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Top Tips: What Interior Designers Need to Know to Master Sourcing and Procurement

You have invested a significant amount of effort and creativity into devising an outstanding design concept. Now, the next step is to transform that concept into a reality. To accomplish that, you will need to shop, customise, order, and oversee the delivery of various components essential to bringing your concept to life.

The process of acquiring various components such as furniture, decorative accessories, flooring, hardware, window treatments, and other items is referred to as the sourcing and procurement phase. This process can be extremely time-consuming and complicated. However, before we begin refining your process, let's first define what sourcing and procurement actually mean.

Interior Design Sourcing and Procurement 101

Sourcing refers to the process of identifying, assessing, and selecting suppliers and vendors who can provide the necessary goods, services, or materials required for your project. It involves researching, evaluating, and establishing relationships with potential suppliers to acquire the best quality products or services at the most competitive prices.

Procurement involves the acquisition, purchasing, and management of goods identified during sourcing. It covers the entire purchasing process, including transactions, contracts, and supplier relationships.

7 Ways to Excel at Sourcing and Procurement

So, how can you become a master of sourcing and procurement? Read on for our seven top interior design tips for sourcing and procurement.

1. Set and Manage Clients’ Expectations

Building a successful procurement strategy requires clear communication. To avoid pricing conflicts, it's important to be transparent with your clients regarding your fees. You should help them understand the process and the benefits they receive from it, such as higher quality, customisation, and better service than buying from retailers. By setting realistic expectations early on, you can establish trust, prevent price shopping, and ensure a smoother collaboration.

2. Do Your Research

In the world of design, knowledge is power. Staying up to date on emerging trends, materials, and suppliers will give you the tools and the know-how for more mindful and efficient sourcing. Engaging with industry publications, like Architectural Digest and Business of Home, attending trade shows, like High Point Market and Maison et Objet, and leveraging online platforms, like Chairish and 1stdibs, which are dedicated to design inspiration, will keep your finger on the pulse of the industry.

3. Establish and Cultivate To-The-Trade Relationships

Establishing strong relationships with to-the-trade vendors is crucial for creating customised selections for your clients, negotiating better terms, accessing exclusive offerings, receiving top-notch service, and managing challenges with ease.

But where do you begin? Most vendors, showrooms, and wholesalers have trade account applications available online, and some may require a direct call. To apply, you'll need the following:

  • Proof of business

  • Current business or state professional license

  • Tax ID or EIN

  • Resale certificate (You apply for this directly with the state where your business operates.)

  • Business bank account

  • Accreditation certification or proof of membership in a professional organisation like the Australian Academy of Interior Design (AAID), International Interior Design Association (IIDA), American Society of Interior Design (ASID) or any other in your country.

The application process typically takes between 2-5 days to complete, and after establishing these relationships, it's essential to maintain open lines of communication and showcase mutual respect. Investing in nurturing these connections can lead to long-term partnerships that extend well beyond a single project.

4. Source Smart

If setting up individual trade accounts with each vendor feels too time-consuming or you prefer to avoid managing product orders, consider using a one-stop shop procurement specialist like Burnt Oringe International Ltd.   

Burnt Oringe Intl. Ltd orders directly from the factory, and they not only help you with customised products and access to high-commission products, but they also take over order placement, management, quality control and shipping, so you don’t have to. You’ll get proactive order updates throughout the process.

5. Use Time-Saving Software

Streamline your operations with specialised software, like DesignFiles or Trumble. Using alternate software during the sourcing stage enables you to save items in seconds via a handy browser clipper, generate detailed product lists, let clients approve and decline products, and create branded tearsheets for any product. During procurement, you can use this software to submit and track product orders, keep clients in the loop, making your projects run much smoother. 

6. Implement Systems

It is important to maintain consistency in your sourcing and procurement processes (Burnt Oringe Intl. Ltd can help you with this). By developing standardized procedures that can be applied to all of your projects, you will be able to reduce errors and increase efficiency. You can achieve this by creating templates for purchase orders, establishing a workflow for vendor communication, and implementing systems that can be repeated across projects. To get started, break down the processes you follow for both sourcing and procurement into steps, and create checklists to ensure that no detail is overlooked.

7. Curate an Onsite Library

Build a virtual library which you can draw upon for future projects. I also recommend curating a collection of actual physical samples, featuring materials, fabrics, and finishes. This resource will help clients touch, feel, and experience the potential elements of their space firsthand, and streamline their decision-making. 

Key Takeaways

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that mastering sourcing and procurement is an ongoing journey that requires adaptability, foresight, relationship building and commitment. 

It might sound complicated and time-consuming, but it’s so worth the up-front investment. Purchasing wholesale and marking up products is essential to making a profit and growing your business. And once you get sourcing and procurement down to a science, you’ll be able to save tons of valuable time and stress, stay on track and on budget while also delivering final results that thrill your clients time and again.


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