To the trade??

I am a lover of interior decor.   It is something I have loved and been interested in since I was in high school.  I grew up in a very modern house that had a living room with two deep red walls mirroring each other, a thick purple shag carpet, a glass sculptured Pace table that centered the room with an l-shaped white boucle couch that wrapped around it with a funky white leather chair that sat across from it.  The carpet that ran through the house including the stairway that had hanging steps was a deep red.  It was quite mod.

Companies the provide the rugs and textiles have always been “to the trade” meaning that a consumer can not walk in and buy 10 yards of fabric to redo their chair and get the “30%” discount that is given to designers.  Not exactly sure why that began but decorators usually get paid by the hour including a percentage of the amount of furniture and product they buy.  It is generally 30% so the industry fuels each other.

I have never understood it.  If a designer buys $20 of furniture or $500k, the hours of ordering it and installing it are the exact same.  Now with sites like 1stDibs and others, the design industry is starting to change.  Decorators are having more clients want to pay a fixed fee for their services.  Decorator marketplaces have emerged so everyone can use a decorator.  Pinterest has become a design heaven.

It is time for the middle person, who is essentially the decorator, not be the only person who can buy from companies that have only sell “to the trade”.  They could reprice all of their inventory at the price it should be, aka 30% off, and sell directly to consumers who want to buy 10 yards of fabric.  I am not sure if there is a new disruptive model out there that is in start-up mode or has already launched but I believe it is about leaders of these companies reinventing their model.  Just like retail has to reinvent itself, the companies in the design world should be reinvented too.

There are too many start-ups who are playing in that field putting pressure on the big companies to change direction.  It is time.

Comments (Archived):

  1. JLM

    .The log jam is breaking. There is nothing one cannot buy as it relates to kitchen and bathroom finishes from aggregators like and Big boxes like Lowes and Home Depot are price matching on the best appliances money can buy.There are a myriad of sources. High end stone finishes for both bathrooms and kitchens are available from China in sizes, quantities, and at prices which are incredible bargains.You have to work your book, but it is happening.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Gotham Gal

      not so much on carpets and fabrics

      1. JLM

        .Fabrics is a difficult one because there are very few large users/buyers. I know next to nothing about fabrics except for Sunbrella.I see lots of carpet competition. The Middle East is dumping Orientals in anticipation of the Iranian sanctions.There is a lot of carpet weaving in China.I am fascinated with what is coming out of China from the perspective of building materials.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. LE

      The issue with many of the items that you are mentioning depends on whether you already know what you want or, like most people, need the help of someone who (in theory at least) should have the experience to help you avoid problems and pick the right merchandise. Sure with effort and time you can duplicate what they do and save money. But is that the best use of someone’s time? For what might be a one off project? I would argue that if you have the money it’s actually cost effective to use a professional (a big ‘if’ is whether they know what they are doing of course) and avoid potential pitfalls with a project. And do I really want to spend time searching through a large amount of pictures or websites in order to find the right design combinations and the right look? Or would I rather pay someone who has a clue to at least narrow things down for me? I pick the latter. Easily. Or pay a higher price at a store that has (in theory at least) better people working there. (Let’s assume that is the case).You can go into Home Depot and you get a ‘grade’ of person working there (sorry but it is true) that honestly isn’t that good at what they do. If they were they wouldn’t be helping you at Home Depot. Sure there are exceptions and that’s a broad generalization but it’s true.Look here is a flooring story. If you install a floor in a medical office it has to be a certain type of floor. (Has to do with spillage of fluids in short). If you go to Home Depot they will sell you a floor and they will install the floor or maybe you have ‘your guy’ who will install it cheap. But it won’t be the right floor because HD won’t almost certainly point that out to you. They will even sell you carpet for the doctors exam rooms. Nor will any wholesale flooring distributor either. The person who takes the order will simply give you what you want.We used to run into things like this in the printing business. Someone would bring in paper to print on and the ‘grain’ was running the wrong way. So if the paper was folded it would in many cases crack. Buy ‘marked up’ paper from us? No issue we use the right grain and everything is fine. If you are experienced and already have made that error or went to school for the topic? Fine bring in your own paper. Want to spend time reading everything that can be wrong on the Internet? Also fine but that takes time to do.One last thing. Both you and Joanne are very smart and not typical of the ordinary public when trying to do this type of thing. Both of you will take the time to clearly understand what you need to know and make the right decisions. So this may not apply to you but it applies to ‘average’ people and it also applies to people who are more or less occupied full time with a busy job. Not saying either of you are not busy but you get my point.

  2. LE

    Companies the provide the rugs and textiles have always been “to the trade” meaning that a consumer can not walk in and buy 10 yards of fabric to redo their chair and get the “30%” discount that is given to designers. Not exactly sure why that beganThat is a simple one. You know the yiddish word ‘nudnik’?When you are a wholesaler you don’t want to have to deal with people for a single order and you are willing to give a discount to an experienced buyer or someone who does not waste your time. And end user is a pain and more typically will not be as quick or will have more questions or issues than ‘someone in the trade’.I can’t tell you the number of times ‘back in the day’ in my first business that I was able to buy at wholesale. (And I will add when that meant something and it was wholesale not the wholesale of today). I would do it by simply understanding how to look and act like a real buyer (even with fake stationery if needed) and not act like a regular end user buyer or company. Usually the bar is very low for pulling that off. I bought all sorts of things that way including expensive computer equipment and software back in the early 80’s. ($50k in the early 80’s) I had checks printed up even with a company name. Had no issue paying the dealer pricing. Did it with many things. Had a resale certificate (easy to get from the state).How did I know how to do this? Well my dad was a wholesaler. He sold giftware (imported) at trade shows and by a catalog. But often people would know the secret handshake and he would sell to them as well. What was that? “I am buying for the synagogue gift shop’. That was one of them. There were others. His thinking while he was a wholesaler it was not his business to actually verify facts that someone presented. As long as they said the right things he was happy to take the money.When I was in the printing business (which I sold) I would have all sorts of tricks to get better pricing. One was what I called ‘the order to get away’. That is where I had an order for a large lot of paper which I had the salesman give me a price on. However there was no order. Then the salesman would check up and say ‘hey whatever happened to that big order…’. And I would say ‘oh your price was to high the other guy got it better luck next time’. Sneaky for sure. Ethical? Who cares. It worked. I got lower pricing that way. Salesman was happy it gave him a way to convince his boss to give me lower prices.

  3. LE

    If a designer buys $20 of furniture or $500k, the hours of ordering it and installing it are the exact same.Short answer to that is people buying a little are being subsidized by people paying more. Nobody can earn a living off of small customers. You lose money on small customers (or clients). You make it up on the big customers and in particular those who can afford to pay more.So you are cutting small customers a break basically because you have to. Nobody is going to pay you $200 for the time it takes you for a $20 order. Right? Ditto if you tie up a table at a restaurant and only get a coffee. They will lose money. The person ordering the big meal is helping them be able to give you that seat. That is why it seems to not be fair. Because people assume there is money made on small deals and that is not always the case.

  4. LE

    Here is another example.In high school and college I made money by waxing cars (among other things like photography).So back then there were big cars like Cadillacs with of all things (you remember this) ‘vinyl roofs’. I would charge $35 (about $120 in today’s dollars) for a complete inside and outside detail for that big car with the vinyl roof. But I could also get the exact same $35 for a small car like a Porsche or Mercedes with no vinyl roof. In other words people would pay $35 ($120) for a small car but they would not pay $70 ($240) for a much larger and much more difficult car. So the small car jobs subsidized what I made on the large cars.