One of the challenges throughout this COVID-19 year has been connecting with manufacturers for the furniture, lighting and other decor needed to complete interior design projects. Attending markets has been challenging, supply chain issues have sparked delays, and the discovery, pricing and delivery process with each individual vendor takes time.
Enter Design Trade Service, a home furnishings distributor exclusively for interior designers with dozens of brand connections, retail buying power and the convenience of online shopping.
This marketplace, free to designer members, has seen a significant uptick in business this past year as purchasing online has become the norm.
With a long history in retail prior to starting Design Trade Service, Co-founder and President Greg Wyers understands the furniture buying process and the needs of designers, as he has serviced them from the retail side of the business and when he worked with Norwalk’s design stores back in the early 2000s. “Our experience for decades has been with designers,” says Wyers. “There are 75,000 interior designers in the United States and they’re doing a lot of business. We know how they function and what they want.”
He launched Design Trade Service in 2015, but says the industry wasn’t quite ready for the business model. “We knew things were moving toward e-commerce and we wanted to get ahead of that,” Wyers says of the timing of the launch. The company has been steadily gaining traction, but this past year really cemented the need for the platform.
What’s on the Menu
For designers, the process is simple: sign up for a free account and have access to a wide range of quality home furnishing products at designer trade prices. There are no concerns about minimums with individual manufacturers as Design Trade Service creates one point of contact for multiple orders. “We meet the needs of both manufacturers and designers,” says Wyers, as this company acts as a go-between, streamlining the order process with better discounts than designers could potentially get on their own. “We represent thousands of designers, and we go way beyond minimums with manufacturers as a result. There’s also only one point of contact, and that’s us.”
The company stringently vets its designer members, verifying credentials and valid sales tax identification to ensure the exclusivity of its program. “We don’t ever sell to consumers under any conditions,” Wyers adds, noting that pricing to the designer is kept hidden from the consumer. While you can see brands and products — and product details — in the marketplace, you must sign in to the password-protected membership site for logistics and pricing. You can place your order on the site, designtradeservice.com, as a member. A dashboard is available that keeps track of current and past orders. “The time it takes to call, order and then track the products you need is extremely time-consuming,” Wyers notes. “Last fall, we had a designer order $38,000 of product from a dozen different manufacturers in one night. That would have taken weeks to do independently.”
Customer Service Counts
Beyond the better pricing and the convenience of ordering furnishings as needed and at any time of the day or night, Design Trade Service offers some above-and-beyond customer service perks as well, Wyers says. When orders are in process, for example, the company provides a weekly telephone call to each of its customers to keep them apprised of progress of any outstanding orders. This has become an indispensable part of the company’s operation as COVID-19 has disrupted supply chains, and some manufacturers are suggesting lead times that can be months longer than usual. Because DTS buys in larger quantities, lead times are likely shorter for them than for the designer procuring one sofa or chair. And with weekly updates, designers know where their orders stand and what to tell their clients.
“The customer service reps the designers are talking to understand their needs in the industry,” Wyers notes.
Last but certainly not least, DTS’s services don’t end when the orders are placed. In addition to weekly update phone calls about product deliveries, which the company facilitates, it also coordinates shipping and working with its customers on delivery issues if they occur. “If something is shipped incorrectly or is defective, we deal with the manufacturer,” he continues, taking on what can be another problematic, time-consuming task for designers.
While COVID-19 has helped to fast-track the use of Design Trade Service, now that designers who utilize the platform understand it’s efficacy, the company certainly doesn’t expect to see back-tracking once the industry and markets open up again. Once designers have accessed this convenience, Wyers notes, it’s difficult to go backwards. As such, the company is continuing to hone its services and reach to better support the interior design community. “Our goal now as we come out of this pandemic is to dramatically scale the business.” We’ve done this for the last six years and we’ve had to learn and change and adjust. Nothing is 100 percent perfect, but we have an efficient operating machine, and we’re seeing 100 percent growth month over month.”
The pandemic may have disrupted many service industries, but for those, such as Design Trade Service, that anticipated that its core customer would be adopting online ordering with all its conveniences, this year has accelerated its success. Look for updates and features at designtradeservice.com in the coming months.