If I’m frustrated, I can only imagine how brick and mortar retailers must feel. I had the rather disconcerting experience recently, of sending a client a tear sheet of the final details for the current kitchen and family room remodel of a large home. I spent a couple of hours at my supplier, inspecting the products and pulling together a list of acceptable choices for this project. Within minutes of sending this virtual selection document, which was chock full of comparison photos and pricing but without any model numbers, my client had found all of the products I recommended, online.
I am charging this customer by the hour, so it’s not loss of revenue that I am concerned about, but I can see where it would completely destroy my client base if I were working on a cost plus basis. In one instance, I sourced a pot filler for a new cooktop. The one we both preferred was over $600, with my discount. The price difference between the quotes I gave from my vendors and those that were found online was astonishing. The client found the exact fixtures, for nearly half of my source’s quote. It is my resposibility to give my clients the most bang for their buck, so I encouraged them to go ahead purchase the higher quality products at the more affordable price, but I wondered: What happens to the relationships with suppliers that designers work so hard to build?
I make a point of being faithful to my vendors, and if one underbids the other I am honest about why I choose to go in the direction I take. I understand that our field is rapidly evolving, but sometimes it is hard to keep ahead of the changes. I would love to hear how you handle this type of situation, and if you feel like an hourly rate is the best bet at this point in the evolution of the Interior Design Practice. What fee schedules and/or rates are working best for you and your firm? How has E-Commerce changed how you do business?