Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Niminder Bhogal, an expert personal shopper with whom Grand Hotel Portovenere has partnered up to offer its guests high-end and personalized shopping experiences between Liguria and Tuscany.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. What led you to become a personal shopper?
Well I am British, of Indian origin, 39 years old. I grew up in the UK, studied in the UK and Spain, worked in London and Milan and married an Italian and settled in Tuscany, Italy. I now live between Pescia (a small between Lucca and Florence), Forte dei Marmi (my home away from home on the Versilia coast) and Birmingham and London in the UK.
I am a commercial/finance lawyer by qualification and, after having my two children, I left my 10-year career in the world of law for the world of fashion – I had worked for years in retail before becoming a lawyer and my heart has always been in fashion. I worked freelance for three years with an Italian high-end company and several other independent brands, building up a strong portfolio of contacts in the luxury fashion sector in Italy, the UK and worldwide. And that brings me to now…
Last year I set up my own independent agency – Twenty Four Agency, Italy – providing luxury fashion and lifestyle services in Tuscany and beyond. I head the agency, with the support of assistants, a specialist PR/communications company and professional caterers. I studied to become a professional personal shopper and formed various collaborations to further my services.
What services do you offer specifically for hotel guests?
I offer fashion and lifestyle, personal assistance and luxury shopping services to guests at the hotel. This includes a private shopping and styling experience or more traditional physical personal shopping or image consultancy services, online shopping assistance, curating new/hard-to-find/limited edition pieces or organizing private sales or experiences directly with selected brands or multi-brand boutiques or partners.
I think currently one of the most attractive (and unique) services I offer is my Private Shopping package – a sort of personal shopping experience that takes place directly at your hotel suite. I have partnered with one of the most important online multi-brand platforms, as a personal/private shopper, allowing me privileged access to over 200 luxury brands directly at a guest’s hotel suite or other specifically designated area at the hotel.
I also offer personal shopping services specifically tailored to brides and wedding guests.
You offer multilingual consultations and style advice. What languages do you speak? You have many foreign customers: is there a nationality that is more “challenging” to deal with?
I am bilingual in English and Punjabi and speak fluent Italian and good (enough!) Spanish and French. I also have a good understanding of Hindi. (Yes, languages were my passion growing up!)
It is important to be able to adapt to the needs of guests according to their nationalities. For example, some nationalities need complete privacy when shopping due to their religious/cultural traditions – in fact my Private Shopping and Styling service is ideal for these. I’m used to interacting with people from all over the world, really and honestly couldn’t say which of these nationalities is most challenging – I thrive to be as professional as possible and just be myself really!
How does an image consultancy and private shopping experience take place?
Once a guest expresses interest in a Private Shopping and styling experience, the hotel will pass their contact details to me and I will get in touch with the guest directly by phone or instant messaging. Communication is key to my service and I must say my clients generally prefer to connect through WhatsApp – it’s the most immediate and practical form of communication at the moment.
With the Private Shopping experience, I generally provide free consultations by phone or, if required, in person, to help guests to select the items that they would like to try on at their appointment from the online platform I work with.
I will only accept an appointment if I can attend personally and never send anyone on my behalf – so it is best for guests to book as much in advance as possible, preferably as soon as they have booked their stay.
I then personally arrange for the items selected by the guest to be set up in their hotel room (or other designated area at the hotel), ready for the Private Shopping and styling appointment, during which I assist the guest in trying, styling and selecting items to purchase. If necessary, we can change sizes or order additional items directly online.
What are the most popular shopping services requested by hotel guests?
Definitely the Private Shopping and styling service. This works particularly well in places where there are fewer boutiques to shop at, and for guests that prefer a more private and personalized shopping experience, in the comfort of their own holiday venue! There are several advantages to this service including:
- Vast choice of items to try on, and if necessary, in more than one size.
- Ability to try on items together with your own accessories.
- Access to up-and-coming brands that are not yet readily available in boutiques.
- Personalized style advice and all my fashion experience and knowledge that comes from hours and hours of research every day!
- The beautiful gift wrapping and the fact that items are delivered in person directly to your (hotel) door!
And what is your personal favorite shopping area in Liguria-Tuscany?
Whilst I do most of my shopping online (consider me a sort of online shopping expert!) I still also love shopping in Forte dei Marmi and in Pietrasanta in Versilia. I can organize day trips to accompany guests to both of these too.
I love Forte dei Marmi for the truly “luxury” feel (note the pop-up Dior boutique for summer 2019!) and the fact that it’s right by the sea – you can take a boat straight there, enjoy a spot of shopping and then lunch or aperitivo at one of the numerous beach clubs or in the Forte dei Marmi centre. Forte is really for spoiling yourself rotten! And Pietrasanta is for my more unique purchases – its traditionally an artist’s town, I love the arty vibe you get all through the centre and this is very much reflected in the boutiques there too.
Tells us about the experience called “Art and Personal Shopping in Pietrasanta”.
Together with Grand Hotel Portovenere, we can organize everything for a luxurious day out to Pietrasanta – including transport, a personalized tour of the best boutiques and art galleries and insider advice as to where to eat and drink.
Thank you Niminder!