Kitchen & Bath Design News recently posed the question to dealers and designers in the kitchen and bath industry: Will your firm be adding or eliminating design retainers in the future? Why or why not? Following are some of their responses:
“We’re actually doing a little bit of both. For larger homes we are actually increasing the amount of retainers. We used to have a blanket retainer and now we are doing it per room, so that will help reduce the shopping of our designs. We do designs without retainers but we do not give out copies. With that we are going to increase it on the higher-end jobs to try and maintain those clients here in the showroom without them going elsewhere.
For smaller projects where people are still shopping, we will design further and longer and sometimes still give out drawings because we are trying to show people how we can service them better and meet their needs better than the home centers or larger firms that can’t be quite as personable as we can. We started doing it this way a little over six months ago and I really feel like it has worked out well for us.
The economy also had a lot to do with the decision, but it was also a matter of getting an initial deposit out of people. That was very hard.
Basically what we’ve done is just tweaked how we always went about collecting design retainers because of the economic times we are all facing.
Overall though, it is not difficult because when we explain that for larger homes we may have 100 or 200 hours involved, then it establishes a [thorough] pre-qualification process. In effect, it is not a design retainer but a small initial deposit toward your order of cabinets.”
Nancy Nygaard, owner
Studio Kitchens of Appleton
“We’ve never taken on a design retainer. If someone wants a specialty sink we will usually come up with a simple drawing for them based on what their needs are and what they like. We can always come up with a simple drawing and, if that is something they can do, we can work up a price and then we’ll get a deposit to work up the final drawings and proceed.
One thing we will charge for is we won’t do any concrete samples of our work because we do custom colors. The deposit is refundable except for a small portion that is used to cover the cost of the samples. I suppose that would be considered a design retainer.”
Jeff Kuryluk, president
“Right now we don’t have an up front retainer system in place, mainly because of the economy – it is tough enough out there as it is. I am only going to go so far with the amount of time we spend on something. Therefore, we do a basic pricing and a very simple drawing and if they want to go from there, then we charge a retainer.
A prime example of why we do not plan to charge an up front retainer is what happened to Home Expo – they wanted $750 to just come out to the house! However, they never had the personnel there to pull it all together – it was all too complicated. We may revisit this policy down the line, but overall I haven’t done too many high-end big jobs in this economy. We do a lot of refacing in this economy as well, in fact it is almost split evenly between refacing and new construction. If somebody comes in here and what they want is very unusual and a very complicated setup, then I charge a design fee, because it is going to take a lot of time to complete that project.”
Rob Reinhardt, owner/president
Robinwood Kitchen & Baths
Berkeley Heights, NJ
“We definitely still get design retainers and always have, however we come up with a conceptual design and budget allowances for all potential clients and for that there’s no charge. So once we get the project to a certain point, then we require a design retainer to create drawings and to be able to release things to them. Also, if there is any customization required for the project, then all of that is done during the retainer phase. That is the point we know it is a definite job and the job is going to be completed.