Digital buying platform wants to reach every designer in the United States
HIGH POINT — Design Trade Service, which bills itself as an exclusive online marketplace for interior designers, is undertaking a major marketing push this fall to expand its membership to virtually every interior designer in the country.
The goal is to reach an untapped part of the marketplace it believes can benefit from its many services, ranging from competitive pricing to access to many of the industry’s leading furniture brands. Ranging from Zuo, Stein World and Accentrics Home at the opening to middle price points to upper end brands such as Sarreid and Theodore Alexander, these resources offer a wide mix of product including furniture and accent pieces.
The company also is revamping its website and using a larger software company to improve the user experience with greater flexibility and also to help grow the platform.
Founded in 2015, DTS is an electronic buying platform that provides designers with password protected access to product lines across major brands, making it easier for them to order and receive product than if they approached these companies on their own.
The platform got off to a slow start as the industry was slow to embrace the new technology initially. The pandemic changed that as more people became comfortable with doing business online, from communicating via zoom calls to ordering product.
“What we built back then is still what we have today,” said DTS President Greg Wyers. “The difference is both on the designer level and the manufacturing level — both groups have come to embrace e-commerce. One of the things that really hastened that was the pandemic — because all of a sudden you couldn’t necessarily get into a car and shop — so people turned to e-commerce.”
DTS was well equipped to handle the increased demand, offering services such as 24/7 access to a wide mix of product on the platform, plus the ability to receive products from multiple companies on one order without any minimums. DTS also said pricing is firm and based on published suggested retail pricing from the manufacturer.
“We do not inflate prices to fabricate discount levels like some other online sites or trade showrooms,” DTS says on its site.
Realizing that it wanted further penetration into the design trade, the company has been preparing for this initiative for months.
In April, it secured $3 million in investment funding from Carofin. Along with helping expand its membership, the company is using the funding to strengthen its web platform and hire new customer service reps and logistical support staff.
Earlier this year, the company also added three industry executives to its leadership team including Mike Delgatti, Will Wittenberg and Betsy Wittenberg.
“The message we are wanting to start broadcasting in September is that we are taking the step of literally engaging in an effort to form the most powerful buying coalition in the industry,” Wyers said. “We are reaching out to every designer in America, and we have the funding to do this…You don’t have to do anything, there is no obligation — you just need to join.”
Estimating that there are some 70,000 designers with a buying power of $9 billion for furnishings, Wyers declined to say what percentage of the total DTS now has on board, as there are other services trying to duplicate its success.
But he said the goal of securing every designer in America is something that’s never been done, although he believes his company is well equipped to do so.
“There has never been an effort to collate that collective purchasing power,” he said, referring to the buying group’s marketing initiative as a call to “join the revolution.”
“No one has thought to do and again, it doesn’t cost them anything,” he said. “We just need the numbers and that then gives us the ability to work with vendors to come up with what we know we can make into proprietary programs and proprietary products. By that, I mean marketing programs and product that is just for the collective designer industry.”
Industry analyst Jerry Epperson, who is also a managing partner in Richmond, Va.-based investment banking firm Mann, Armistead & Epperson, said that the services DTS provides have been needed in the market for some time.
“There is absolutely no question that we need it, and I think more and more manufacturers will be relieved when they learn about it,” he said, nothing that previously there wasn’t an efficient way to reach the designer community. “And when I first learned about DTS from one of Greg’s partners, I was just shocked I hadn’t heard of it before. There certainly is a need in the market for this. I just can’t understand why nobody has done it before.”