Suzy Gershman the self-proclaimed Shopping Goddess of the "Born to Shop" series of travel guides fame…has a new book being published in March 2008. We can’t wait for "Where to Buy the Best of Everything" to hit the shelves. In the meantime, we had an opportunity to speak with her about her book and our favorite topic…shopping.
SCS: Was there a defining moment when you knew you were born to shop?
SG: My father actually started all of this when I was eleven years old. Due to his job we lived in Caracas, Venezuela but traveled a lot. Every place we went, my father gave me a quarter and said "see what you can find." The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. My father passed away two months ago and while packing his office I found the first tchotchke I ever bought with my quarter. He had kept it all of these years.
SCS: Which came first, a love of shopping or a love of travel?
SG: For me they came together because I grew up traveling. My father and I both had wanderlust. We had lists of hotels we wanted to stay and places we wanted to see. His best advice was that if you are well dressed, you can hang out in any hotel lobby in the world and look at the people.
SCS: How do you see the Internet changing the way we shop?
SG: How did life get so crazy? Shopping used to be you went someplace, you looked, maybe you bought, you saved. Today the whole process has changed. For those of us who hate malls it’s fantastic. However, there is still nothing like the little mom and pop shop. There are more and more reasons to shop online and it will continue to change the way we shop and how we live.
SCS: Do you feel the need to warn people about the places that they should avoid to shop?
SG: I wrestled with that for a very long period of time. But, I hear my mother’s voice in my head saying "if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all." So I exclude those places I do not like. If it is a place that can’t be avoided then I have to get crafty. For instance, Harrod’s is not my favorite store, but I write "if you must go, the souvenirs are on the bottom floor, etc." I’ll address an issue if it must be addressed.
SCS: It took you three years to complete "Where to Buy the Best of Everything." How is this book different from your "Born to Shop" series?
SG: The "Born to Shop" series is destination oriented. "Where to Buy the Best of Everything" is category or merchandise oriented. It covers the best stores around the world. It is not a book about online shopping. Web addresses were added as a concession to my editors. Personally, I wanted to write a book about my love of shoes and handbags. I am just upset that they cost so much now. It’s criminal.Since prices are insane I like to point people where to find the best bang for their buck.
SCS: There are so many details in your books. How do you keep them current and accurate?
SG: You can’t. It’s impossible. You are dead in the water before it’s in the bookstore. I try to be careful, but I warn people to check everything you read in a guidebook before you make a special trip. Use the concierge to verify that a store is still there before you head out.
SCS: Do readers ever give you a hard time for a recommendation they didn’t like? How do you handle it?
SG: Mostly people write/email me to tell me what they bought. They confess to me instead of their husbands. I recently had a semi-hate letter from a women who "bought and followed your guidebooks for years." She only had four days in London and went to Greenwich for a day proclaiming it was the worst and she couldn’t believe I recommended it. So I called her. As I figured she was using an old guidebook. In more recent editions I warned people that it was no longer a place to shop and a complete waste of time. Whoops.
SCS: With the decline of the dollar, how do you think it will effect the European retail experience?
SG: Europe is expensive, no doubt. But for the person that really knows how to do Europe it will pose little problem. You have to know the back markets and live like a local. Then you will find a bargain. Just don’t go expecting to come back with a great deal on a designer ‘it’ bag. You can still have a great experience. I also think we need to start looking to Asia.
SCS: Can you talk about the difference between the American and European retail experience? Do you think it’s changing at all?
SG: To me the true experience is the mom and pop shop. In Europe they don’t understand cross-merchandising. Everything is sold in it’s place by label. Americans are more sophisticated and pros at mixing labels. Today’s American woman will wear a top from Target with a Marc Jacobs coat, with pants she bought at a sample sale and a great bag she found on clearance. Most European women do not know how to mix. They shop by brand because that’s how the stores sell merchandise there. You would never find a bathing suit section in a European department store.
Look for "Where to Buy the Best of Everything" this March. Or visit: SuzyGershman.com
-Lauren Dimet WatersSee the Top Ten Summer 2016 Trends for Women Over 40
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