The difference between Principle and Agent in Regards to FF&E Supply

Interior Designers can offer their FF&E (Fixtures, Fittings & Equipment) to a client in two different ways: as an agent & as a principle retailer. This can heavily effect the way a designer charges & works with the client and so is important to know the different.

Definition of an Agent:

An Agent of FF&E is a person who works in-between the supplier and the client. There is less risk for an designer acting as an agent than for a principle retailer, as if the supplier does not supply items which match up with the description or breaks the terms, it does not link back to the Designer but the client due to a contract of supply.

This is an agreement where the designer purchases for the client rather than sells to the client.

By acting as an agent, the trade discounts that a designer is entitled to get passed on, saving clients money, however to pay for their services they will charge a percentage fee on the purchase.

Definition of a Principle Retailer:

A Principle Retailer of FF&E is a person who acts as a retailer to the client. When acting as a principle retailer a designer must comply with the Sales of Goods Act. Which means if there is a faulty item or terms are broken by the supplier, the designer is responsible for clearing up the mess.

As a principle retailer of FF&E the designer is effectively purchasing the items (with trade discount if offered) from a supplier and selling them onto their clients. This means that there is both a purchase order & a sales order, where as working as an agent, there is only a purchase order.


Kia Designs works as an Agent. This means that we pass all the prices we provide our clients with include trade discounts and fees. Often, even with the Fees added, the prices will still be below the price you would pay if you were to buy items yourself. By doing this Kia Designs invoices you for the items that you select and so organises the payment and delivery for you so that the project runs to schedule.

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  • Christine March 2, 2016   Reply →

    Dear Kia Designs,
    my name is Christine and I’ve just read with a lot of interest your blog regarding FF&E and supply. I’m buying a new 3 bedroom house in Fulham and I’m interested in hiring an interior design. Because this is the first time for me, I’m a little bit concerned about how does the FF&E process works. If I’ve understood well, when an interior designer act as agent, me, the client, would I give my money to a designer to deal directly with the suppliers or will I get the invoices and pay the supplier myself? In other word (I’m concerned about the warranties) if I give my money to a designer, the supplier’s invoices will be invoiced to me or at the designer?
    Thank you very much
    Sorry about my dump questions and I will really appreciate your help.
    Christine Bertolin

    • Kia Stanford March 2, 2016   Reply →

      Hi Christine,

      No such thing as a dumb question. You do understand the process. In regards to warranties these tend to be mostly for electrical goods and you independently file for them with each supplier (either online or through a slip that is contained within the boxing of the item) and so even though the proof of purchase will have the designer purchasing the items they are purchased for you and allow you to still have warranties with the suppliers.

      I hope this helps! If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to give us a call


  • Lewis White November 23, 2016   Reply →

    Hi–a very useful explanation of how the FF and E process works.

    Another spelling glitch for you—I think the word “principle” should be “principal ” (ie. main –only– ) in this context.


    Lewis White
    ps excellent website overall.

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