entrepreneurs busied themselves learning the art of the sale. It was not as easy then as it is now for customers to get from their homes into town for a day of shopping. And the difficulty in getting from point A to point B in the days before two car homes, interstate highways and mass transit spawned an entirely new type of business.
It started with friends asking their neighbors who were headed out to shop if they would mind picking up a few extra items, essentially, asking their neighbors to do some shopping for them. This “do me a favor” situation ultimately led to the rise of the personal shopper: people who – for a small fee – would go to town and do your shopping for you.
Over time, these personal shoppers developed relationships with various retailers and were able to secure discounts on merchandise. They, in turn, could offer their customers better deals and, thereby, ensure repeat customers. Naturally, personal shoppers began to favor the retailers who gave them discounts over those that didn’t. It was a win – win – win situation.
As the saying goes, nothing lasts forever. Ultimately the retailers began asking, “Why do we need the personal shopper?” And with that question, they began cutting out the “middle-man” and offering personal shopping services as part of their normal fare. And it was that development that sparked this week’s Stories of Atlanta.