selling more products as an interior designer

Forging relationships with new vendors

Here is the thing- no two vendors have the same program going on at market- some will open everyone and their dog and greet you with open arms. And then many will give you the cold shoulder before you even get to the front desk to request a rep or tour. It is key to successful vendor relationships to understand what you are likely to encounter BEFORE you go into the showroom. Be respectful of their ways too- just as you would expect them to be of yours.

My very first market and showroom visit

My very first market – this will be my 18th- my team and I sashayed into a showroom not prepared- at all- and just assumed we could get into any of them- oy vey. 

This happened to be Mitchell Ted Bill Williams or whatever the hell- We strolled in after a long walk ( showroom was not in the core area)  with lots of confidence wanting to get through those very closed big white double doors. We presented ourselves to the front desk with all the naive bravado we could muster-  only to be rebuffed in a decidedly unfriendly way. We cooled our heels for about 20 minutes and finally someone said well- we CAN let you in but designers cannot open with us anyway- so we grabbed as many cookies as we could stuff in our bags and sashayed right back out again. 

After that I learned my lesson and did not walk into a stand alone showroom without knowing what the hell was going to happen- I can only eat so many cookies! 

pix of cheryl kees clendenon
Older and wiser

Approaching new vendors- What do you ask?

Cheat sheet of important things to know

1. How do you get the best pricing?

Asking this may get you a comment like- spend 200k a year- in which case you might ask- how about “next best pricing”- but always use these words because you need to be very CLEAR and not let them assume you are dolly decorator and will buy onesie twosies- go in with the attitude- I am going to be your biggest customer! But be sure to know the limitations so they don’t give you container pricing when you really want stocking dealer!

2. What is the opening order?

Which goes along with the above- but ask directly- take notes as you will forget.

3. Where do you ship from?

Key because if you are in North Florida like us- companies that ship from California can be too pricey if they do not have a freight cap.

4. Do you have freight caps or any incentives on freight?

Will you use my preferred carrier? If I use your carrier, what is the percentage typically charged to go to my area? Freight is the 600 pound smelly gorilla for most of us- it is important to know these costs along with any additional packaging costs or crating fees. If you do not ask you will not know.

5. Who else sells the line in my area?

Do you have territorial exclusives? Important to know- I do not like competing for lines- I beat to my own drum so I want to know so can avoid any that are saturated in my market.

6. Do you have a strong IMAP policy and if so what is it?

IMAP means internet minimum advertised pricing. I have noticed some vendors getting more strict on this- finally. But often it is still up to 25% off published retail so can leave slim margins but is a fact of life and you need to know their take on this issue.

7. Are you offering any “show specials” this market?

Since we have a shop, I am always looking for deals- this extra profit can make your month seriously. Vendors like Dovetail always have show specials and we always buy- you can always change the order later ( do NOT tell them I said this!) and best to get it on the order slip while at market so is fresh.

But many other lines will also have deals or one offs from showroom floor- we buy               DesignMaster dining room chairs and so will buy the one offs if we like them from the floor at 50% of wholesale – we used them for sit tests and then ultimately will sell them to someone for desk chairs etc or use in the shop.

Design Legacy has a deal- ***share your showroom photo using #designlegacylover and get 10% off your show order***

 8. How do you convey pricing?

Do they have an online log in or hard copy price list or what. And how soon can I get one? Have your credentials ready to go- often is easier at market to set up an account than waiting until you get home.

Should you buy product at market?

original art
We bought this for a client at market before last- from a JP Kilkenny who exhibits in Design Legacy- client loved it !

This depends on type of business you have. If you have a shop, then yes it is a good idea to plan and buy so you have inventory on the way- depending on the lead times of course. We used to not buy and just take pictures etc but man that got old- we got back to our busy business and ended up being in a jam when we needed new inventory of a larger scale- picture the sofa on the floor selling and you have a big whole to fill- best to be prepared for new inventory coming in.

But even if you do not- and find the perfect piece- buy it if you can.

Either way- take more pictures than you think possible–take pictures of the outside of wherever you go into–Take pictures of you or your colleagues sitting in your favorite comfy upholstery so will remember it and take notes on this! Be prepared for the inevitable- Can I sit on the sofa you are recommending??

Be in contact with your clients- and share the excitement with them!

I call this “working market” and do not get the “I never text my client folks” – seriously. And when at market we are texting ideas non stop- mostly to share the excitement of market but also to show them pieces we think might work and “to gitter done”! Why not? If you are organized and know what you need, texting “in the moment” can be a great way to get clients feeling involved and also to sometimes front load and opening order.

liz looking at a rug
Liz matching the samples we lug to market with a rug.

Social networking and real deal working=multi tasking!

Market is fun but exhausting. I love seeing my colleagues but typically is on the street or sometimes at a book signing or briefly at a party. We come to work and are there for 5 days and are busy every minute of it! We often will plan our showroom visits to some vendors right before an event so can kill two birds with one stone!

Now that I am working with some brands and other designers on a consulting basis, networking is more important than it has been but I still will multi task as much as possible because it is a lot of ground to cover!

picture of friends at high point market
From last market- random meeting with several of my favorite people!
High Point market pix
And then there are those times two designers are so tired they can do nothing but hold each other up! See? I do slow down for a second!

Not to miss showrooms

Design Legacy

original artwork
Design Legacy is a feast for the senses!

126 Virginia Place, High Point

One of my favorites- we often will look for art for a client job and have Kelly sign it there and take a picture of him doing it- clients love it! Off the beaten path but worth it. Of note, Denise McGaha’s collection of textiles! Take a peek at Denise’s collections here.

Currey and Company

IHFC – M110, Main, Floor 1

Go later in afternoon as they stay open later – strategic for us to max out the day. Denise is adding some pieces to her collection this market too!

Gabby Home

In interhall but also has exterior entrance across from Currey in the building across the street- Look for a tall blonde young woman- my youngest daughter Libby- and say hi! Gabby has a lower opening and even without stocking pricing- the designer pricing is a good deal. Hint- the dealer pricing is backwards on the tags:)

Bernhardt

IHFC – D601, IH404, Design Center, Floor 6

Always a show stopper. Lots of photo ops.

Dovetail

Market Square – 142, 243, Floor 1

A great place for the rustic look- go to check out the show specials and they always have cheese and such at lunch time- and wine.

drift wood mirror
This made it onto our buy list:)

Caracole

122 N. Hamilton St

They have a killer new building and am stoked to see what all they will be doing now! A good line for us.

Notre Monde

IHFC – IH311, Commerce, Floor 1

Love this line- we sell their trays the most.

Made Goods

The Bank on Wrenn – 203 N. Wrenn St.

Not cheap but we love their mirrors. New location this market!

Hudson Valley Lighting

Market Square – M70, M90, Mezzanine

A go to for us- see 4 lines in one space- and they have a bar:)

Accessories

My faves are not at this market but we do always go to Global Views, Uttermost, Arteriors and the smaller vendors in market square.

 

Enjoy and look for me!