Shipping Hacks for Interior Design Pros
Further complicating the challenges arising from the worldwide supply chain upheaval, issues with shipping are creating headaches for many designers. The causes are more or less the same as those clogging up supply chains—labor shortages due to the pandemic, delays at factories and ports, and rising demand for goods and services. Designers I spoke with recently told me that, in addition to unreliable delivery schedules, they are struggling to cope with a much higher rate of damaged goods, skyrocketing prices for storage and installation, and difficulties tracking shipments. Here are some of the ways they told me they are trying to manage the situation.
Hiring Trucking Companies
In order to speed up deliveries and have more control over reliability and tracking, some designers are hiring truckers and/or trucks privately, either individually or as part of a collective, bypassing commercial freight companies. When time is of the essence, a few have resorted to paying top dollar to have goods air shipped for next-day delivery, particularly for items being purchased from overseas that otherwise might wait weeks or even months to go by cargo vessel (only to potentially have those vessels sit in port).
However they arrange for their deliveries, shipping costs continue to escalate. This requires some designers for the first time to incorporate those expenses into the price point for goods. The same is true for storage costs, which have more than doubled or tripled. Designers said they are trying to strike a balance between holding shipments until all the goods for a project or room have been received, thus having to pay high storage fees, and delivering items piecemeal to hold down costs.
Many designers complained of the increased frequency in goods arriving damaged. Much of this can be attributed to labor shortages and the long delays in cargo shipments, causing ports to become overcrowded with containers. To make matters worse, some manufacturers are reluctant or unwilling to allow cancelations or returns, which can lead to drawn-out negotiations to resolve the problem. One designer mentioned that she has created a spreadsheet to log all damage issues so she can present a detailed record to the manufacturers when filing claims. Others said they have simply stopped doing business with certain lines or freight companies because of repeated deliveries of damaged goods.
Be Open with Clients
As with the unavailability or delays in obtaining goods and continued increases in pricing, it is critical to inform clients upfront about issues related to shipping, storage and delivery, including escalating costs. Explain to them what you are doing, to the extent you have control, to minimize the impact of these issues on the project schedule and budget. Keep them informed of developments on a regular basis. Consider reaching out to other designers in your area to form a collective to explore alternatives and share shipping and storage costs.
With the holiday season rapidly approaching, demands on shipping are only going to get worse. Now is the time to prepare a backup plan should problems arise.
For further reading, make sure to read our article about interior design pros sharing their supply chain hacks.