trade tales | Feb 12, 2021 |
8 designers share how they’re handling shipping delays

While the pandemic has largely meant an increase in business across the home industry, safety precautions around the globe have led to longer lead times. We asked eight designers—John De Bastiani, Michelle Gage, Renae Keller, Alecia Johnson, Tiffany LeBlanc, Courtney Sempliner, Joy Williams and Virginia Wyatt—how delays have impacted their projects and how their clients are handling it.

Alecia Johnson
Alecia JohnsonCourtesy of Alecia Johnson

Plow Ahead
“Back orders and shipping delays have forced us to delay our project completion dates by weeks and sometimes months. All of our projects have items that are in limbo. Despite some items being delayed, we decided to move forward with partial installations with the approval of our clients. I am not a fan of partial installations, but I felt it was important for our clients to start to see their homes coming together. In order to ease our clients’ disappointment and frustrations, my team and I have been diligently checking on the status of orders and updating our clients weekly on the status of their merchandise. We are presenting them with replacement options as needed.” —Alecia Johnson, Pearl Design, Houston

Tiffany LeBlanc
Tiffany LeBlancCourtesy of Tiffany LeBlanc

Never let them see you sweat
“As designers, we are all too familiar with product lead times and their volatility—add COVID to that, and planning for future events is even more challenging. We diligently follow up with our vendors to ensure we have the most current information and pivot as needed. Sometimes we reselect. Recently, we had a great moment of accomplishment when we called all over the country to find a shipper to bring a dining table up from North Carolina to Boston in just a few days for an install. It was harrowingly close, but we did it. Of course, the client had no knowledge of this. Vendor delays or not, it’s our responsibility to deliver the beautiful end result we have promised our clients, even when it can be a complete nightmare behind the scenes.” —Tiffany LeBlanc, LeBlanc Design, Boston

Renae Keller
Renae KellerCourtesy of Renae Keller

Touch Base
“We have thankfully had only a few minor delays in our shipping and have seen numerous back orders. We have been pleasantly surprised, however, that most of the back orders have come in prior to the expected time. The showrooms have done a great job of giving us the information in its entirety and coming in either on or before schedule, which is always appreciated. Right from the first conversation about project timing, we let our clients know that we are feeling the sporadic lead times for our products, [and we discuss] ordering early, to be safe. There is nothing more disappointing than having an almost-finished project with missing furniture!” —Renae Keller, Renae Keller Interior Design, Minneapolis

Joy Williams
Joy WilliamsCourtesy of Joy Williams

Manage expectations
“We have had to manage client expectations more than ever. A lot of vendors are tacking on surcharges beginning this month, or are raising prices because of the increased costs they are experiencing. We are telling clients to expect longer lead times, upwards of six to eight weeks for furnishings. Most have been very understanding, because we started preparing our 2021 clients for delays last year and we broach this subject at the start of our consultations. I’ve found that if you let them know it’s an industry-wide issue, clients are understanding and happy to at least have a spot in the queue. If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that we all must learn to pivot and delays are part of the ecosystem for the foreseeable future. For repeat clients, though, I have been offering additional render views at no cost to keep them excited and engaged in the design process.” —Joy Williams, Joyful Designs, Chicago

Virginia Wyatt
Virginia WyattCourtesy of Virginia Wyatt

Be Open and Look on the Bright sIde
“I try to be as transparent and upfront as possible from the very beginning. When talking to new clients, I ask them when they would ideally like to aim to have the project completed. Stock is so limited with so many vendors, and we’re looking at backorders with lead times that can be 14 to 16 weeks out. But I almost would rather have lead times be on the lengthier side, because at least we know the quality and integrity is not compromised. I would be concerned if products were being cranked out and shipped rapidly, given the circumstances. And everything is always worth the wait! Also, in a lot of cases, my clients end up wanting to do other areas of the house while waiting on back orders, so that’s a small silver lining!” —Virginia Wyatt, Virginia Wyatt Designs, Wilmington, North Carolina

Courtney Sempliner
Courtney SemplinerCourtesy of Courtney Sempliner

Cover All the bases
“As a way of managing client expectations, we preface all client meetings, presentations and invoices with conversations about longer lead times and present the most realistic timeline possible. We’ve also had to add a force majeure clause into the terms and conditions of our design contract, which details our lack of responsibility for things out of our control, such as this global pandemic and the resulting shortages and delays.” —Courtney Sempliner, Courtney Sempliner Designs, Port Washington, New York

John De Bastiani
John De BastianiCourtesy of John De Bastiani

The Big Picture
“The pipeline supplying the interior design industry has slowed during the pandemic. Lead times have been extended, sometimes indefinitely, especially with foreign producers and fabric mills. Most clients are extremely understanding and would rather have safety precautions taking place than [have] people dying in order to get their sofa completed. These days, with clients spending so much time at home, they are getting a little impatient, but overall, most have been very considerate.” —John De Bastiani, John De Bastiani Interiors, Los Angeles

Michelle Gage
Michelle GageCourtesy of Michelle Gage

Be upfront
“Back orders and delays are frustrating for both the designer and the client; however, that’s the reality we’re facing right now. We’re being upfront with clients in the initial consultation, explaining that everything is now taking longer, sometimes twice as long as it used to. They get it and appreciate the transparency, and ultimately just want to know what to expect. At the end of the day, our clients are extremely reasonable people who understand that there are more pressing problems around the world.” —Michelle Gage, Michelle Gage Interiors, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Homepage photo: A project by Courtney Sempliner | Photo by Kyle Caldwell

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