Interior Define customers are upset. What’s happening? – Business of the house | NutSocia

Last March, illustrator Jill Labieniec walked into the Interior Define store in Seattle and spent $3,740 on the company’s Jasper sofa. It was a thoughtful purchase, carefully researched and chosen to fit her space, with a fabric option that would absorb some wear and tear from pets. Finished. She settled in and waited anxiously for it to arrive.

Four months later, things started to get weird. In July, Labieniec received word that her sofa had arrived at the port of Los Angeles and that a “delivery partner” would be contacting her in two to three weeks. August came and went, but no sofa. She contacted customer service and was assured delivery was imminent. Another month went by and still no sofa. In October, after an hour on hold, Labieniec was told by a representative that there were no updates because the company was “waiting for an announcement from its CEO next month.”

Exactly what an announcement by the CEO had to do with bringing a sofa out of the Los Angeles port was unclear. Labieniec wasn’t the only one wondering. Over the past few months, hundreds of disgruntled Interior Define customers have flooded the internet – from review sites to the brand’s own social accounts – with pointed questions about their missing furniture.

Most share a similar story. Customers who placed orders in spring and summer 2022 were typically given delivery times of 16 to 22 weeks. As their delivery windows began to close with no delivery, they began asking questions only to receive vaguely worded references to “supply chain disruption.” Solid data is cloudy. Telephone messages remain unanswered. Timelines are moved backwards. Reading the online comment, it seems like the Chicago-based brand hasn’t delivered for several months anything. In mid-October, an anonymous user shared a story about a missing sofa on consumer reviews site Trustpilot, which ended with a simple question: “Is this a scam?”

In March, illustrator Jill Labieniec ordered a Jasper sofa from the Interior Define store in SeattleCourtesy of Interior Define

IN TRANSIT
According to a former employee who wishes to remain anonymous, the answer is no, but the company has serious problems behind the scenes. The employee says Interior Define makes furniture — the company makes in Asia — and transports much of it by water bound for US ports. However, due to a liquidity crisis, the brand was unable to pay logistics partners for full delivery. As a result, the goods have remained in limbo.

The former employee estimates that “thousands” of pieces got stuck in transit. Apparently this number was secured in an email exchange with a customer in September received by business of the housean Interior Define representative wrote that 6,500 orders were affected.

The company is far from the only one to have struggled with logistics over the past two and a half years. It’s not the only house brand to come under fire from customers, either (Interior Define has more than 100 one-star reviews on Trustpilot; Pottery Barn, while a far bigger brand, has more than 1,000). But in online reviews and interviews with BOHInterior Define customers expressed deep disappointment at what they described as unpredictable and misleading communications regarding delays.

The brand’s representatives were difficult to reach, with inquiries being passed from specialist to specialist without a clear answer. Some customers have been told that it can even take up to two weeks to receive a response to email inquiries.

Many customers began searching online for more information (some turned to BOH after reading a rosy report on the brand’s supply chain position published in June). Some turned to employer reviews site Glassdoor and found comments suggesting that Interior Define was not paying its suppliers, leading to anger that the brand’s officials blamed delays on supply chain issues. Customers also expressed frustration that while its furniture was indefinitely suspended, the brand continued to advertise and take new orders.

Customer Sharon DeAngelo Villane, who wanted to help her daughter decorate a new apartment, bought a sofa from Interior Define in Manhattan in June. In September, she received worrying news from the brand that the piece was being held up in Los Angeles with no clear timeline for delivery. In October, Villane said she was able to get in touch with a former employee who told her the brand had stopped paying vendors and that she would be wise to seek termination.

Getting clear information from the sales reps was “madness,” says Villane. “That’s not right,” she adds. “Logistically, it’s not possible to store that much merchandise in the Port of Los Angeles, and if so, what condition is the furniture in? I’m sure the containers aren’t air conditioned.” Villane was eventually able to cancel her order and was refunded in October.

Customer Lyss Welding also ordered a sofa from Interior Define’s flagship store in Chicago in June. With a promised lead time of 18 to 22 weeks, the play should arrive just in time for her to host Thanksgiving at a new house. But as the weeks went by, it became clear from communications with the brand that the Welding sofa was unlikely to arrive in November after all. She considered renting furniture but found it too expensive and eventually settled on cheap Target futons to tide things over.

“We didn’t want to have to buy these, but we can’t have Grandma and Grandpa sitting on folding chairs in this big, empty living room,” she says. Like many customers, Welding has spent hours hunting down company representatives and seeking information on Interior Define’s financial health. “It’s a bit double-dealing that they didn’t turn off the ads,” she says. “The operations worker is telling me something different than what I can see online.”

Interior Define customers are upset.  What's happening?

The Graham bed and Carlton bedside table from Interior Define Courtesy of Interior Define

BIG PLANS HAVE A CATCH
These latest challenges mark an abrupt turn for Interior Define – the brand started the new year with guns blazing. Fresh off a pandemic-driven boom, the company announced in late 2021 a major retail expansion plan to open 30 new locations by the end of 2022. Given that it had taken Interior Define eight years to build a retail fleet of just under 10 stores since inception in 2013, it was an ambitious goal.

The company also raised capital and made large hirings. In January, it secured a $30 million loan led by Horizon Technology Finance. Then, in March, Interior Define announced three high-profile additions: former Home Depot finance director Bahniman Hazarika as CFO; retail veteran William Savage as chief supply chain officer; and Chris Travers, a former bonobo manager, as chief business officer and general counsel.

Interior Define’s retail expansion plans don’t appear to be going according to plan. It currently has 21 locations, according to the company’s website, which means it has opened just over 10 stores, a third of its target for the year. Meanwhile, the brand’s talent pool seems to be running out, a source with knowledge of the situation said BOH that the company has recently initiated several rounds of layoffs — one in September involving around 60 employees and another in late October. Leadership has also changed, with Travers leaving Interior Define in October and former chief experience officer Catherine Colwell in November, according to their LinkedIn pages.

However, the same source offered cause for optimism, hinting that Interior Define is close to completing a new round of funding and may therefore be able to pay its suppliers and resume deliveries in the not too distant future.

Interior Define declined to comment on this story, although two weeks ago it issued the following statement in response to questions about its challenges BOH: “In the second half of this year, we encountered unexpected headwinds that directly impacted our customer experience. We believe in our product and our people and we will continue to work 24/7 to provide answers and solutions to our customers and win back their trust.”

This will probably be a challenge for the customers who are feeling burnt. “I’ll never deal with them again,” says Villane. “It really reinforced my decision not to shop in stores I’m not familiar with or have a relationship with. … I have never dealt with a company like Interior Define.”

Welding feels the same. “I would never consider buying from them again,” she wrote in an email. “The slow and conflicting communication, as well as the strict cancellation policy, was too stressful – and now expensive.”

Labieniec, who hadn’t received a clear delivery date for her sofa at the time of publication, is torn on how to proceed. Frustrated by the delays and confusion, she is considering canceling even after being offered a discount. But at the end of the day, “I really want my couch!” she said.

Ultimately, the decision will boil down to whether the brand can commit to a real delivery date. “Give me any discounts you want, but if they can’t give me an estimate, I’ll do the cancellation,” she said. “I’m not confident I’ll get this thing.”

Research and reporting by Haley Chouinard and Lizzy Reisinger.

Image on the homepage: Customer Sharon DeAngelo Villane bought a sofa at Interior Define in Manhattan in June | Courtesy of Interior Define

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