Sourcing textile samples has long been a cumbersome process for both interior designers and the companies they work with. For designers, sourcing from multiple companies can be an organizational nightmare, and for manufacturers, samples can be a costly hassle.
That’s what inspired Ray Sayers to found Mercato Place, an online platform that aggregates fabric and wall covering samples, allowing designers to shop multiple brands at once.
“We were approached by a handful of contract textile clients asking us to come up with a platform to complete with one already in the marketplace doing something similar,” Sayers said. “The brand partners were looking for something a little more brand-friendly.”
That competition—Material Bank—has been around since 2019 and offers samples of fabric, flooring, stone, hardware, glass and paint from more than 500 brands. Sayers admits he can’t compete on scale with Material Bank, but instead is focusing on offering a more specialized selection.
“We’re trying to keep the focus more on the brand partners, so we’ve limited this initially to upholstery and wall covering,” he said. “We’re limiting to the top 20 to 25 brands in that particular segment—we’re a little more curated, higher-end, and exclusive.”
Many of those brands were already clients of Sayers’ other business, Thoroughbred, a Michigan-based fulfillment operation that delivers samples for contract design industry brands and retailers like Room & Board and Pottery Barn. Mercato Place recently added several new partner brands—including LebaTex and InsideOut Performance Fabrics—to its stable that includes Kravet, Momentum, Mayer Fabrics, and Designtex, among others.
Material Bank charges brands a fee to be listed on the platform and for each box sent to customers. Mercato Place does, as well, but their platform splits the cost of shipments and packaging between all the brands sent in one shipment.
Mercato Place also aims to compete from a sustainability standpoint. While Material Bank offers overnight shipping for orders, Sayers said Mercato Place relies mostly on ground delivery, which cuts the company’s environmental impact. And he said for the most part, his clients don’t mind waiting.
“If you want it two-day or overnight, you can get those options, but you also can say, ‘I don’t need it right now,’” he said. “The carbon footprint of sending something air versus ground is five times more. Having that option resonates with designers—we’ve only been shipping a few months now, and over 60 percent of the orders have gone ground instead of next-day air.”
Sayers said Mercato Place has a long way to go before it can compete with Material Bank size-wise, but he’s happy with its growth so far and thinks there’s a place for them in the market, as well.
“We think that there’s plenty of room in this space for competition and another option, and we think what we’re doing is really good for the market,” he said. “We have something that we think definitely makes life easier for designers, and as long as that’s our primary goal and we’re promoting the brand partners at the same time, it’s a win-win.”