Silberman Ponders How To Make More Sales Through Interior Designers; Custom Means Designer—Not Retailer!

May 25, 2018

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HAUPPAUGE, NY — “In my parent’s generation, custom designed meant using the services of a designer while today’s generation of millennials think “custom design’ offered by the retailer is good enough,” says Lee Silberman, CEO and one of the four owners of Robert Allen Duralee Group. Silberman, his cousin Amy Benjamin, Martin Rosenberger and Altamont Capital Partners are still the same four owners of the combined companies. He says that Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn and West Elm have brainwashed the consumer into thinking that an in store sales person is the same thing as getting an interior designer to do custom design, when they are not. As a result, the designer is losing out on the business and so is the trade showroom.
Lee Silberman, CEO  TRAD Group Lee Silberman, CEO
TRAD Group
Silberman maintains that fabric wholesalers must figure out what the new recipe is for attracting the customer to the interior designer for custom design. “We are losing out to the retailer,” he says. “We have to coexist with the retailer.” “There is less and less trade only product in the showroom today. The consumer feels she can buy it online—that the product is close enough to being custom—when it’s not! By buying online or at retail, they lose the ability to pull it all together with a custom look. Consumers think that using an interior designer is expensive when in actuality it does not have to be more expensive than using a retailer. Designers have not done a good enough job educating the consumer.” Silberman doesn’t feel he has figured out how to change the perception out there, nor do his vendors understand the gravity of the situation. “How do we get the consumer in the showroom while supporting the design community?” he asks. The Robert Allen Duralee Group (TRAD) has been able to offer its own line of upholstered furniture on several websites at retail prices—at double the designer net price—giving the designer plenty of room to compete and giving the opening to the designer. “We want to be able to give the consumer what he/she wants at a better price through the designer,” he adds. Silberman says that very few designers come to the TRAD website for anything more than the convenience of placing and following orders—less than five percent of them buy online, but email marketing is getting more designers to use the website. “Even if we assume that more designers use the website to order samples instead of the sample book, more memo samples will be ordered than ever.” On other matters, Silberman says the temporary interruption in supply is behind his company and he is optimistic about the future of the business. He expects EBITIDA will be up in 2018 over 2017 even if sales are flat. “My original thoughts about merging Duralee and Robert Allen together are panning out as we eliminated duplicate overhead allowing us to move forward with our strategy. Without the merger it would have been more difficult,” he says.  F&FI


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