Retail Furniture Showrooms - Help or Harm?





Retail Furniture Showrooms - Help? or Harm?

The field of interior design has changed rapidly over the past 7-10 years. Many of the typical practices are gone away and replaced with newer options and more.  In fact, many more people have access to interior designers the ever before.  Only the wealthy hired interior designers and all was very upscale. With semi-custom being an option for customers, in-store designers and high-end merchandise available to the public..... issues for an interior designer or design firm.  

With semi-custom being an option for customers, in-store designers and high-end merchandise available to the public, being a design entrepreneur can be more challenging

Additionally, with the rapid growth and success of home design shows, Youtube DIY videos and products on the internet, there is an influx of customers who are savvy and more budget conscious.

While wholesalers do provide access to merchandise at "trade" wholesale pricing, retailers offer a smaller percentage discount on products to designers.  Now more than ever, retailers are offering designer services within their stores as a complimentary service.  Which could feasibly lose a client for a designer. 

Change and growth is good and lets face it.  Change is the only thing that is certain in this world.  The best thing to do is change up with it.    More people using designers is fabulous!! That means designers are employed in the field/career they want to be in.  And better yet, they have a secured position within a company.  Being an entrepreneur has "unknowns" and isn't for everyone.

 More people using designers is fabulous!! That means designers are employed in the field/career they want to be in.  And better yet, they have a secured position within a company.  Being an entrepreneur has "unknowns" and isn't for everyone so being able to design within a store setting may be a good option for someone wanting to not take on the responsibilities of their own business.  But there are drawbacks too.  Read on.

The Pro's of Purchasing from a Retailer

1) Your client must touch and try out each and every item.  Buying online does not offer that. So being able to go into a showroom and see how the item looks and feels is vital to sell the pieces.  Risky?  Sure but there are ways to avoid problems...

2) Usually, many of these showrooms can deliver quickly.  This is super important for a client with a second or third residence needing to quickly furnish the home.  Look at what is in stock and design accordingly.  You will be a winner.

3) Returns.  Some clients are indecisive.  They are not the type of client you want to design custom items for.  You want to steer them into purchasing beautiful pieces of course but knowing full well....they may want to return it.  Then, change their mind and end up with it.  Usually, you don't want clients that do this but there is ways to vett them out and get an idea of their process.  You can then decide if they are a good fit for you.

4) The design teams or "one of us" and they are excellent for busy designers.  Delegate.  Let them do the leg work and get back to you on full proposals, dimensions, samples and eta's.  You just saved yourself a bundle of time and they get paid to do this.

5) The client can always go back to the store if there is an issue.  Usually, they would go through the designer.  Its appropriate and typical.  But if they did the purchasing (terms stated in your agreement) Then they will have to manage those issues.

***More in depth understanding of clients purchasing for themselves and how you negotiate that with the client is provided in the ID Biz101 program.  Its too much to cover in this short blog

The Con's of Purchasing Through a Retailer

1) The designer in the store could feasibly take over your project if you are not careful.  Keep that in mind.  There are ways to avoid that.  Conversations at the agreement stage need to take place.  One of them is a designer inside a store can only specify...what is inside the store.That can get repetitive and feel like the showroom itself.

2) The client might want to take over and start spending time in the store and shopping without you.  Not good....there are a million options out there and your job is to keep them on the agreed upon design scheme.  Its exciting for clients and they get carried away with all the choices and start going in a million directions.  Eventually, they can start questioning your guidance and if you lose their trust then you will have a difficult time moving forward

3) You don't make as much money when you purchase through retail.  Yes and no.  I negotiate with clients about store purchasing in the agreement stage of the project.  If a client continues to go out on their own and purchase without you, then its time to reevaluate the project and the relationship.

4) You don't have a lot of control over the product.  You can make some choices but semi custom is just that.  It has limited style options whereas other better options could be in custom or wholesale.

5) They take returns.  This could really turn into a nightmare if the client is too indecisive and says yes but then changes their mind.  That takes a lot of extra time for you and the project does not progress as it should.

 

In closing, I would say I purchase 25-30% of my items from retail.  Accessories in fabulous little shops that have something super great - yes.  I can take it out on memo and see how it looks.

I can buy all kinds of options that I think could work and return the ones that don't. Most of the time we are spot on and only end up returning a very small amount.

Furniture, sometimes it suits the need and I am cautious to bring my clients in but make sure I am there with them as their designer keeping the end result in mind so we stay on track.

 

Change is going to be ever present.  How you approach it is important.  Fighting against it is not a good idea but finding ways to work with it will advance your business even more.

Elizabeth Ribons, ASID,CID

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