Lots of our potential clients want to use retail outlets to furnish their homes. Who can blame them?
Frankly, Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware have done an excellent of job of marketing their good looking, inexpensive, if not so great quality furniture. They present their product as if it were high-end furniture, and their photography and merchandising are really good. That is why your clients like and ask for it.
Many designers are frustrated thinking that they should be able to find the same products on the wholesale side and be able to resell at the same price point.
This is just not possible, you can’t do it.
These retail catalog and showroom giants are huge corporations who purchase massive amounts of manufactured inventory at deeply discounted prices, because of the volume that they sell. You, as a designer purchasing “onesie, twosies,” as they like to call it in the business, don’t have a chance to buy at that level.
I would suggest instead of trying to beat them you join them.
First, if you have you have a client that wants to use Pottery Barn, you can take this job. Design the room, specify their product, and charge appropriately for your design and research time. It is, after all your talent that will make the room stand up and sing.
Second, if the client wants you to buy for them, you can charge your purchasing fee on the retail less designer discount price because you are providing a service to your client. You need to explain all the tasks that you have to do get that furniture to show up on time and in good condition.
Finally, if the client wants to purchase on their own, that can be good way to proceed as well. Remember you need to charge more in your Letter of Agreement because it does take some extra time to write a very complete specification sheet that someone else can work from. Be sure to add some extra hours to do the set up after all the pieces have arrived so the room has the “polish” that you intended.
I coached with a designer who followed this strategy. The clients followed her purchasing specifications exactly and she ended up being paid well for her time and a created beautiful space that she had photographed and put on her website.
That sounds like a win-win situation to me!