I know it's been a while since I've been on this thing... I've been SO busy! Between traveling to my client's home to help her with her 6th remodel in Chicago, to working on a new Frozen Yogurt shop and the many home clients in between all preparing for the holidays, fall is the busiest time of year for a designer. Despite that, there is one theme that keeps coming up throughout the years that I feel I need to clarify... as I was just asked this again.
It seems that homeowners are under the impression that designers get discounts to pass on to their clients. While the answer I give you may sound harsh, as it is NO, the reasons why this is the answer will put that into perspective. I will happily explain.
Long, long ago in a time which appears ancient now, there lived furniture stores. These stores sold furniture to homeowners. This was a great thing for the stores but the problem was that these customers, for the most part, would be one time sales. Think about it: you need furniture to fill a room, you buy it, relationship with store is now over. When will you buy furniture for that room again? Maybe in six or seven years you may, but who says you will buy it from that same store? Enter in the interior designer. The store owner understood the value that he or she would bring to their business. As someone who services many clients at one time, they saw the opportunity to gain repeat business from someone who's loyalty would ensure their profitability. In order to establish this relationship the owner extended a discount to court the business of the designer, as incentive to continue to purchase from their store.
As a designer, we make their job easier. We bring them our clients and take away the long amount of time that their salespeople would normally spend working with you if you walked in from the street. The salesperson, when dealing with a homeowner, must assist you with concepts, fabric patterns, size info, custom options. When a designer deals with a store, we come in with all that we need or can search without the assistance of a salesperson, freeing them up to make their money. We merely place an order. We then maintain the connection with the store to ensure your stuff arrives on time, as ordered and coordinate the delivery schedule. We handle any mishaps along the way (and although you don't often know about them, they do happen quite often). We take the headache away from our client's purchase and allow them to live worry free.
Some designers, such as myself, have accounts with online vendors. These vendors are oftentimes the same as those that provide furniture for the big box stores. Because we do not have a showroom to display all of their pieces, our discount is no where near that of the large showroom. However, a little known fact for the average homeowner is that most furniture gets delivered to stores R.T.A. (ready to assemble). To transport them easily on the truck, tables, chairs, beds and other pieces come disassembled and get assembled by the furniture stores in their back room by their employees, then rolled onto the showroom floor. When we purchase from these vendors, we receive the pieces in the same manner and must either hire someone to assemble it for us or dare to do it ourselves. There is a value to assembly. It's not a free service; stores charge you for this in their massive markup, which can be everything from 100-300%. Isn't it fair that we charge for this same amount of work?
Now, I will tell you, in this day of competition among designers, you do find designers who offer to "pass their discount onto their clients." I can guarantee you that , if your designer is doing this, they are making up for the trouble in other ways. When we work on a room for you, we are managing purchases from multiple sources simultaneously, not all from one store or possibly two, as a homeowner would. This takes a lot of work on our part. Because of this, we make the small amount of profit from the discounts we get from our vendors, which is typically between 10-25% (and very rarely on that higher side). I have the blessing of having direct accounts with many vendors that sell to stores, so my discounts are a bit larger than what I'd get from the store being a middle man. Because of this, I do benefit my clients by offering them a lower price than what they'd get for the same item if they purchased it from the store themselves. I basically split the discount in half, so they are buying it at a discount and I am not taking on the inconvenience factors for free. On occasion a homeowner will go online and try to "shop" a designer's price, not realizing that there are shipping costs or assembly is not included on an item or that the online store that is selling the product is not a reliable source for many reasons. All the homeowner sees is that "false bottom line." Please understand that designers are not here to cheat you out of your money. We provide a most valuable service. We go above and beyond for our clients. At the end of the day, when your home is gorgeous and all put together, and all that's left to do is relax and enjoy your space, does that $85.00 you could have saved on that chair purchase really matter that much?