For designers just starting out, it’s pretty common to be sourcing pieces for projects at retail prices. You might have heard about trade accounts and been intrigued but intimidated by what you don’t know about the process or set-up. You might have even thought that they are only for established firms and big names. Not true! Not utilizing trade accounts is a huge missed opportunity for both you and potentially your clients, and getting started is easier than you think. Today, we are demystifying trade accounts—what they are, why you should use them, and how to set one up.
Many furniture wholesalers (think brands like Four Hands Home, Visual Comfort, Palecek Furniture, Creative Co-Op, etc.) offer trade accounts with interior designers by application. If their application is accepted, the interior designer receives a percentage off the suggested retail price when shopping with that business. This discount varies vendor to vendor but is typically 30-60% off.
Once purchased, the designer sells the pieces to their clients at retail price and keeps the discounted difference as a commission. Alternatively, many designers split the discount with their clients, creating an added value for working with them while still pocketing a decent amount.
Example: Store A offers a 50% trade discount. You source a dining table that retails for $5000. Your discount brings the table to $2500. At this point, you can sell the table to your client for $5000, keeping the $2500 as commission, or you can split the discount, bringing the table to $3750 and your commission to $1250.
Splitting the discount is totally optional, but deep discounts can present a major incentive for booking with one designer over another. Meanwhile, you’re still making money on the sale. Believe it or not, the majority of profit most interior designers make on a project comes from their furnishings with trade vendors and not their actual design time.
If you’ve looked at a trade account application before and felt overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Some of the questions don’t do any favors to small or new businesses and there’s little in the form of help to complete them. To apply with a certain business, the first thing you’ll need to do is contact the vendor or sales rep and let them know you’d like to apply. They will either send you in the right direction, email you an application, or have you pick one up at a showroom.
Pro tip: Be selective about the number of trade accounts you apply for. Filling out loads of applications is a time-suck and you will have to collect and report sales tax for these transactions, so we find it best to limit trade accounts to 1-2 favorites for each furnishing category (i.e., lighting, decor, rugs, furniture).
One of the first blanks on the form might immediately stump you: Type of Account. The options are usually Net 30, Proforma/COD, and COD. You’ll want to circle or write “Proforma.” All it means is that you’ll pay up front and then the vendor will ship your item. Eventually, you can work your way up to creating Net 30 terms, which is essentially a credit account in which you have 30 days to pay your invoice. If you want to keep things simple, just stick with Proforma.
Near the end of the application, you might see a section for trade references—a pretty daunting ask for a trade account beginner. Don’t worry, this part is mostly for those looking for the Net 30 set-up (credit account). If you’re paying as you go, a lack of references shouldn’t be a problem.
You should hear about the status of your application shortly after submitting it. If accepted, you’ll receive a vendor ID number to use when purchasing. That’s it. So simple, right?
Interior Design: Laura C. Singleton
If you’re a designer and not using trade accounts already, put those applications on your to-do list ASAP. The added revenue stream and potential discount for your clients can have a huge impact on your business, no matter the size.
For more info on creative business strategy, be sure to check out these posts:
The Identité Collective is a full-service creative studio for interior designers and boutique lifestyle brands. Offering bespoke branding, web design and social media content creation, we help brands built around beautiful living elevate their digital presence to represent the physical spaces they design. Want to work together? Shoot us an inquiry here.