"To The Trade" Means "To The Trade"

"To The Trade" Means "To The Trade"
"To The Trade" is the term that separates the consumer from a wholesale purchase.  It defines what "kind" of sale it is.  "To The Trade" services and products are supposed be sold and marketed only to Professional Interior Designers, some Decorators and some Architects.  (All capitalized ONLY for the purpose of making this easier to read).A couple of years ago, there was a big "to do" about Chicago's Merchandise Mart being opened to the Public.  Were "to The Trade" items becoming readily accessible to all?

In 2013, the Luxe Home section of the Mart is available to all and is open on Saturdays.  These are showrooms that show and sell building products like kitchens and baths, lighting, flooring, stone and tile, decorative hardware and similar goods.  The rest of the showrooms, now called the "Design Center", are not open for purchases to the public and are not open on weekends or evenings.

These vendors, showrooms and manufacturers are NOT set up to sell to everyone.  They don't have the staff to educate unknowing consumers or help anyone make those decisions which are part of the buying process.  The Buyers for the Mart and other "to the trade" sources are professionals who have the education, resources and (hopefully) experience to go to the showrooms, look at choices and make decisions.  Showrooms can't give advice that requires a subjective opinion like: "Do you like it?"  "Do these colors work together?"  "Will my room be crowded?"... And they shouldn't have to find someone to receive the wholesale purchases and then set up delivery to your home or office, plus they have their own standard limitations regarding damage, wear, etc. These places are not meant for a Do It Yourself market.

If you are shopping at a showroom that is NOT for the public, you had better:

  1. Have a sale tax number-- which is officially called a RESALE CERTIFICATE
  2. Have a business card with a real place of business.
  3. Have business credit:  a bank account and references.
  4. Understand the lingo and the sequence of placing an order, which is where nearly everyone that is not a REAL person in the trade will eventually mess up (and sometimes REALLY badly).
  5. Know what to do if there is a problem in delivery or damage in transport.
  6. Know where to go to fix or patch up any problems PERFECTLY -- remember it should be like new because it IS new.

I can go on, but these are the requirements and elements of buying from a wholesale source.  Even if a showroom will sell you an item and charge you the tax -- which they are required to do-- someone still has to handle any and all of the problems, and that will have to be you.  Oh, also:  if you are a stranger, be prepared to pay anything and everything except for delivery charges at the time you place the order (and sometimes even if you are NOT you'll pay upfront, too).

When I spoke to the VP of the Design Center at the Mart for a previous story, he said that "the showrooms would have to change their business models" in order to sell to everyone.  As for me?  I have been navigating the Merchandise Mart since I was a student.  I learn and re-learn which showrooms have moved, closed or changed the lines represented or hired new managers and sales personnel.  This year has had huge changes as Motorola moved into upper floors and the Design Center showrooms have had to consolidate to two floors.

Some months I feel like I am always there and when I have a big gap between visits, I feel that I have a lot to relearn.  One of my clients travels the world with his business.  After we selected all of their living room/bedroom/den furnishings, he commented that nothing is more exhausting and overwhelming than a day at the Mart.

If you know your stuff, it's stimulating.  If not:  ????  It's a process taken in small steps to learn all of the fabulous sources, showrooms, sales representatives, lines, new products.Again, they don't like working with those who shouldn't be there.  They "get it"!   They will do their own jobs, but they won't do what these novices are supposed to comprehend.  That's what is meant my NOT changing their business model.

In addition to the Mart resources, nearly all of my tradesmen, artisans, workrooms, and other vendors are also "to the trade".   Without my introduction, which (I guess) would be "permission", these pros won't take on your project.  They don't want to take the time to educate the public either.  That's the Designers' job.  They aren't snobs because they will work with Oprah's designers and me on the same day (no, she isn't my client).  We equally know how to "get it done" professionally and thoroughly, and that's how they keep their quality up, their businesses running smoothly.

PLUS:  any supplier working "To the Trade" is smart enough to figure out one more thing:  Designers are their repeat business.

Last comment:   As Designers we will earn a percentage of your project - otherwise it's a hobby, not a job.  But, speaking for myself and other Design Professionals, you would pay MORE buying at suggest list from a showroom than hiring a Design Professional who understands the process as well as the products to put it all together.

End of story!  Questions?

claire@golandesign.com                                                    www.golandesign.com

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