When Design Trade Service launched just five years ago, the world of e-commerce was vastly different. Most furniture manufacturers and interior designers preferred to work with brick-and-mortar businesses rather than selling and buying online. The technology was clunkier, and it was harder to get an accurate idea of how a piece of furniture would look and feel in a space.
But times have changed—companies like Wayfair have shown that e-commerce can work just as well for furniture as it does for other products, and enhanced technologies like augmented reality make it possible to better experience an item virtually. And with the COVID-19 pandemic simultaneously keeping people at home and driving consumers to revamp their spaces, online companies like Design Trade Service find themselves in an enviable position.
The site serves as a virtual middle man between furnishings manufacturers and interior designers, allowing designers to easily shop larger brands without minimum orders.
“I knew how manufacturers and designers operate, and e-commerce provides a perfect solution to both parties if it’s done right,” said Greg Wyers, president and co-founder of Design Trade Service. “Both manufacturers and designers share some pain points when working with each other—manufacturers are focused on brick-and-mortar retailers, and when a single designer calls in, it’s hard to fulfill just one order.”
Design Trade Service connects its member designers to brands like Century, Lexington, Hooker, Palecek and Summer Classics, providing access to their full catalogs for ordering through the site. Designers log into their account and then can shop any of the site’s brands without individual accounts with each company.
“We coordinate all of that through one account,” said Wyers. “So a manufacturer can reach thousands of designers just through us, and a designer can order from major manufacturers without setting up an account with each brand.”
Designers are vetted before they are given an account, to ensure they are actually designers and not consumers—consumers aren’t allowed to shop via the site. Design Trade Service also coordinates delivery for every order.
“We do all the logistics so the manufacturer doesn’t have to do anything,” said Wyers. “We set up the delivery, we track it, we keep the designer informed. And when there are issues, we handle it.”
When the company first launched, the majority of its business came through phone orders. But in the past five years, online has far outpaced phone business.
“The response initially was cautious, and designers weren’t sure how to use it effectively,” said Wyers. “We were initially getting about 15% of our orders online without talking to us, and now it’s about 75% that come in online. Half my orders come in after business hours because a lot of designers have families and they’re out working with their clients—it’s convenient for them to go online at night.”
With the increase in business Design Trade Service has experienced this year, Wyers has his eyes on expansion, with a major new initiative slated to be announced next year. And though he laments the effects of COVID-19 on so many, he admits the pandemic has served as an unlikely kickstarter for his business.
“COVID-19, as bad as it has been for the country, has helped e-commerce companies,” he said. “Even through we were growing leaps and bounds when COVID hit, it was the final straw for designers to say, ‘I’ll try this.’”