Shopping online has certainly come a long way. From a design/build perspective, I remember all the brick and mortar fixture and furnishing retailers trying to adapt to online competition. The pros and cons were different then; however, it was really a battle of better service at retail pricing vs. discounted pricing with questionable service policies. A lot has changed in the online environment, and so I thought I would blog about the current use of web orders and what I think works and doesn’t work.
First, there are brand positions that would regulate where the best deal is coming from. One of the hardware lines we sell in house is Top Knobs. They are what I believe is the best value in kitchen and bath hardware with middle to upper middle quality and a policy that no vendor can discount more than 25%. That brand policy makes it a no brainer to by direct from us since the shipping will be the same or less, and we are the direct contact for the purchase. If it needs to be returned, we return it, if something needs service, just call us. When looking certain national brands that you know what you are going to buy, it is easy to price compare- and if it is a porcelain toilet- you probably don’t want to risk getting a cracked one to save $5. Most vendors are sensitive to online pricing and today, there isn’t as big a savings in the end.
Quality can be difficult to understand with certain products because of the image you see online. Lighting is a big challenge for this reason and it isn’t uncommon for a client to return items that looked great in the photo only to receive something that is manufactured poorly or wasn’t accurately depicted. Like other brand items, I know I can expect good quality if I order a Quoizel light online, but I may still want to have it bundled with all the lighting selected from a local retailer since we can get better contractor pricing that keeps the costs in the same as online, with the service we want. The photo below is some hardware recently received that a client ordered online- this was really poor quality- the back of the pull and the knob were hollow. Even though this was going in a space where it didn’t need to be a luxury product, we found a solid knob and pull for the space that ended up costing less.
To be fair, online shopping has become a much better experience, I order most of my clothing online to avoid having to go to the store, and if I don’t like it- they have an easy to return process from almost every place I order. If you order a light from Restoration Hardware and don’t like it, they will take it back no questions asked. My first recommendation when buying fixtures and finishes for your renovation is to visit the local retailer, and use the computer for information gathering. If you can’t make it to the store, consult your design professional and let them help with what they know are good and dependable online vendors.