Should you charge for designs?

Kitchen designers have split opinions about charging customers for design work. However, there is some agreement that top-end customers should pay while the mid-market and below should not, as the fee puts a significant barrier in place for the customer.

Three top retailers – Jonathan Kneen from Creative Interiors in the Isle of Man, Anna Rock from Colin Maher Design in Dublin, and Nick Warrington from Stuart J Warrington in Macclesfield – debated this topic on the latest episode of The kbbreview Podcast.

One of the main concerns about not charging for designs is that it can attract time wasters. As a result, Kneen has taken a common approach, which is to charge for designs but then have that amount deducted from the deposit or total amount when the customer commits to the project.

He explained: “With the amount of time and effort that goes into doing a design, I do not think that it should be free. And, my train of thought in that is that if a potential client has to pay for their design, it can be refunded when they are signed up. I think free designs that are open to absolutely anyone could attract the wrong people.”

Colin Maher Design is a bespoke kitchen designer who caters to the high-end, while Stuart J Warrington in Macclesfield is a mid-market kitchen brand. The former charges €250 per design, while the latter does not change anything.

Warrington has been ‘caught out’ by time wasters, as they design a project for free, and then clients do not follow through with the order. The top end of the market, where the designs can be more labour-intensive, is where he believes charging may be a good idea. But, for his bread and butter of the mid-market, the initial cost for the design may be too much of a barrier for some clients.

Stuart J Warrington is surrounded by other mid-market kitchen showrooms and has to look at the competition; Warrington said: “As a business, I am looking at who our competition is, and that is a diverse section of the market, so we will have people who have looked at a B&Q kitchen and we will have people who have looked at other independents. Howdens, Magnet and Wren are all local to us, and people will also go to them.

“I am starting from a point of getting the customer in and showing them what we offer that they don’t offer and that’s demonstrating the service we provide. But what I try to do is to prequalify people we are not on a main high-street, so we don’t get passing footfall and people have made the conscious decision to come in and see us.”

Pre-screening clients is also a way to help eliminate time wasters; Colin Maher Design filters its clients before the design stage. For example, at first contact on the website, the client fills in a form listing their basic requirements about the budget, which means the designers know that the client is serious before the first appointment.

More than 90% of Colin Maher Design’s clients are happy to pay that fee as the people would already know the process and the business. Rock said: “When I know that I have built up the reputation of the company and explained all the benefits of going ahead with our company. This is the point where I am explaining how time consuming the process is for the designs including the 3D renders. At this point, I am asking the client if they feel comfortable because there is a fee of €250 for the design process and looking after their project.”

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