August 04, 2011:

Decor/Design Retailers:  Let’s Have a “Come to Jesus Moment” Shall We….?

Dear Decor/Design Retailers,

This has been brewing for some time now. I need to get it off my chest.

 

Designer Discounts - let's discuss.

For starters, I offer my clients discounts and bill for my time. The value of the discount varies. Many factors are involved - duty/brokerage fees/deliveries/incidental charges all affect the price I as a designer can purchase an item for I then discount after that has been taken into account. It's an art form let me tell you - higher level thinking, advanced math and in some cases tantric yoga are involved. It's never straightforward and sucks up a HUGE amount of time. I bill for my time and for the time it takes my staff to perform these Cirque Du Soleil type moves. However....

If one more client comes to me and says "Can't I just have your discount?" or "I'll just get the designer discount from the store..." or tells me what said designer discount is because the salesperson told them what it was or offered it to them to try and get them to commit to purchasing right then and there I am going to BLOW MY FREAKING STACK OFF. Oh wait, I think I just did.

THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN PEOPLE BROKEN. It's like the Design World is the Titanic, which has hit the iceberg and is about to do a Swan Song into the depths of the Ocean and every salesperson/Decor Store owner is throwing the designers overboard in hopes they can make it just a little bit longer. I'm not blaming the clients, I'm putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of the stores.

I tend to pass on my discount when it is offered on the retail level because I CHOOSE to give that perk to my clients. However, it is NOT a right. Anyone and their neighbour seems to qualify for said designer discount and this MUST MUST MUST stop. Stores need to buck up, qualify the individual, get them to fill out a form, PROVE they are a designer and establish a mutually beneficial relationship with said designer. I think designers need to jump through a few hoops in order to get a discount. Prove that they are equally as invested. I'm not looking for freebies or an edge here really I'm looking for solid relationships that will serve both parties over time.

Let's not be naive and think that there aren't those willing to say they are designers and feel they ARE designers of their own homes. Those people DO NOT QUALIFY FOR A DESIGNER DISCOUNT! You need to have a business, do work for other people have some actual credentials even say... PAY TAXES!!!!! Stores who just give out a discount to any Looky Lou I'm disappointed in you. You are KILLING THE MARKET.  Watering it down to Big Box Store mentality and devaluing the role of designers who are essentially - FREE SALESPEOPLE for you. Stores clearly raise their prices to take into account these 'token' discounts thrown out without discretion. So in the end, who is winning here? Not the designer and CERTAINLY not the client.

In order to combat this depressing trend, I've taken to going over stores' heads. I try and buy directly from the same suppliers the stores are. I give my clients better discounts than I would be able to get with the sometimes laughable discount stores even offer. This often includes getting them better pricing on custom goods. Seeing as arranging to get my discount to a client takes up as much time as ordering the product myself, I'd rather do so. It's a better win/win situation for both me and the client. I get access to more items than stores carry, I establish my own relationships with suppliers and so forth.

How can we teach our clients to invest in their homes and buy quality pieces when everyone is competing over price and not over quality pieces?

Believe you me, I WANT to support my local merchants but the system is broken. I WANT to feel that these stores are supporting me and my business too. A stronger Designer/Store relationship will benefit everyone involved. I hear stores bemoaning the lack of business or loyalty but come on, let's get real. It's a two way street. Protect your designers. Do not disclose your discount policy. Ask your customers in advance if they are working with a designer. Assign Designers a key staff person to deal with and structure your commission policy accordingly. Look past just the initial or one off sale and seek out long term relationships. Offer special promotions or sneak peeks to designers only. Offer special promotions or sneak peeks to Designers WITH their clients only... Simply put, invest in professionals and you will reap the rewards. We are a fiercely loyal bunch. For goodness sake, host a bloody Tweet Up at your store. Crate and Barrel has done so - and it brought in people on a quiet night to experience their furniture and have some fun. However, that's the only one that I can think of... for real.

 

It's time to think beyond the box. Step outside your comfort zone. Hire a Social Media PR person - Leslie Carothers of the Kaleidoscope Partnership @tkpleslie on twitter comes to mind. Do SOMETHING but for goodness sakes, stop throwing your potentially biggest fans under the freaking BUS!

Love,

Me xo