In our work as a financial services supplier to businesses and corporate clients we have achieved notable penetration in the interior design and lifestyle furnishings space.
Our success stems from the perception, amongst our peers, that the sector at large does not deal in sufficient volume (in terms of payments activity) to warrant more vigorous courtship. This is of course a spurious notion and one we are the beneficiaries of.
Payments systems, margins on purchases from abroad and strategies as to how to offset the effects of undesirable movements in rates of exchange all feed in to the tailored offering to owner managed and larger interior design studios and brands dealing in overseas markets and procuring pieces, collections and lines from wholesale brands located outside the UK.
We already make payments to suppliers like Eicholtz, La Fibule, Interni Editions, Monpas and more. Here we take a look at the process from invoice to settlement and shipment.
What advantages do we offer interior designers, their suppliers and their clients and why do we feel we have been able to establish a notable presence as go to payment services supplier for one of London's more salubrious sectors?
Like so many sectors, interior design - whether dealing direct with clients on the scheme side of things, or supplying to the sector - relies on relationships.
These might be relationships with private bankers, estate agents and private offices dealing with the demands of private and corporate clients, or they may be relationships with suppliers to the trade - lighting, carpets, furniture, wall and window treatments.
Interior designers tend to work with suppliers and brand known for quality, timeliness and reliability.
Because clients briefs and budgets can vary quite wildly, interior design studios rely on a little black books and preferred supplier list. Partners that can not only accommodate the schedule of the project and it's budgetary specifics, but also their mark ups (should they apply them).
Lead times on items vary regardless of whether or not they are made to order. This is one of the main areas where a broker like Prime Cap can have a measurable effect on cost.
From the date on which a pro forma invoice is issued, to the date of payment for the item(s), rates of exchange will change either in favour of the buyer or not. Strategy relating to the mitigation of unfavourable movements in that rate of exchange tend to be reserved for large scale wholesalers importing collections, but, in the world of high-end interior design the benefit of such strategies are no less valuable and feed directly into the margins achievable by design studios.
Smaller design outfits tend to shy away from directly handling client funds. They prefer to present the client with an invoice from the selected supplier. If a project relies on numerous suppliers to deliver for instalment and if multiple suppliers are being used then the client bears the brunt of not only the payments costs but oversight of more than one rate of exchange used for the myriad of different payments than need executing.
The trade relationships interior designers have with the suppliers tend to, in our experience, leave room for the incorporation of a mark up of goods. By this we mean that the design studio can buy from the supplier at cost, but often the designer will ask the supplier to incorporate|apply a mark up. The client will oft be able to buy the item at better than the retail cost so the client is benefitting from the relationship their designer has with the supplier, but, given the designer tends to be receive that market up in a foreign currency, their margin on the purchase fluctuates to the same extent and the clients costs and this is something that we can help of mitigate for both parties.
Many suppliers will not release product, or even begin the production of product, until they have received at least a deposit amount. An extension of the point above is to acknowledge the fact that, if paying a foreign currency amount, the cost of the item might in fact increase between the date of the deposit payment and the final balance - why not fix that price from the off?
It may not seem like much, but, Prime Cap can have a supplier paid the same day.
If we are introduced as a payment service directly to a client by the interior designer then our ability to update stakeholders as to the progress and completion of a payment means the designer knows precisely when the product is paid and, importantly, when that payment is received. This can shave valuable time off the dialogue between the designer, the client and the supplier.
Being able to shave a few percent off the total foreign currency cost of procurement may not seem like much, but we doubt it is a saving the client would turn down, especially when their ability to use our services is quicker and simpler than paying the supplier direct.
In collaboration with accounts teams we are able to provide project delivery teams with itemised statements as to what has been paid for and when. Notably, either in their own right as a corporate client of ours or as a client introduced to our services, a ledger of all payments associated with a project can be created and disseminated to all relevant stake holders.
For Interiors firms who pay suppliers themselves - if they hold stock or if they are paying on behalf of their clients - we are able to incorporate a margin into our calculations too. So, making sure we exchange currency at a better rate than the client or the designer can achieve by using their bank, a percentage of mark up can allocated to the design studio and the associated costs come in lower than retail - it is an extension of the same principle many firms already use.
Cost is one thing, but the quality of the service and an understanding of the demands and concerns of our design clients tends to be a truly important aspect of our offering.
Businesses dealing with a new overseas supplier may worry about the bank details they should be using. They might have questions or concerns over how quickly a payment might arrive and how they can be assured that the money has cleared in the right place.
Our brokers are on hand precisely to address these questions and to clarify, correct and reassure when necessary.
If an item needs to be returned then, again, the improvement we offer on our margin means that refunds will be greater than they would be were firms simply providing their own sterling bank account details to the supplier.