These days, this is the expression interior designers are altogether far too familiar with:
“Out of stock.”
We have always been challenged by providing goods to our clients, these days more than ever; because, in order to remain competitive with drastically discounted online prices, we have to cut our margins so thin.
I’ve written before about designer discounts and how we obtain products for our clients, and I’ve had many people respond about how unfamiliar they were with the process.
The cycles of our industry typically run at the same pace as the general economy’s. When things crashed in 2008, the furniture and design business crashed too. Factories and mills that were producing inventory responded to sluggish sales by cutting back on stock and reducing their output. We often found products quite unattainable — you know...out of stock — with no production dates available, or extremely long lead times.
It is very frustrating for a designer who wants to use a particular product for a client when…
They check a vendor’s stock one day to see that it’s there, ready to ship from the warehouse; and then, sometimes just hours later, after they’ve received money from their client so the product can be bought, they find out the product is suddenly out of stock and without a projected lead time as to when it will again be available.
Estimated lead times are often a crapshoot; times can be estimated at a month and end up being a year, (most products come from overseas) which means you have to find out if the boat with the goods is on the water in order to know, for sure, when you’ll get them. If goods are in transit, only then can you actually project a lead time. Otherwise, you never really know for sure. After all… Lead times always get moved back; rarely are they moved up.
And because interior designers are on the receiving end of those three dreaded words — out of stock — more often than not, we have to spend a tremendous amount of time making re-selections...re-selections that often greatly impact our already predetermined designs. And seeing as how time is an interior designer’s hottest commodity, we can’t afford to be spending time re-selecting things.
Even though we hate these situations, most designers have grown accustomed to being presented with the words “out of stock”; because vendors just aren’t keeping stock like they used to. After the last economic downturn, everyone feels they must remain cautious and not have too much inventory on hand.
To protect ourselves, we do things like…
Reserve stock; check on the availability of all goods before we even present to the client (which takes a lot of time, especially if you are offering several options or are doing multiple rooms); and place orders immediately upon receiving the orders/money.
Things can still go wrong, much like they did for me recently with my own kitchen remodel.
The day I published this post about the materials and finishes for my kitchen remodel, I checked on my floor tile. I had ordered it 2 ½ weeks prior, and it should have only taken about a week or so to get to the Houston warehouse. However, I hadn’t heard from the vendor. I was a bit worried because I knew we were getting the last bit of stock from their warehouse in New Jersey, with some additional goods coming from Fort Worth. If we didn’t get that New Jersey product we wouldn’t have the tile for the job, because more of that tile was not yet on the boat from overseas. They were ballpark estimating mid-November as when they’d receive more, not on the water yet, which was a prediction I didn’t want to bet on.
At this stage of the remodel, we needed this tile, asap. The painters are finishing up their work, which meant the installation of tile was next on our list of todos. And, just as I’m sure you know, the tile floor is a big deal.
When I called to find out when the tile would arrive, they made some quick phone calls to check to see why it hadn't arrived. Moments later I then heard that popular phrase I’ve grown so accustomed to hearing: “I’m sorry, but we’re out of stock.” Apparently my order went in just after another order, making the 400 s.f. I needed unavailable.
That’s right… Someone else got what we needed in, literally, a blink of an eye.
Yes, of course, I was upset. Because if I want to get this kitchen done before Thanksgiving, I have to find 480 s.f. of tile I love, in stock, in Houston. And when I say “tile I love” I mean…it had to be the perfect choice. I’ve waited this long to redo my kitchen; I’m not just throwing down any old tile.
Both my husband and my contractor told me to just wait for it. They know me and know that's what I'd do. I mean yes, normally I would; but I figured I’d go ahead and try to find some tile I love equally as much. After all, I’ve had other favorites that I’ve considered for the floor. So I revisited those.
One of the ones I originally selected — but negated because of maintenance — was limestone. The porcelain tile I was going to use was such a good match to a limestone and — because I oftentimes don’t often fake anything — finding another porcelain would be hard for me. I’d already been through so many before and didn’t like them.
However, I decided to go ahead and revisit the limestone. And when I went to the showroom to see the lots I, thankfully, fell in love with it all over again. Sure, it’s darker than my porcelain, but that’s a good thing.
Best of all... It was in stock and ready to roll. ;-)
This time, and only this time, I’m actually thrilled that the porcelain was out of stock.
The more I think about it... Having gone back to one of the materials I originally loved makes my experience feel so perfect, so full-circle. I think it was meant to be. And if it means I have to step up my game with maintenance, that’s fine — I’ll just have to work more overtime to book an extra day for a housekeeper. :-)
Now I’m just rethinking my tile pattern layout. Because, you know...
All design decisions impact the others. :-/