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  • Writer's pictureRenate Ruby

What happened to "trade only" resources?

Updated: Feb 6, 2020

Thirty years ago when I first entered this world of interior design resources there were fortresses for Interior Designers in most major cities. These design centers and designer showrooms were only open to "the trade" (interior designers purchasing for resale to their clients) and you had to apply and get a badge to gain access. No unaccompanied customers were allowed inside and the majority of what was being sold could only be found at these places.

There were no websites, no retail outlets for these high end products and so when customers saw these brands in magazines or their friends' homes they reached out to an interior designer, not just to design their residence, but to give them access to the good stuff to fill it with.

We designers developed a business model based on a protected product. Most showrooms only listed a NET price, and designers sold to their customers at a price of their choosing. The designers were in control of the price their customers paid. This was a great business model. The customers acquired goods they desired through the design trade and designers has a foundation for their businesses that allowed them to make a nice living.

Two things happened over the last 20 years or so that have changed everything and interior designers have not yet adjusted our business models to account for these changes.

#1 - Vendors are able to reach consumers directly through the internet and so online shopping reached into the home furnishings sector.

#2 - Businesses moved their primary distribution to direct-to-consumer during the 2008 recession. Designers have not yet adjusted their business model now that we no longer have exclusive distribution for most of what we use to complete our projects.

I've been watching this happen over the last 20 years, and as more and more products are available direct to the consumers, designers have been reeling. Businesses accustomed to being a part of the supply chain are now optional, and most designers have not found a great way to work with this - and frankly, neither have our customers.

It is my belief that interior designers need to really understand and feel our worth and effectively communicate it to our clients, so they also can absolutely experience the value we bring. If we do not fully embody the value of what we do, our clients will continue to undermine our work and feel ripped off.

Strictly TRADE ONLY resources are a thing of the past. let's face it - there are online purchasing services that will buy anything for anybody, so no client needs us for access. We have to re-define our value and create a different narrative about why we should still be the link in the chain of distribution that vendors sell to and clients purchase from.

By providing an all inclusive experience for our customers we can deliver a better overall product and leave the client with a greater perceived value overall.

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