Spanning the Product Bridge: From Walmart to High-End

Spanning the Product Bridge: From Walmart to High-End

New York, NY - Designer and lifestyle expert Libby Langdon recently launched a line of home décor products for Walmart.com, featuring a product selection on the opposite end of the price spectrum from her more commonly referenced high-end interior projects and work with Braxton Culler, Tiger Rug and Casart coverings. As more designers expand their pricing horizons in response to clients’ requests for exceptional design and value, Langdon’s brand diversity underscores the potential for designers who develop their own good, better, best sourcing strategies.

Design Today recently interviewed Langdon about her affiliation with one of the largest retailers in the country and asked her how designers can work technology, an informed client and the preference for eclectic style to their business advantage.

Design Today: Many consumers think of great design as something that is only for the high-end market. However, as your collection with Walmart shows, everyone can enjoy beautiful designs. Talk about your decision to launch a collection there and what your inspiration was for the product line.

Langdon: My decision to launch a line of home décor products for Walmart.com was a very conscious and careful one and clearly it’s so different from my higher end licensing partnerships. I created a completely different label and Trademark for Walmart.com; it’s called warm&inviting by Libby Langdon whereas my upper end products are branded under my regular Libby Langdon line. The two are completely separate, marketed to different demographics and reach separate audiences. 
My interior design business is two-fold. I’m hired to work on very high end projects where clients have large budgets and I design big homes all over the country. I also work in makeover television, traveling into real people’s homes across America, making over rooms in 12 hours for under $6000.00 for folks that would never be able to afford an interior designer. 
I knew there was another entire group of consumers out there that want to make their homes beautiful—they just need a different way to access products and goods.  I saw partnering with Walmart.com as a big design, as well as, business opportunity; they will do roughly $9 billion dollars in 2014 in their online business, they clearly have the ear of consumers across the country, and I thought I could add something to their home décor department that they weren’t currently offering.  Great design should be for everyone no matter their budget, and these days with sites like, Pinterest, Houzz, pop-up online shops and reality TV you can see beautiful spaces 24/7 everywhere you turn. 

DT: You’re a makeover expert, and many designers are being asked to economize on projects, mixing high-end products with other products in all price points. Going forward, do you think interior designers are going to have to be familiar with products in all price ranges to be successful?

LL: I will admit that even though I work on some higher end projects, I have never had a client say I have an unlimited budget and spend whatever I want.   We all want to know what we are getting is super quality and a great value.
I think interior designers that were used to doing a single window treatment for $5,000 back in the day need to update their thinking.  The industry has shifted, and the best tactic is to move with it and rework your business model. So often designers used to charge by taking a percentage of the overall job, but that encouraged price gouging on products to elevate the overall budget, earning the designer more money and in general giving interior designers a bad rap. The better approach, in my opinion, is for designers to become more versed in mixing high and low priced products and guiding the client and consumer on the items they should spend more on and then items that they can spend less on, but still get the same wonderful look.

DT: And outside of the high-end consumer, does this mix-and-match price option open up a new window of opportunity for designers because it is a style preference that demands a professional? 

LL: I definitely think the “artful combination” and a mix of higher end and lower priced items is something that people are willing to hire designers for—lots of folks hire me for that!  There’s been a backlash from some designers that they don’t like the rise of websites like Houzz because they are worried the consumer is getting too much information, learning about sources and where items come from and what they cost. Well, I just think that’s crazy!  The World Wide Web isn’t going anywhere, so designers better change the way they think to set up a way to work with the changing needs and wants of their clients.  An informed consumer is a great consumer and transparency is everything now, no matter what industry you are in.  
If I saw something online for half the cost that my interior designer was charging me for the exact same item, I’d buy it online too!  I love when my clients are involved in the process and they feel just as invested in the design as I do, I don’t feel threatened that they are looking online; I welcome the input and then I continue to guide them.  I also think the designer that used to think they were pulling the wool over the eyes of their clients and just charging whatever they wanted have gone by the wayside.  It’s so easy to look up most retail prices for just about anything online and I think that’s a good thing! Just because someone can shop online doesn’t mean they don’t need a designer. It’s up to us in the design industry to show how accessible, approachable and talented we can be and how we can take the looks they like and pull it into a cohesive, focused and well-designed room. 

DT: Technology is, of course, changing everything in the furniture industry. Look into an imaginary crystal ball and talk about what you think the interior designer of the future will need to know and implement into his or her business to be successful when it comes to technology.  

LL: I think in the very near future it’s going to be important for designers to recreate their offline persona online. The internet is becoming a resource for clients more and more to discover design elements on their own and designers will need to establish a big presence online of their design esthetic and work style to stay relevant and working.   It’s more than just having a website with pretty portfolio images, it’s incorporating video and ways to interact with potential clients and it’s getting your message out in a clear enough way to override all the noise on the World Wide Web.  It’s also about promoting yourself asa designer who’s approachable, accessible and easy and fun to work with because no one wants to be taught a design lesson, they just want to get a design for their space that they will love and usually they want it to happen as soon as possible!

In the distant future, clients will require designers to provide more digital images and computer generated room scenes showing them EXACTLY what their space will look like.  Some design boards and swatches will no longer be enough, so designers and their staff will need to become well versed in technology and how to translate their design ideas into realistic visuals for potential clients.