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Q&A: Michelle Goad

Michelle Goad on her app, PS Dept

CEO and cofounder Michelle Goad, a former buyer for Barneys New York and merchandising executive at Marc Jacobs, argues that her app’s marriage of digital convenience and human expertise is the future of luxury shopping.

Q: What is PS Dept., and why would someone use it?

PS Dept.—Personal Shoppers Department—is the first mobile app that lets the consumer connect directly with personal shoppers, so you can get what you want just by sending a text message.

How does it work?

Users download the free app from iTunes. Once logged in, they can view and buy what personal shoppers are recommending to their clients. Clients can also text with personal shoppers they know or ones selected for them.

What gave you the idea for the app?

At the peak of the recession, luxury customers didn’t want to be seen shopping. I saw the top personal shoppers in these luxury stores texting and emailing customers—it was a really clunky and fragmented system. The idea was, Why don’t we just make a platform for that?

The luxury market has been slow to embrace the mobile web, or indeed the web at all. Why is that?

Prior to the recession, luxury retailers were able to rely solely on foot traffic to drive business: If the customer wants the item, the customer has to come to the store. Now with the massive uptick in e-commerce, access is no longer a big enough driver to get consumers in the door.

PS Dept. relies on human expertise, which is unusual for an app. Why build that in?

Most of our clients are busy executives or people who are time-poor. Their idea of luxury is: “Just tell me the three best things that I need to know about.” The only way you can do that is to put a human expert behind the technology.
One of the most striking things about the PS app is how private it feels—it’s not a social network.
Most luxury consumers don’t want to share their $2,000 purchase on Facebook.

How do you select retail partners?

When we started, I worked with the personal shoppers that I had relationships with, who were at Bergdorf and Barneys. As we’ve grown, we’ve let the consumers tell us what they want. So when a customer says, “I really love Ermenegildo Zegna,” we’ll reach out and bring them on board.

When the PS beta launched, it only sold fashion for women. Why expand to men’s?

I realized it made sense. Most men don’t enjoy the in-store experience—one of our clients told us that on his bucket list was to never walk into a store again. And I thought, That’s exactly what we help facilitate.

What’s the geographic distribution of your clients?

Most of our top clients don’t live in New York. We have customers who live in regional markets such as Reno or Denver, who don’t have access to these stores. So they can be shopping on Madison Avenue through their iPhone.

Are there other markets that you’re looking to penetrate?

We’re in NY and LA, and this quarter we’re starting to grow internationally. We’re also launching bespoke tailoring on-demand: Through the app, you can have a tailor come to your office and fit your suit at your desk.

For more information, contact: Michelle Goad, michelle@psdept.com, 917.488.4995, psdept.com.

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