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Modus Shoperandi : CATALOGUE SHOPPER : While many Southern Californians swear by old-fashioned assaults on local retailers, others attack their holiday lists by mouse and modem, phone and fax. And, luckily for those unclaimed bottles of Chanel No. 5, more than a few always hit the mall at the last minute. Here are five of the most common shopping strategies of the season.

November 24, 1995|CINDY LaFAVRE YORKS

It isn't that Linda Silva of Claremont shops by catalogue because she hates stores. Rather, she's found that trying to corral two children, ages 1 and 4, is exasperating.

"Instead of shopping, I'm constantly asking them not to touch this or that," Silva says. "And my 4-year-old, she wants every dress she sees. I can't get anything done, it's impossible."

Silva predicts that she'll do 90% of her holiday shopping via catalogue orders this year. Another mother recently tipped her off to the time-saving arrangement and Silva in turn nudged her sister, a new mother who has ordered the family's Christmas dinner from Omaha Steaks.

Another factor contributing to Silva's reliance on catalogues: The previous owners of her home had their names on an astounding variety of mailing lists. As the current occupant, she receives merchandise missives on everything from smoked salmon to slippers.

Silva has been stockpiling catalogues for an evening--a weekend night after the kids are in bed--reserved for holiday ordering, a ritual that may include playing Christmas music and sipping a mug or two of hot chocolate.

"Being able to shop at any hour of the night is a plus," says Silva, who teaches music part time at Cal Poly Pomona and UC Riverside, plays clarinet in regional orchestras and gives private lessons.

Ambience aside, she has the prep process down to a science. When a catalogue arrives, Silva examines the cover. Unless it grabs her interest, it's dismissed to the circular file. If it looks promising, she moves on to the perfunctory perusal stage. If it passes that test, she adds the catalogue to the keeper pile. Currently, her stack is about 16 inches high.

Among the faves she'll patronize so far: The Pampered Chef, Pottery Barn, J. Crew and Chinaberry, a children's gift and learning tool catalogue. Silva also likes to order from such venues as UNICEF, because part of what she spends goes toward charitable causes.

She pooh-poohs critics who claim catalogue shopping is more costly than the field trip kind. All things considered--gasoline, time spent not working on her music or away from her kids, as well as the expense of mailing gifts she would hand-select for out-of-state relatives--Silva believes she comes out ahead. One way she ensures careful spending: arriving at a preset dollar amount before beginning the process so her overall budget remains in check. Silva also helps her husband with his gifts for her. Occasionally, she'll fill out an order form or two so he's not clueless about what she wants. This year, she jokes, she may even write the checks.

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