Earlier this month, my Father and I ended our partnership with 1stDibs. We had been a member since 2002 and still believe it offers great functionality for interior design trade vendors. However, changes over the last few years, and most significantly the decision to remove dealers names from all listings late last year, have lead us to believe that it’s interests are no longer aligned with dealers and clients. In the past it was a champion for the industry and trade, but now it feels as though its interest are at odds with ours, both at a company level and at a larger industry-wide level.
As a company, it was a straightforward decision: 1stDibs was now providing less value than it had been, which felt like part of a trend rather than a single instance. We never did a huge amount of business through 1stDibs, but we did find value in having our pieces and our name appear on such a highly viewed trade site. Whether it is sourcing, restoring and holding an antique piece, or the investment and sweat that go into making a new design, it is important to us that clients know that this is the quality of what we are doing. It represents us and “reinforces our brand.” We felt that this ‘awareness aspect’ made possible by being on 1stDibs was adequate compensation for our monthly fees as well as for the sale based commissions we paid.
Now, however, clients on the site may see a new design or piece of ours but not realize whom it belongs to, who found it or who created it. We understand that 1stDibs may be trying to capture “latent” transactions, where someone sees something and comes back to it weeks or months later. That make sense since they are trying to grow their commission revenue. But now, instead of celebrating new designs and promoting the creators, they are trying control the information flow and how their dealers bring pieces to the market, even going so far as to monetize dealer identity by providing it to clients over certain annual spend thresholds. This business model is just not for us and certainly not worth paying a monthly fee along with commissions in order to be part of it.
On a larger level, we feel the industry is at a very delicate moment. New entrants may be dragging it into the 21st century, which is great, but “disruption,” increasing “efficiencies”, “scaling business models” and similar buzzword goals are going to make the next few years even rougher than normal for many of us. Whether or not, or how much, the high-end interior industry can “scale” may be debatable, but the last thing we need right now is LESS transparency. Regardless of price point, these new entrants will continue to put pressure on pricing, lead times, finding new clients, and everything else. However, we believe that many aspects of this pressure stems from clients simply having a greater desire for ACCESS to information. How things are made, fabrication techniques, finishing, custom features, and of course pricing. So to limit transparency in any way, especially in the face of the “maker-movement” and the increasing demand for one-of-a-kind pieces with stories behind them, is detrimental to the trade as a whole. Instead, 1stDibs seems to have taken a short-sighted approach that obscures the trade, when in the past it had been, and could be still, a massive positive force for the industry.
One silver lining in this process has been that we have discovered new platforms that seem to genuinely have an interest in promoting the industry. And so, you can now find us on DECASO, InCollect and Dering Hall.