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5 Reasons Designers Seek Alternatives to Big Name Furniture Brands

When you start a commercial interior design project, there are multiple factors to consider that relate directly to the furnishings.

The purpose. Are we going for a traditional or open space design? What goal is the furniture supposed to accomplish?

The look and feel. Is it edgy? Cool and contemporary? Classic and refined? How will the corporate branding be incorporated into the space? Will it need to appeal to a customer base or be geared more towards the employees?

The vendors. What vendors will we use for our design, furniture, and installation? Should we support local businesses or go with national (or international) chains? Is it better to have a different vendor for each aspect or look for someone who can handle it all?

As with any industry, it’s easy to fall into the habit of returning to big brand vendors. Whether you were drawn to these brands simply as a result of brand recognition, or you were just unaware of other options, you’re far from alone.

The truth is, brands like Steelcase, Knoll and Herman Miller—iconic and trustworthy names for sure—aren’t always the right fit for needs or budgets.

If what we’re hearing from the industry is true, it may be time to ask yourself, “Are big brands really the best source of commercial furnishings for us?”

We’ve had some feedback from associates in the architecture and commercial interior design fields about their viewpoints on moving away from the big brands and thought we’d share them with you. Consider these when deciding whether you’re really benefiting from your current supplier, or if it’s time to explore a smaller, more personalized option.

1. They want to avoid high prices

When big brands have cornered their market, they can—and do—raise prices. As they raise your prices, you have to raise yours, which yields a chain reaction that will prove wholly displeasing to your customers.

Many big brands, including furnishing giant Herman Miller, simply don’t set rates that are competitive. Designers who step away from these big brands and turn to us do so because we offer the quality they need at the prices they—and their clients—can afford.

By moving away from the big brands, you can explore a wealth of competitively priced alternatives. The utilization of more affordable pieces allows you to keep your rates attractive and gives you the ability to better compete with fellow designers.

2. They want freedom of choice

Our customers frequently lament what they perceive as a presence of monopolies in the world of big-brand furnishings. It remains an unfortunate truth that larger brands take advantage of the fact that they have monopolized their market.

When monopolies exist, the businesses in the driver’s seat frequently become complacent. This feeling of invincibility can negatively impact everything, from the product quality to customer service. Whether consciously or subconsciously, monopoly-holding companies sometimes slip with the quality of their goods and services, and customers pay the price. Brands like these can even insist on restrictive contracts that can lock you into a price point and selection that just doesn’t work long-term for you and your clients.

3. They want to create distinctive designs

As a creative in the industry, one of your goals is likely to design something that is, at least in some way, revolutionary and fresh. Rarely are designers looking to replicate something that’s already been done. But making your designs stand out from the crowd can be more difficult if you rely on big brands.

Here’s why: when you work with goods from companies that have saturated their market, designs look too similar to pre-existing ones. Creating the distinctive designs that will please you—and your customers—is easier when you work with a big-brand alternative.

4. They want to be more than just a number

You’re more than just a number—and you should be treated that way. Designers tell us big brands seem to have a lack of interest in getting to know who their customers are and really treating them with care and concern. Failing to give their customers the attention they deserve is something that we see as a problem.

While you don’t need to form a lifelong relationship, it’s helpful if the brand cares about your wants and needs and puts forth real effort to development a friendly personal relationship with you and your team. By selecting a smaller brand with a local dealer, you’re more likely to form an enjoyable bond with a business that cares. And because they care, they’ll treat you like an individual, not just a number.

5. They want to feel valued, regardless of their business’ size

To some big name brands, small businesses—or small projects—just aren’t that important. The reason for this is simple: many see small businesses as small investors. The fact that big names don’t see small businesses—or the occasional buyer—as high-value clients can often impact how much attention and care they provide. After all, why should the big brand make them happy when the small business is going to spend a comparatively small amount of money?

The alternative vendor difference

The Connecting Elements team views things differently. There are 23 million small businesses in America. Should these businesses really be ignored or, worse yet, made to feel like they aren’t important or trusted? We don’t think so. Our own team can be considered small in number, but we are big on options and personal attention. We work with over 250 open line manufacturers, putting a plethora of possibilities at your fingertips. At the same time, we work hard to build a warm relationship with you that hopefully makes you feel like you’re working with one of your good friends.

The choices you make when you design a space are critical. From the color palette to the general design scheme, every element makes a difference—including where you choose to buy your furnishings.

Big brands do offer some beautiful pieces, but failing to explore the alternatives could be a major misstep. Instead of continuing to do business with the same brands that may or may not care about your and your clients’ reputations, give some alternatives a try.

Not sure which alternatives meet your exacting standards? Our team of professionals is ready and willing to give you a guided tour of our collection. Contact us today via phone at 877-779-3409 or online through our contact us form to start your exploration of our offerings.

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