digital disruptors | Aug 7, 2019 |
Houzz party: Scalamandré, Palecek and more join the platform

Houzz is going all in on high-end trade brands. The platform announced today that it will now sell product from Bernhardt, Four Hands, Bend Goods, Fermob, Cyan Design, Scalamandré, Palecek, Hinkley Lighting and Regina Andrew through its trade program.

The company’s program already offered participating members (who must apply for membership in addition to creating a profile on the site) trade pricing on brands like Missoni Home, Jonathan Adler and Swarovski Lighting. However, today’s news reflects Houzz’s seriousness in addressing the top tier of the market. “With the addition of these high-end design companies,” says Thomas Clayton, vice president of global trade business, “we’re bringing even more premium, in-demand brands to the program to meet the needs of our professional community.”

The news also highlights a willingness on the part of high-end trade brands to embrace the e-commerce model in whatever form it takes. Though Houzz declined to provide numbers for the size of its trade program, overall the site has 2.4 million pros—a potential market too large for many to ignore. “We are thrilled to sell Bernhardt products through the Houzz trade program,” said Sam Barnes, the furniture company's director of e-commerce, in a statement. “Houzz’s robust community of home remodeling and design professionals are using the platform to source and collaborate with their clients.”

Alfaro Mori Designs
Alfaro Mori Designs Courtesy of Regina Andrew

However, selling on Houzz does carry some risks. The site has generated controversy within the design community, drawing critique for its image reuse policies, data collection and sales tactics. At the same time, some high-end designers—often, the customers trade brands covet most—have come to see the site as catering to the mass market.

"I personally feel Houzz has positioned themselves as a discount shop for the lower end,” says New York–based interior designer Drew McGukin. “If that’s your target demographic, then it’s probably the right platform. If you’re looking for a high-end clientele, I’m not sure why you’d promote through Houzz."

Chad Stark, president of Scalamandré, acknowledges the complicated perception of Houzz in the design community, and views his company’s participation as less of a cannonball into the deep end, and more a toe dipped into the shallows. “We’re experimenting with this. We’re open to the possibility of this being a huge success, to it not working out at all, and anything in between,” he says, adding that his company’s deal with Houzz allows it the freedom to pull out at any time. “We could remove it tomorrow if we wanted to. If we find that it’s competing with our core customers—designers—then it’s not the right business decision for us.”

For many working designers, the picture is less complicated. Tami Smight, a Connecticut-based designer who participates in Houzz’s Pro Plus program, has had a positive experience using the site to market her business (“I get inquiries every week,” she says). She’s also a fan of Houzz’s trade marketplace: “It’s great for product knowledge. It’s pretty impossible to keep track of everything that’s coming out in plumbing, and I like that I’m getting to see fresh releases of a variety of products—it feels very current.” At the end of the day, for Smight, considerations like brand association or trade loyalty are beside the point: It comes down to convenience and cost.

“I order through Houzz when a piece checks all the boxes: fair price, white glove delivery, it’s available immediately,” she says. “But I do purchase on Wayfair and Amazon as well in some cases. The client is always right, and they can see prices now.”

Homepage photo: Courtesy of Regina Andrew

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