WTF To Do When Clients Wanna Buy Retail


Don't you just love it when your client Brenda tells you that she wants to buy an item that's "practically the same" online?

Here you are like WTF? I just spent hours finding all of the perfect pieces for your project, and here they want to buy a cheap POS?

What they find is usually lower quality and has a big ass markup on it, but it ships for free, and she can get it tomorrow. Weeee!

Not to mention that you've spent countless hours sourcing the perfect item to only now have to go back and see if this new "jewel" they've found will work with the design. So you will now be wasting more time on this.

Hint: Make it known in your contract that if your clients decide to go "rogue" on you, that you will need to charge them an additional fee to make sure that the items they've found at a "lower price" will work in the design.

Your clients don't want to waste money, and because we can get anything we want within a couple of days or even hours, they are more on the instant gratification mindset.

You've got to remember too that your clients have a lot of misinformation about designer discounts. They may ask you for your price, but at the same time would never ask the grocery store what their price is on that bottle of wine. Probably because we don't have an entire entertainment niche dedicated to grocery stores. *cough* HGTV *cough*

But you? You are their best designer buddy, and your job is to save them from themselves. 

Take this umbrella stand...

interior designer trade discount

I found about five websites selling this for around the same price. And look "Free Shipping"! But, this may be the reason why many clients go looking online trying to find something that's "practically the same." Then they find it, buy it, and it looks like shit which in turn ruins the design you spent hours creating. 

You can see from their perspective why they wouldn't want to buy an umbrella stand that costs more than a car payment. 

I have said in the past that depending on the markup to make the bulk of your design fees is not the way to go moving ahead in the future. I still believe that. You need to charge for your genius. BUT, I will say that there is now a way to make some dinero on the backend and still be a lifesaver for your clients.

Forget that shitty 20% To The Trade (TTT) discounts you see on those retail company websites... that's not worth your time and most of that stuff they are selling in knocked-off cheap crap marked up a ton. Plus, you shouldn't be passing that discount on to your clients because THAT IS YOUR TIME you will be using to manage the delivery/install of the items. 

There is value in the trade items regarding QUALITY. When your client could by the shitty Pic 'N' Save $20 umbrella stand, it will fall apart in 6 months. That's not quality, and it is a waste of money.

You don't want waste their money because you are their quality concierge directing them to items that will last longer than a Kardashian romance.

Back in the olden days... like ten years ago, I was never going to specify TTT items because:
a) I lived in BFE, and no one likes to drive on the 91 Freeway to go to the closest showroom or
b) I wasn't going to be able to meet the minimum a vendor or manufacturer required and
c) because I couldn't meet the minimum with one vendor I also wasn't going to band together with a gaggle of other designers and basically hope that our projects were on the same "cycle" (if ya get my drift).

Now, you can, and when you do spec TTT, you can avoid the bullshit Houzz "trade" program and still save your clients money.

That umbrella stand I shared earlier - you can get it TTT for around 60% less. Let that sink in.
That retail price of $897 that they "slashed" to $747.50 is still ridiculous. So if you tell Brenda that she can get this item for less don't you think she'd love you more than Mariah Carey loves her negligees?

If you're like me though, you hang out in your mausoleum most days (its what I call my home office). And driving all around town to find furniture that your client would buy online anyway would be a complete waste. All you have to do now is check out my new favorite resource:


You know that I do not pimp out people that are con-artists - only people who have integrity and are looking out for your best interest. So when I hopped on the phone with Heather Gillette, the CEO at DesignerInc, it was like meeting another soul sister who understands the struggles that designers face and is another loyal ally for our industry.

I met Heather through John Durpa from Revel Woods - who is also a legit dude that you'll also want to get to know. It's amazing that a blog post can connect legit people together, right? Anyway.... 

Heather has an excellent post she published about standing up to the giants in retail - give it a read.

When you sign up on DesignerInc (it's free), you enter your deets and once approved you'll start seeing the NET or COM prices right on the website. They will even get you the quotes on other items, too. All you have to do is ask. 

Even better, they've got a list of the showrooms local to you that they work with should you need to take your client over to sit on the fabulous Chesterfield.

Before I let you go, Laurel Bern had a neat post about that "Trade Program" over at Houzz. She's a doll and that post is going to open your eyeballs up. 

So I did a little digging on Houzz on my own and found this item (which I'm not going to link to because I think they suck donkey balls) which is presumably retail price.


Then I had an awesome Society member who is a Houzz trade member look up to see what her price is...


What a bargain! Not. But you get a Houzz credit to use in the Houzz Marketplace 🙄*cough* da fuq does anyone want that for? *cough*

On DesignerInc it is SIGNIFICANTLY less (I'm not gonna publish their price). So Houzz's claim to rock bottom prices feels like a joke. Maybe they have "deals" on other items, but come the fuck on with trying to pretend this is a "true" trade program. 

The other thing that REALLY bothers me about the Houzz is that while you can sign up for their "trade program" where you earn credit to their marketplace... AND  so can your local realtor. But, that doesn't diminish the value of interior designers at all. Right?

When your client wants to buy retail

Come at it from their perspective. You want to get the best deal that you can and so does your client. Sometimes the TTT items aren't going to make sense for your client and sometimes they are really gonna save your client a bunch of money.

If I was you, I'd put together a little book (or a secret page on your website) showing your clients' actual examples retail vs trade items. Explaining to them when it makes sense to buy retail and when it doesn't. A picture is worth a thousand words and in some cases, it might be worth thousands of dollars.

Your interior design trade discount is valuable to you and your clients. That's why it's important that we rally together and support the companies that support us like DesignerInc and their manufacturers.