The New Normal for Interior Designers

At the start of 2020, the economy was in an incredibly strong position. The unemployment rate hovered between 3-4%, the stock market was at an all time high, and consumer spending maintained strong volume. Then, as we all know… things changed. An unprecedented event occurred on a scale that none of us expected, and our economy quickly lost strength. By April 2020, unemployment had reached 10%, the stock market hit its lowest point in 4 years, and consumer spending dropped off a cliff. Interior design businesses were affected by this event, but not in the way many might think. Through our analysis, we have found some insight that should give interior designers confidence as we all move forward into an uncertain future. We go in depth about what has happened to the interior design industry so far in 2020, where the industry stands today, and what it means for your business.


In January 2020, the interior design industry was incredibly strong. Interior designers brought in almost 25% more revenue in January than they had on average monthly throughout 2019. Things were looking good, and businesses were preparing for a solid year of growth. Then, from January to May, sales began to fall. Clients of designers held tightly to their cash as the pandemic began to unfold, and the entire economy began to falter as we all hunkered down until we could figure out a path forward. As one would expect, interior designers were not immune to this slowdown in businesses. Designers saw a steady decrease in their revenue month over month, and in May, the average design firm made just 57% of the amount of revenue it had previously earned in January 2020.


Thankfully, in June 2020, things started to look better. Prospective clients began to realize how much time they were spending at home, and those who were fortunate enough to continue working had more disposable income as a result of decreased spending in prior months. With this, people began to look for ways to upgrade their newly combined living and working environment, and designers began to attract new business. Over the next few months, designers began to chip away at their previous losses, and by September 2020, the design industry was back to the same sales volume it had seen in January 2020. Miraculously, over the course of just 4 months, the design industry had rebounded to its previous high in monthly revenue.


This year has been a lot, and the looming growth of a second wave of coronavirus cases is not making it any easier. There are still a lot of things we do not know…. When will we get a vaccine? Will we need to lockdown again? Will things ever go back to normal? However, despite the uncertainty, there are some takeaways we have for designers:


Your business can bounce back quickly.

Per our analysis, interior designers are already back to the sales volume they saw pre-pandemic. This industry has been affected by the pandemic, but it recovered quicker than most sectors because consumers are staying home more, and looking to upgrade their space. In the long run, opportunities for interior design business will continue to grow in the residential space, even if a second wave puts us in lockdown.


The change is good for your business.

With many people now working from home for the 8th month in a row, many businesses are starting to broach the idea of continuing with the remote working environment even after the pandemic is over. This is good news for interior designers on two counts… 1) When your clients are out of the office, residential business expands, and 2) Your business can now be more flexible as well. Perhaps you no longer need to rent an office? Perhaps you can outsource your bookkeeping or other back office tasks at a cheaper rate? Perhaps you can meet with clients or your team quickly via Zoom, rather than in person? The changing definition of work allows your business to be more lean by decreasing wasted time and business expenses, without sacrificing productivity and sales.


Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

For some, this analysis makes a lot of sense, and they have realized the recovery of the interior design industry in their business as well. But for others, this may feel like the opposite of what has happened. Maybe your business hasn’t realized the growth seen over the last few months? Maybe you had to decrease size to survive? No matter which way you put it, this has been a hard time. But… you are not alone, and your business can bounce back. Explore the idea of an outside consultant to help you forge a path forward. Our firm has helped designers navigate this pandemic, and we can help you too, but there are plenty of other resources we can refer to help you as well. Whatever you do, don’t let this rough year take your business. If you need help, just ask.