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Interiors trends: how does taste frame a conversation in currency?


Prime Cap are very fortunate to call some of London's foremost interior design studios clients.

Our relationship with the sector originally came from personal connections and has now firmly augmented towards growth by reputation.

As well as hard earned referrals from existing clients, some times we knock on the doors of the neighbours of our existing clients and ask if the work we do for so and so might apply here? This is as close to a cold approach to any client as our brokers get and it is always underpinned by a belief on our part that similar practises to those we have replaced are being used by our target client.

We work with Robert Langford, Design Box London, Interior ID and Lanserring to name but a few - does what we do for them apply to you?...is generally the tone of things....

The approach is soft, brimming with context and examples of common practises across the sector.

Usually the 3% improvement on margin is appealing, but, more than that, the intensely personal and personalised way in which we can and do engage with our clients, both current and prospective, resonates with owner managed brands and independent studios alike.

We always make the online execution of a payment a prime facet of our service, but, we have been delighted to learn that it is our brokers' involvement in the booking and detail confirmation that is truly attractive.


Like any business, an interior design firm may be called on to make and receive payments.

Depending on their supply chain or procurement channels, they may also have cause to exchange and hold currencies too.

Advising on the most effective ways of doing this is our bread and butter, but, rather than just give vanilla examples of the types of payments we make, we thought we might dig a little deeper and talk about how trends in interior design have changed and moulded the beneficiaries and countries we work with.

If nothing else, it might provide expanding studios with some ideas for future proofing their processes.

We're interested in discussing: 'How have consumer tastes affected trade buying activities in the London market?'

and

'Who are the players (countries, brands and suppliers) making waves and where do we see the spot light of interiors fashion turning in the seasons and cycles to come?'

One thing we have been struck by is the extent to which cliques form in certain sectors. Whilst traditionally the notion of a clique is about exclusivity, in the interiors space it is about dependability. We're not entirely talking about your friends decking out their apartment in India Jane, therefore you must and those who don't should be shunned...we're talking about the close-knit list of suppliers, fitters and installers whose skill and dependability mean designers need look no further than to ask about their availability. A professional clique if you will. Our goal is to become a part of that trusted team!

Steven Spielberg credits much of his success to the team he has taken over thirty years to build. He knows that his cinematographer is of one mind and that the composer of his score can paint in the minds eye that which cannot be tangibly conveyed in a visual medium.

So it is with interiors and high end property. Working with partners, suppliers and stakeholders that you already know, when the stakes are as high as they often are, is the way to pitch and win with confidence.

In one sense this is in fact a reason why currency brokers have found it hard to penetrate the sector. It is a closed loop in many respects, however, once 'in' one carries the badge of dependability and can leverage that not only to connect one's clients and contacts, but also to propagate one's portfolio.

One of the overriding themes in interiors at the moment is consolidation. By this we mean two things particularly...

There will always be a place for small scale artisanal suppliers, but, being able to visit a one-stop-shop in terms of furniture, fabrics and treatments, and the fact that such purveyors may have a range of prices that enable designers to take on more main-stream briefs because their sourcing is focussed on one supplier, has seen the birth of many more independent studios in recent years.

Suppliers like Eicholtz and Coach House have brought a high end look into the mainstream through a number of interiors channels - admittedly not their own retail vehicles, as they are the wholesaler, but, the breadth of their stock ranges has fundamentally changed interior design and property in general.

Yes, trade accounts with suppliers have always meant that design studios can 'work in' a margin, but, when these wholesalers are able to emulate designs from specialist craft houses, the customer wins and a sustainable relationship is formed that feeds in to the growth and expansion of other supporting sectors - ours being one.

So, the first trend we've seen relates to specification of a design. Working with one main supplier has seen a reduction in the number of currency payments (and domestic payments of course) relating to a project, however, the size of these payments has concurrently increased.

Distributors like Eicholtz invoice you, or your client, in EUR. The good thing is that you might only need to make one payment and therefore you and your sterling budget are subject to only one rate of exchange.

As a base, using the rate of exchange achievable for the largest of your purchases as the bench mark rate for the entire project (so if you have to price anything else in GBP for your client but it is being bought from abroad) is a good way to ensure that costs dont unexpectedly escalate for your client.

Bear in mind that if you are paying a deposit or part payment, between the date of the deposit payment and the date of the balance payment, the rate of exchange will move. If it moves in the wrong direction you're client has to pay more, or, depending on how you have calculated things, your margin is eaten into.

With the trend for larger payments to big wholesalers we have seen, and have been instrumental in recommending, the use of certain hedging strategies for clients at risk of adverse movements in the rate of exchange.

We cannot and will not tell you to wait until tomorrow to do you payment because the rate will be higher. This is something no one can accurately do, however, we can offer you solutions which fix the GBP cost of buying foreign currency denominated items and, if this is of interest, we invite you to pick up the phone to our dealing team for a more detailed conversation on it.

The 'Scandi' look no longer has to come from Scandinavia.

Shabby chic is available in Preston as opposed to Provence.

Sure, our clients are still in the business of import, but, the sophistication of the supply chain now means that buying in a foreign currency is desirable rather than a hinderance to cross boarder trade - and we go on to explain how.

This shift towards 'consolidation' has a second manifestation that has become more prevalent of late.

Interior design studios who might otherwise have worked on luxury residential and/or turn-key projects are diversifying in to other areas of home furnishing and life style decor.

The eponymous Kelly Hoppen brand is one such example. So too Taylor Howse and the incorporation of proprietary lighting design by the likes of Coco Vara.

If you can find the manufacturer and the margin is there, then, working with private clients or on larger commercial projects, you have your market and the margin remains on your table rather than someone elses.

As you might imagine, overseas production costs, overheads, lead times on orders, freight and international distribution all carry with them a foreign currency concern.

So, the second aspect of this consolidationist theme is the fact that heretofore mono-focussed design houses are branching out and creating their own markets - and we love it.

These businesses, depending on how rapidly they scale, can plausibly be selling in overseas territories and earning in a foreign currency.

Many have concessions with establishments abroad and their earnings then need repatriation. Such activities benefitting hugely from a strategy for maximising the use of a favourable rate and removing downside FX risk as well as reducing transaction or payment processing costs.

May fledgling online retailers, for this is what they become, rely on established payment platforms like PayPal. Whilst recognisable and responsive, these end to end system come at a cost.

Hence, we are not only seeing businesses opening up foreign currency accounts of their own in the UK for the collection of these foreign currency earnings and the payment of foreign currency expenses, but, we are getting a greater number of calls asking for us to asking in the exchange of these revenues between account held by the business.

Businesses often think that our worth only relates to payments leaving the UK or those coming in to GBP denominated accounts from third parties abroad. Not so. We do a lot of work for businesses who are simply managing their own currency balances here in the UK; with payments never leaving Blighty.

Your bank loves the fact that you think it convenient to just pop euros from your euros account in to your sterling account online. That convenience often eclipses the woeful rate of exchange at which your bank performs the exchange. Why let them do this?

So, to recap, we've seen more larger payments going to fewer large wholesalers abroad.