Pay-to-shop: New York's newest fashion

In New York everything has a price tag, so it seems, and now you can even pay to shop, on a tour of the city’s most coveted shop windows.

For $150, a good guide can leave a shopper breathless.

“Hurry up ... we won’t have any time left to go to Soho,” Rebecca Merritt, a guide for Shop Gotham told her group: a dozen teachers from Missouri, whose state motto is “show me”.

They chatter. They snap photos.
They stop at every shop.

“I didn’t think they would like NoLita. Now, I can’t make them leave!” Merritt said of the neighbourhood a tad less chic and more cutting-edge than neighbouring SoHo.

Merritt worked in an internet-based business before Shop Gotham.

The shoppers stop outside Hollywood, where Rebecca declared: “This is JLo [Jennifer Lopez] and Britney Spears’s favourite shoe store!”

“Did any of you see Lost in Translation? Do you recognize this panty? It’s the one Scarlett Johansson was wearing at the beginning of the movie!” Meritt said.

The pink-and-yellow panty became an instant object of curiosity. However, the only man in the group said he was unmoved.

“I have five daughters so, you know. I’m used to it,” he said.

The best tour guide is a font of information on architecture and history with the heart of a cheerleader. A shopping tour guide is also a fashion consultant and an accomplice to unbridled spending.

Shopping guides will book tours directly or through, as Shop Gotham does.

Expect to pay $30 to $150 for the tour, which may last two hours to half a day, with visits to designers’ studios and a champagne lunch in a top restaurant.

Anyone can join: Suburban moms whose fashion sense may be dulled; brides-to-be on the hunt for the perfect gown; tourists from Missouri wanting to get off the beaten path in New York; or persons in search of something deeper, according to Tracey Morgan, a psychoanalyst.

“Some just arrived in New York and want to meet some people.

When you spend six hours together, trying some clothes and having brunch, you get to know each other,” Morgan said.

Morgan offers a tour called “Retail Therapy.”

“It’s like good sex,” she said.

If that’s not enticement enough, there’ also the promise of finding a deal. The boutiques on the tour offer discounts for their guided guests, so the tour could pay for itself, if they spend enough.

“If you spend $1 000, you get your money back,” Morgan said. - Sapa-AFP

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