trade tales | Aug 27, 2021 |
How are you addressing longer lead times with your clients?

A global supply chain backlog that isn’t projected to slow down until next year, coupled with a shipping crisis, has caused lead times to stretch to unthinkable levels. We asked 12 designers—Kelly R. Collier-Clark, Joan Enger, Linda Hayslett, Julianne Hendrickson, Rachel Humphreys, Lauren Jacobsen, Lisa Kahn, Natalie Konstant, Lilse McKenna, Juliana Oliveira, Katie Orr and Chanae Richards—about how the delays have impacted their firms, the way they’ve approached the issue with their clients, and how they keep projects moving during unpredictable times.

Juliana Oliveira
Juliana OliveiraMaribel Morales

Temporary solutions
“Even with the minimal travel we’ve done in the past year to markets like Miami and Los Angeles, we’ve taken time to visit various design showrooms to nurture existing relationships and create new ones, as well as check in to see the few in-stock items available. As a temporary remedy and to avoid our clients having to live without essential pieces such as dining chairs or tables, we have loaned out a few pieces from our own library to bridge the gap while we are waiting for the actual items to arrive.” —Juliana Oliveira, Beyond Interior Design, Dallas

Lisa Kahn
Lisa KahnCourtesy of Lisa Kahn

Local sources
“I think that this time has been to our benefit, and to the advantage of our clients, as we have been able to source a high percentage of our custom furniture orders locally. We have further cultivated our local partners for custom casegoods, which has helped us to control lead times and has given us more control over the process. We are also keeping the money in our local economy and community, which feels amazing!” —Lisa Kahn, Lisa Kahn Designs, Naples, Florida

Kelly R. Collier-Clark
Kelly R. Collier-ClarkCourtesy of Kelly R. Collier-Clark

New limits
“With the multitude of items out of stock, back-ordered, or having longer delivery time frames, our time spent sourcing has increased. This limits our creativity to a degree, because lead times are now part of the list of things we have to consider when making decor and furniture selections. Thankfully, our clients have been very understanding thus far. They seem to handle delays well, because we prepare them from the start by being fully transparent about what to expect.” —Kelly R. Collier-Clark, Plot Twist Design, Philadelphia

Lauren Jacobsen
Lauren JacobsenCourtesy of Lauren Jacobsen

Up to date
“Once we started to see serious delays in the manufacturing of products due to COVID, we immediately informed our clients of potential delays in orders. Since then, as projects have moved forward, our firm is in constant contact with our vendors and manufacturers and we send our clients weekly updates, even if there have been no changes to the lead time schedule. We are very fortunate that we have great, understanding clients who have been exceptionally patient. [On the plus side], some orders that were going to take eight months have been filled in six—that allows us to get back to our clients with good news.” —Lauren Jacobsen, Lauren Jacobsen Interior Design, Scottsdale, Arizona

Lilse McKenna
Lilse McKennaVictor Harshbarger

Track it down
“The majority of our clients know that I am not timid about getting as much information as possible from our vendors. I am a tracking-number nut, and everyone in my office has a list of people to call each morning that includes the names of any vendor who has not given us a tracking number for an order that has supposedly shipped. I’m sure we drive people completely insane, but I’ve been working in this industry long enough to be skeptical of a shipped status with no tracking. The most frustrating delays are those with an open-ended status that says something like, ‘It will ship when the stock comes in.’ In previous years, vendors would’ve given an estimate, but now they are accepting that they cannot. It is a tough note to continue to pass along to the client and is frustrating for everyone involved.” —Lilse McKenna, Lilse McKenna Inc., New York

Chanae Richards
Chanae RichardsCourtesy of Chanae Richards

Lines of communication
“With every project, we manage expectations upfront with timelines as well as during the project with consistent communication. In recent months, we have been incredibly transparent with clients on what lead times look like at present. Our clients have been patient and understanding, which we attribute to that transparency.” —Chanae Richards, ọlọrọ Interiors, Philadelphia

Linda Hayslett
Linda HayslettLauren Pressey

Waiting game
“Extensive lead times have caused our firm to quickly change course and find other products that are more readily available, which sometimes changes the feel of the design. Timelines are changing so fast that when we think we may get a product, we’re told that it’ll actually be another month or two to receive it—and, sometimes, we’ve already waited eight months to get the item! Instead of waiting to get a piece, we either attempt to have it made custom or try to look for something else that’s in stock. But even then, the choices are few and far between when it comes to what’s available, and furniture makers are so overloaded with work that their lead times are also getting longer. Our clients have, for the most part, been understanding as we constantly emphasize the situation at hand. If necessary, I quote actual articles or news stats that state the gravity of the situation in construction and design. Being truthful has helped a lot when issues arise with delays, which has put clients’ minds somewhat at ease.” —Linda Hayslett, LH.Designs, Los Angeles

Rachel Humphreys and Katie Orr
Rachel Humphreys and Katie Orr Courtesy of Humphrey Orr Interiors

Honesty is the best policy
“While our clients are often disappointed with these longer-than-normal lead times, we’ve found that communication is essential. Being upfront and honest with the installation schedule and potential delays has been our key to managing client expectations.” —Rachel Humphreys and Katie Orr, Humphrey Orr Interiors, Summit, New Jersey

Pulling the rug out
“We’ve had to become more resourceful in order to meet (or come close to) our deadlines. Mixing in antiques, vintage pieces and gently used furniture has been a lifesaver. We’ve also turned to local artisans and workrooms to custom-fabricate much of our furniture. In many cases, the cost is similar but their lead time is half as much as a large showroom’s. Rugs are particularly challenging, so we’ve been installing them on their own timeline after the furnishings. Although I never thought I would allow that to happen, it isn’t fair to ask a client to wait months longer for a full installation. We recently ordered an inexpensive, innocuous rug to serve as a temporary solution while we wait for the stunner to arrive in September. It was better than plain wood floors!” —Joan Enger, J. Patryce Design & Company, Hoboken, New Jersey

Julianne Hendrickson
Julianne HendricksonCourtesy of Julianne Hendrickson

Parts of the whole
“In order to keep our clients’ expectations reasonable, we are sending out biweekly updates on their personal order lead times, and installing their furnishings in batches, rather than in one big reveal. This is not ideal for our systems and processes, but we know it is better serving our clients to have what they have purchased sooner rather than later, especially as lead times fluctuate.” —Julianne Hendrickson, Hendrickson Interiors, Tampa, Florida

Natalie Konstant
Natalie KonstantCourtesy of Natalie Konstant

No options
“Some manufacturers seem to be handling delays better than others, and we are trying to avoid ordering from overseas as much as we can. That said, when it comes to rugs and certain fabric lines, we don’t have a choice. The entire world has been affected by this pandemic, so while it’s frustrating, our clients understand that these aren’t just excuses.” —Natalie Konstant, Konstant Home, Chicago and Boca Grande, Florida

Homepage photo: A project by Beyond Interior Design | Photo by Matti Gresham

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