Updated: Dec 19, 2020
With federal stimulus funds sitting in their bank accounts, Guam shoppers are anxious to get out of their homes this holiday season. But jostling through the crowd is not everyone’s favorite romp.
“We can shop at any stores,” said Cara Jenae Chamberlain, who recently launched the "personal shopper" business with her husband JeCarlo Palomo.
The couple shopped for an unexpected number of clients when they launched the service on Instagram and Facebook on Nov. 7. “On our first day, we expected one or two customers because we were new in business, but we ended up helping 10 people when we did a soft start shopping trip at Ross and assisted our first set of customers,” Chamberlain said.
The demand for such a service has since blown up beyond the couple's expectations.
"It's overwhelming but we are grateful," Chamberlain said.“We are a full-service shopping business and can basically go anywhere on request and based on availability. Ross is the most popular and most frequent. But we have done personal shopping for our customers at Macy's, Home Depot, Kmart and Payless.”
With the social distancing requirement becoming a public health imperative, hiring a personal shopper is another addition to the list of shopping options spawned by the Covid-19 pandemic. Taking into account the safety that weighs on the minds of shoppers and employees, local retailers have adopted e-commerce that allows customers to place their orders online, either for curbside pickup or doorstep delivery.
While the coronavirus transmission on island has been showing signs of slowing down, the return to normal may take some time. Hiring a personal shopper may soon become part the new normal in the retail landscape.
“We upload photos of the store in a Google photos album which we provide a link to if they customer is registered and has paid the $25 registration fee,” Chamberlain said.
“At Ross, we post most of the photos of the whole store since that's an always changing stock. For other stores, we typically post the sales on the floor/flyers. We accept requests for any photos of sections and items that are not already posted.”
The service fee per shopping trip is $8, plus handling fees per item, ranging from $1 to $4 depending on the product’s size and weight.
The personal shopping business only requires the use of social media platforms to connect with customers.
“Customers who have registered we have already made contact with on Whatsapp which is where we send the link and accept their requests. They typically forward the photo and circle the items they want,” Chamberlain said.
The personal shopper attempts to recreate the actual shopping experience for the customer by showing them closeup e-photos of the selected item.
But while shopping can be a therapeutic task, it comes with not-so-fun collateral particulars. “Long lines, limited space in shopping carts, weather conditions, crowded areas, long hours, parking and space to keep items when we aren't ready to checkout,” Chamberlain said. “One of the greatest challenges is being able to serve and manage the high volume of requests we receive, but we believe this challenge has led us to opportunity.”
Chamberlain said the business also offers personal shopping to be sent off island.
“We have several requests already from Saipan to send out and we are so excited to send to our sister island,” she said. “Beyond Saipan, we can shop for snacks and items that our islanders in the mainland (or elsewhere) may want to have sent out there to them.”
Other than personal shopping, Chamberlain’s business also provides other errand services such post office runs.
Chamberlain said she and her husband decided to hire personal shoppers to meet the customers’ demand, which she said is growing faster than expected.
“Right now, we have two personal shoppers, but we are looking for more to join our team,” she said. “We just took on new team members to help with administrative work so that we could assist more people in more ways.”