ANY FASHIONISTA worth her salt knows that, to be taken seriously, she needs a personal shopper - a super-enhanced version of your best friend, armed with an incredible knowledge of what's hot and what's not. She knows the difference between the fit of Seven and True Religion jeans, whether that green Chloe top will fit you, and that Roland Mouret's Galaxy dress was going to be a sell-out before you read about it in Vogue. It may seem surprising that personal shopping is a relatively new concept in Hong Kong. The trend emerged several years ago, when US department store Neiman Marcus launched its service, transforming shopping into a fun, tailor-made experience for women. Although Hong Kong has had its share of independent style doctors and so-called wardrobe consultants, it's only now that high-end stores are offering in-house personal stylists. Luxury department store Lane Crawford was quick to introduce the service, which eventually found a permanent home at the new IFC store. 'Our personal stylists are here to assist customers with everything from selecting seasonal items and wardrobe makeovers to choosing a birthday gift or organising a wedding list,' says Franz Kraatz, senior vice-president of sales and operations. The personal shopping team at IFC comprises three trained stylists, all with experience in the fashion industry and trained in the season's styles by the store's fashion director. You can book an appointment - it's free - during store hours. Most are held on the shop floor and can last from 90 minutes to two hours. Stylist Becky Chang says those who use the service might be looking for something specific or they might want to revamp their entire wardrobe. Chang says she likes to speak to customers before the appointment to work out their tastes and preferences, after which she'll prepare a selection of clothes for them to try. She encourages them to set a budget. The store boasts a large range of brands and sizes, from a European 34 to a 44. Advice isn't limited to clothes or accessories - she helped one customer choose an $80,000 rug. 'One thing we want to emphasise is that this service is free and open to all customers,' she says. 'Many people end up not buying, which is fine.' If going to the store doesn't suit your schedule, you can make an appointment at any other Lane Crawford location - or get a stylists to visit your home, hotel or office. The store also has an in-house concierge team to help with anything from restaurant recommendations to storing bags while you shop, as well as a team of three cosmetic concierges to give makeovers, makeup and skincare advice. Tired shoppers can also take a break at the martini or CD bar, where there's free coffee and you can listen to tunes at one of five iPod stations. At the newly opened Harvey Nichols, shoppers can meet stylist in the personal shopping suite, which features a lounge with a plasma television, magazines and three large changing rooms that range from 150 to 200sqft. There are six stylists: five women (including a former fashion editor) and one man - any of whom can go to your home or office. The first appointment is usually for 30 minutes, during which you can discuss your lifestyle and what you're looking for. You're then asked to make a separate appointment - usually for the next day - so you can try on clothes. 'That gives us time to prepare not only items they need but to mix and match complete looks, including handbags and shoes,' says Elaine Hui, head of the personal shopping department. Hui also says that trends are taken into account, although it also depends on what the customer wants. Sizes are more limited, usually ranging from small to medium - but you can place special orders. 'People who use the service are mainly locals, which is important because personal shopping is about trust,' Hui says. 'Once you get to know the customer you can start to put aside pieces for them when new stock comes in or suggest items they might like. 'Everyone wants to try the service, but feel they have to spend a lot, which isn't the case at all. It's about making shopping more convenient and streamlined.' The department can accommodate groups, so friends can visit together. Other services include image styling, gift selection, a personal shopping companion and a tailor-made day of indulgence, for which you can choose from a range of services, including beauty treatments, lunch at the cafe and personal styling. Personalised shopping services aren't confined to department stores. The Landmark Mandarin Oriental is enlisting several international luxury brands to provide in-room shopping for guests. 'This is a great service for people who demand privacy and extra attention,' says public relations director Josephine Lee. And upmarket stores are introducing more services all the time. Platinum Card-holders at Lane Crawford, for instance, can use the Platinum Suite at IFC, a 2,000sqft space with panoramic views of the harbour. Canapes and champagne are offered while card-holders get a consultation in one of four spacious fitting rooms. There's also a separate vanity room where you can get free makeovers and a last-minute touch-up for your hair. Since re-opening its main store last month, On Pedder now offers VIP customers the option of shopping outside regular store hours, or their staff will bring a selection of accessories to your home. Designer-brand mono stores are also raising the bar. In its new Landmark store, which opens next month, Louis Vuitton will launch its first VIP room in Hong Kong. Customers will be able to enjoy a range of free and by-invitation privileges - although the details are still under wraps. As other brands expand and open more outlets, there's no doubt that they'll also be introducing incentives to keep their customers coming back.