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2009 PMA U.S. Custom Framing Report

Discussion in 'Picture Framing Business Issues' started by Rob Markoff, May 29, 2009.

  1. William Parker

    William Parker CGF, Certified Grumble Framer


    Good answer. Has your daughter worked in the business, and does she have any interest in continuing? My 16 year old is very negative about the industry.

    William Parker MCPF GCF
  2. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    Our 27 year old has worked in the business on and off throughout his school years. He is now in law school. Our 21 year old daughter just graduated from college and has no interest whatsoever. Although they have benefited enormously from the income that our business has provided, they have both seen the financial ups and downs, the long hours, the backbreaking costs of health care, and the stresses of thier parent's lives while running a retail business. No, they are not interested. Our older one thinks he could perhaps one day run it without dedicating his life to it. We know better.
  3. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Do not want kids to continue in biz

    For us, it has been many very, very good years of easy money. Today, it's a distant memory

    Also concur with Kirstie on trying to see in which group I fit

    But looking at my belt, I'm guessing it might be best identified as Gen XL
  4. surferbill

    surferbill SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I think you are right about the internet being the next wave that takes over picture framing. I would imagine that's one of the main reasons why LJ bought Documents.com to increase their web presence.
    I know there are a lot of naysayers who say people will not send their personal artwork off to cyberspace to be framed.
    They also said the same thing about people not buying prints and posters over the internet, and now that market has been completely lost to the indie framer.
    Young people are going to the internet to browse, before they go to a brick and mortor store to buy.
    How long will it be before they just go straight to the internet to buy, and cut out the middle man indie framer?

    On the where do you fit it question. I'm definitely a baby boomer, but i share a lot of traits with Generation X. Maybe it's because I live in a resort area, and try to live a surfer's lifestyle.
    I do think it's a oversight or faulty data that Generation Xers don't have any heroes.

  5. William Parker

    William Parker CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    William Parker MCPF GCF


    I woke up with a laugh this morning over Gen XL. Great line.

    To the group, are there no late Millenials, or early Generation X members among the group? It would appear from the responses that we are concentrated among late Generation X and Boomers. In my mind, that raises the question of to whom do we sell our shops when we want to look at something else? Are we destined to disappear not from lack of business, but from lack of interest? In general, who will own independent retail in the Millenial world?

    We are over 3,000 viewings of this thread. There must be some Millenials among this group. Let us hear from you. I promise we will not bite, and you will get a particiption ribbon.

    William Parker MCPF GCF

    PS Surfer Bill...I want your business model. What great balance. Is there a '48 woodie parked outside.
  6. Pat Murphey

    Pat Murphey SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Nobody cares about us war babies (1943)?

    BILL WARD SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    "Nobody cares about us war babies (1943)?"

    Sure they do Pat----your uncle(Sam, that is) went to great effort(about 8???-yrs ago) just to ensure you are NOT going to get you socsec retirement on "time"----made a special law JUST for you so yours is delayed a few years! So quite feeling left out(and start feeling PO'd!!!!!!!!!!!) :fire:
  8. surferbill

    surferbill SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

  9. William Parker

    William Parker CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    William Parker MCPF GCF


    You bring up an interesting point. For our industry to survive we have to make ourselves relevant to a larger segment of these four buying groups. Traditionally, custom picture framing has fallen off after age 55. The process is empty nesting, downsizing, assisted living, and out...(gee that sounds cold...especially since I am somewhere in the process).

    So, the question becomes how do we remain relevant to the Traditionalist/Veterans so that we can sell into this market segement after age 55? They have cash...more than any other segment. What is their unmet need?

    I think the reason we focus on the Generation X and Millenials is that selling into these markets is seen as an easier process than finding unmet needs among the Traditionalist/Veterans.


    William Parker MCPF GCF
  10. cvm

    cvm PFG, Picture Framing God

    IMO it'll still be owned by a generational cross-cut, but will be modeled more like Hot Topic, The Buckle, and Ulta Salon, and less like "Joe's Corner Framing Store".
  11. Pat Murphey

    Pat Murphey SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Interestingly, I have a fair number of "older" customers, buying for themselves and their offspring. Maybe it's my antique center location. Antique sellers are having great difficulty attracting the younger generation shoppers, some of whom love that tacky '50s stuff rather than classical "antiques". :D
  12. William Parker

    William Parker CGF, Certified Grumble Framer


    You have given an answer that illistrates why all this is so important. This is telling about me, but I do not know anything about the stores you referenced. I will look them up on the net, but this is an example of how disconnected I am as a Boomer. Good stuff, thanks.


    Interesting angle about the antique market and framing.

  13. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    I will be paying particular attention to the generations that come in to the shop today amd I hpe to report back.

    We have quite a few XLs that come in. You'd be right at home with Jeff, Bob. LOL! Some older goats are still shaprer than the young'uns.
  14. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    There you go--that may be it.
  15. Rob Markoff

    Rob Markoff PFG, Picture Framing God

    Well, this has certainly morphed from a "what a bunch of worthless information that is not worth paying for and has no relevance" to a fascinating discussion.

    Thanks, William for mentoring - we sure missed you!

    Bob Carter and Kirstie and I share similar experiences re: The business once providing a wonderful, fun, lucrative income, and the fact that our kids (my daughter is 19) want no part of working in the business as a career. I miss the days when you could do something stupid and still make money :)

    Has anyone read: Generations at Work? Here is the companion Website:http://www.generationsatwork.com/articles/millenials.htm

    And, I wonder every day "which button to push" that will drive more people into my store or encourage the ones who do come in to spend more money. Barbara and I think there is a significant shift in the buying paradigm and are actively looking for untapped or under-marketed sources for art and framing sales - or other services we could offer that enhance our business.

    There is a huge 3 part show on signage, awards and engraving and promotional show in Long Beach in July that I may attend just to get some ideas.

  16. Framing:

    Framing: In Corner

    As I said quite interesting what can be in a perceives useless report.

    I once listened to a business professor out of New York, one of the comments he had was that the best place to start research is where others have finished.
  17. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    Having my lunch break, slow day:
    So far, people I have personally sold framing to-
    An Artcare ready made to a thirty something who is returning is BB frame. (I'm good at that.)
    A $400+ order with MG to a late twenties couple about to get married whose parents recommended us :)
    A $350+ order to a baseball fan in his late thirties. Used some surplus fabric mat :)
    A $200 + wholesale resale order to a regular in his late sixties. He is picked up and delivered by the transit bus for elderly in this area.

    No boomers, no Millenials, no DIY so far. William, My guess is that the day will be all over the place. Some DIY, more custom, and every generation represented. I'll let you know.
  18. Jerry Ervin

    Jerry Ervin PFG, Picture Framing God

    I wish I had more to add to the 'generations' topic.

    I have enjoyed reading William's articles on the subject.

    My only observation with age difference is this, younger people give less price resistance. They understand what a dollar is worth today.

    Most folks over sixty are shocked at what some things cost now.

    I have heard the story about "I used to buy gas for 25 cents a gallon and Cokes were a nickle" too many times.

    Then again, my younger customers work in the banking industry or NASCAR. Both pay very well.
  19. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    The rest of the day was all Boomers except for one GenX. No Millenials today, as far as I know.

    William, do you think that younger people are not buying as much custom framing because thier more mature buying habits have not yet developed? The couple in their late twenties told me today that they had graduated from ready made frames to expensive custom framing. This is exactly what they said. I assured them that they could still buy ready mades in the future! They were off to Italy for thier honeymoon. I am hoping to frame some photos.
  20. PaulSF

    PaulSF PFG, Picture Framing God

    Jerry, I completely agree about price resistance. I've found that my younger customers will easily fork over $300 or $400 or more to get something they want. If they are on a budget, they don't place "pricing chicken" with me -- they tell me right away what their budget is. It's much easier working with a 25-year old customer than with a 40-year old that has never done custom framing, or a 60-year old that last framed something when George H.W. Bush was president.
  21. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    Paul and Jerry, I don't agree. I would say price acceptance has more to do with zip code than anything else.
  22. William Parker

    William Parker CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    William Parker MCPF GCF

    What great observations, and I would welcome more input. We are still looking for a Millenial frame shop owner. Yes, it would appear that they are following the path of marriage and then moving "up market" to custom framing.

    Consider the world of a Millenial, iPhones, Black Berries, and lap tops that easily hit $300.00. These products may have a limited life, and will be replaced annually in search of the newest new thing. In this context, $300.00 for a custom picture frame is just an iPhone level purchase, but to get their money, it has to be a purchase to which they aspire. They want custom, and they should want us if we can position ourselves on their radar...actually, global positioning software.

    I still have a rotary phone at the farm. It works, and will work forever. It was built to last and reflected the values of a generation. I rarely use it, but it still works. My rotary phone is the contemporary equivalent to comunicating using drums, I cannot text, Twitter, or My Space with it. The challenge for people like me is to be relevant in a world of iPhones, and to understand what it is like to grow up Millenial.

    Question, how is the Millenial customer different than the Boomer customer? Are they more or less involved in the design process? Is anyone using visualization software, and does the acceptance of technnology vary from generation to generation? Are you using any software options to give quotes, or framing options?

    William Parker MCPF GCF

    Kirstie, good stuff, thanks.
  23. DVieau2

    DVieau2 PFG, Picture Framing God

    So you’re the one!

    Would you please consider the value of lost productivity caused by everyone having to wait while the computer voice asks: “If you have a touchtone phone please press 1”

    I ask myself “who doesn’t have a touchtone phone”?

    5 million times a day our citizens lose 5 seconds each . That could add up to a billion dollars!

    You know William, you could single handily boost our economy by losing the old phone.

  24. William Parker

    William Parker CGF, Certified Grumble Framer


    Thank you for the laugh of the morning. I have said for a long time that I am responsible for everything that has gone wrong since Korea. So I will just add this one to the list. Thanks again for the laugh.

  25. Jay H

    Jay H PFG, Picture Framing God

    I missed some earlier discussion. What are you calling the millenial?

    Wouldn't that be like looking for a Millennial pyramid builder or wagon maker? Our craft is 100's of years old. It will never have the appeal that all the electronic devices you mention have. Also when those have gone by the way of the VHS player, we will still be framing.

    The closest product to fit your description would be the digital frame and people my age aren't buying them up like cell phones and lap tops. My wife was given one for Christmas by her company and we haven't taken it out of the box yet.

    Even the vis software you mention, does have a certain WOW factor but it wears off rather quickly. What ever the 20 something generation is called at the time, I don't ever think they will become the ones that use our services no matter how we package ourselves.
  26. William Parker

    William Parker CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    William Parker MCPF GCF

    Jerry and Paul,

    Thanks for the input, and following Kirstie's model. If you had to break out customers by age, who came in last week? Who spent more, Boomers, or Millenials (if any)?

    William Parker MCPF GCF
  27. William Parker

    William Parker CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    William Parker MCPF GCF


    Here is the breakout of the generations, and a very interesting book on the subject. This is from a talk I gave earlier this year:

    "Who are these generations? The definitions vary from author to author. For this series I am going to use the definitions outlined in “When Generations Collide” by Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman. According to Lancaster and Stillman, our four generations are divided into:

    Traditionalist (1900-1945) representing 75 Million people. (63-100)
    The Boomers (1946-1964) representing 80 Million people. (44-62)
    The Generation X (1965-1980) representing 46 Million people. (28-43)
    The Millennials (1981-1999) representing 76 Million people. (8-27)"

    Some research indicates that, while Millenials are connected to a level that exceeds the other three generations, they are returning to the values of the Traditionalist, and they want custom products. Relative to the cost of other things that represent luxury purchases among the Millenials (phones, Gray Goose Vodka, pda's) custom framing is a relative bargain. This may be the first generation where the price barrior is second to the design value.

    Have a great Sunday,

    William Parker MCPF GCF
  28. Jay H

    Jay H PFG, Picture Framing God

    Oh, I see. Thanks. I'm in the middle of GEN X and probably not qualified to know the inner working of the Millennials. They also make up a very small portion of my business. I don't think that particular age group is a typical framing customer.

    Also I don't think generations age differently. My mothers house, for example, is looking more and more as my grandmother and what I remember of my great grandmothers house. There are a few obvious differences in appliances and style but how they decorate hasn't changed much. Boomers make up almost all my business. In the next 10 -20 years GEN X will probably be number one by far and while the styles they choose may be different, I suspect thier reason for framing will be the same.

    Off to church. You have a good day also!
  29. JbNormandog

    JbNormandog SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Jay, (sorry frankenthread)

    I received a digital frame as well. I use it along with other items in my front window of the shop where it cycles through images of jobs I've done and info like, "We frame flatscreen tv's, and We deliver and instal".
    This way it can keep selling after I'm closed for the day.

    I didn't want it in my house, I thought it was a bit tacky.

  30. John Ranes II CPF GCF

    John Ranes II CPF GCF SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Interesting ... more food for thought


    Sarah and I just broke down our consummer numbers who shop our business. Similar to Jay, we're dependent upon the Boomers...

    Traditionalist (1900-1945): 7% (Big purchases)
    The Boomers (1946-1964): 75%
    The Generation X (1965-1980): 15% (Growing Group)
    The Millennials (1981-1999): 3%

    Sarah had a Millennial customer just this past week: Drives up in a Saturn SUV around Noon on her way to a lunch date. She's talking on her Blackberry as she carries a designer Coach handbag. She inquires about a shadowbox frame to display shells from a vacation in Florida. Sarah's ballpark quote of $100 was "too much", as she "just wanted to pick something up and leave with it".

    I don't think our visualization software would have helped land this customer. :shrug:

    Totally agree, zip code along with parental and cultural upbringing has a bigger impact.

    More later...

  31. William Parker

    William Parker CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    William Parker MCPF GCF

    John and Sarah,

    Great information, and thank you for taking the time to work up the numbers. Are you doing anything specific to raise the penetration in Generation X?

    Question, do these percentages match what others are seeing?

    William Parker MCPF GCF

    PS John we have not talked since Baltimore. If you have a moment, give me a call next week and let's catch up.
  32. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Kirstie-One thing we absolutely do know (from Research Surveys) is that age groups absolutely do have "conditioned" shopping habits

    Older groups tend to rely upon "traditional, developed" habits (ask your parents) as do younger groups (ask your kids) to other venues

    Here is what the surveys said

    When asked where those that actually did get custom framing done shopped
    indicating shops like ours the percentages were skewed more favorably from older consumers declining proportional to age. Youngest consumers least likely to shop with us

    Yet, the age dynamic was inversely proportional favoring younger consumers shopping Big Boxes heavily with a declining proportion to increasing age

    Now, I know that there will be some that have never seen the data conclude that younger shoppers do not get framing done and as they mature they will come to us. This survey reflected consumers that actually had framing done

    The undeniable strategic implication is that this younger group spends a ton, also and almost none of them shop with us. And as stated earlier consumers practice "conditioned" patterns, although younger consumers are less likely to be as "conditioned". If I remember, main reasons for switching were price and conveinence (read:internet)

    They also stated they were reasonably satisfied with the product at the Big Boxes. The number one winner in "satisfaction" were Home Framers (Obvious as they wouldn't shop with them otherwise). The difference in "satisfaction" was hardly noticeable between measured segments. William and I have discussed this ad nauseum, but is totally relevant.

    Bottom line: When relying upon older shoppers as a main base (according to survey) they spend less as they get even older (ask your parents) and disappearing. Younger shoppers are not shopping with us and do not have compelling reason to convert in general
  33. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    From general experience, I would agree. My parents are now gone, but they would not have set foot in a big box store for many reasons, including physical challenges, lack of personal attention, and a sense of being overwhelmed. Our daughter, 21, shops in chains and big box stores all the time, and rarely steps foot in an independent store. My daughter would tell me it is too hard to return things, and they are too expensive. We are dependent upon Boomers. As they age, we may have a problem. The big challenge is to solve the problem that affects us all. How to attract a younger clientèle as the present one ages?

    As we speak I am having lunch and we are having a challenging day with regard to price. One rework from yesterday to lower price, and two right now who are having an inordinately difficult time finding a price for some small pieces. I have staff with the patience of Job. No one wants to spend more than $100. today, even on the bigger stuff, even on phone quotes. All Boomers.
  34. JWB9999999

    JWB9999999 SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    To me, this all begs the question: if you forsee big box stores as being a problem for you in the future, why not put independent custom frame shops in places where there are not bix box stores?

    I'm in a small town. There are no big box shops for 90 miles in any direction. My shop continues to do better all of the time, and I'm looking to expand. I'm mainly looking at other small towns.

    But even in large cities, the big boxes aren't everywhere. It's easy enough to put a frame shop in an area that is far from them, making your shop the more convenient choice.
  35. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Hey Kirstie-my dad is 90 and still lives unassited with his wife. They love Wal-Mart but not other big boxes. he's pretty aware that they offer many perks to Seniors. It is that perception that attracts them

    My kids, 30 and 26,( you are such a youngster) think Target is a superior retailer and think Target.com is a first (and often only) choice

    That prefernce is pretty ingrained

    I am certain that had we not been in the framing biz, they would not even think of us. I am also quite certain that they would not have anywhere as nice framing, either. And if they had to pay for it, that would make a huge difference
  36. William Parker

    William Parker CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    William Parker MCPF GCF


    You raise an interesting point; moving into markets without big-box competition. I think that could be a viable strategy as long as the market will support, as yours does, a growing business. To your point, at one time there was a very successful custom frame shop in Bean Station, Tennessee. In fact it was the only business in Bean Station and had customers driving in from Bristol-Kingsport, and Knoxville. This frame shop defied all of the things we preach about location, and customer bases of 3 1/2 to 5 1/2 miles of your location. So Bean Station validates your point.

    To the counter point, there is a jewlery store chain, maybe Zales, which positions its store in the strip centers beside WalMarts. WalMart does have jewlery items, but not a very large selection. By physically positioning themselves by WalMart they are in position to benefit from WalMart's limited selection in this department. So, instead of moving away from big-boxes, we should move next door.

    Is anyone near a big-box store, and what has been the effect on your business? Those little fish who attach themselves to sharks live a pretty good life.

    William Parker MCPF GCF
  37. William Parker

    William Parker CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    William Parker MCF GCF


    Serious question, who taught your kids to shop? Did Debi first take them to Target, or was it their friends? I have long thought we are taught to shop. For example, my first trip to a frame shop was when I was about four. It was named Marjories, and they sold models, antiques, and custom framing. Marjorie's husband was the part-time framer (his real job was a body repair person), and I remember looking up at him cutting a frame section with a mitre box and hand saw. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. So I blame this love of framing on Bernice Parker and taking me on shopping trips.

    So Bob, was it time-starved Boomer parents who taught the kids to find Target, or was it Target's use of fashon design to drive sales that drew the kids into the store?

    William Parker MCPF GCF
  38. cvm

    cvm PFG, Picture Framing God

    Reminds me of the old story about the guy on the strip in Vegas who opened up a little casino right next door to one of the behemoth casinos and hung a giant neon sign that said "ENTRANCE".
  39. Doug Gemmell

    Doug Gemmell SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I'm sure that most of us don't have a plethora of Millennials beating down our doors for reasons already stated.

    We should have a good percentage of Gen Xers though. Not sure what that percentage should be and I don't keep numbers broken down by age of my customers although maybe I should start. I get a pretty good number of Xers based on my unofficial count though.

    If the vast majority of your customers are boomers, or older, I think you are behind the curve and you'd better start catching up.

    Traditional advertising, newspapers and yellow pages, work well for perhaps the last half of the older boomers, not so much for those younger.

    To increase the post-bommer %, common wisdom would indicate using the internet and probably networking.

    Some of the few Millennials we can count as customers come here because their parents are customers. To get more of the younger crowd, I've been thinking about giving a few customers who have "children of framing age" gift certificates made out in the kid's name. That would maybe pry them away from the evil clutches of the big boxes .

    We're all going to have to get real creative in our advertising to these youngsters.
  40. surferbill

    surferbill SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    If been at my current location for 17 years, and about 10 years ago an M's moved in across the street 200 yards away.
    Their is no question they do a tremendous amount of framing, and anyone who says otherwise is just kidding themselves.
    They do send people my way that need things in a hurry, as they take 3 weeks to finish a job.
    I've managed to co-exist with them, but I would guess they do 10 times the amount of framing I do.
  41. shayla

    shayla WOW Framer

    I'm a bit late to the party, but have made it through the first seventy posts
    today. Thank you to all of you who have made this such an insightful and well-balanced conversation. This willingness to examine ourselves, ask questions, and explore what possible answers might be out there is vital to our survival as small business people. Even if all we learn at the start is how to ask better questions, that itself is a step in the right direction. It's not enough to stop there, but figuring out which path to take is of utmost importance. The time spent in so doing can save us from finding out down the road that we spent much time and money headed in the wrong direction.

    I think it was Warren Tucker who encouraged Kirstie to not feel bad about flying by the seat of her pants. He followed it up by pointing out the ways in which that perceived weakness also has some valuable hidden strengths. It allows for flexibility and the ability to experiment with different systems in a much shorter time span than a huge corporate entity could manage. It's pretty scary sometimes, though. Having a group of people in the same boat to talk with is both helpful and encouraging.

    It's hard in a way, to be so open online. If I was in charge of marketing strategies for big box framing stores, I'd be darn sure to come on a forum like this and see what my competition was saying. And it's a pretty good bet that they do just that. For those of you big enough to be seen as their competition, taking part in these conversations online can be a bit like those dreams where you're in public and suddenly realize that, while everyone else has clothes on, you're in nothing but your underwear. Or, perhaps a more apt comparison would be letting your enemy see your battle plan while you don't have the luxury of seeing his. But surely the mutual encouragement and clarity of focus to be gained from this kind of conversation exceeds those risks.

    What amazes me again and again is how so many of the leading figures in picture framing are willing to make time to participate on this forum. It's a gift to all of us. I have some talents, but strategic thinking skills isn't at the top of that list. The depth and balance with which this conversation has been conducted really help me to think about how to be proactive in the current business climate.
  42. William Parker

    William Parker CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    William Parker MCPF GCF

    Surfer Bill,

    Great job, ten years with 600 feet of separation, and you are still going. Of course I have questions:

    1. how does your percentage of Millenials compare to John and Sarah's (7%)?

    2. has your business grown in the last ten year?

    3. did your business drop when they opened?

    4. do you ever get people shopping their prices with you?

    General question, is it the big boxes that we have to fear, or has their advertising expanded the overall market?

    Interesting stuff y'all.

    William Parker MCPF GCF
  43. DVieau2

    DVieau2 PFG, Picture Framing God

    I've asked this before and have never received a clear answer.

    When we say a big box frame shop is doing $750,000 per year is that figure only for custom framing or is that figure total sales in the frame department?

    I believe the big sales figures for BB frame shops include all custom and retail sales made in the frame department. That would include the pegboard wire and hooks, all photoframes, all readymades, maybe preframed art, and certainly custom framing.

    Most discussions here on the grumble are directed at their 1000 sq. ft. custom framing service but we tend to forget they have another 2000 sq ft of retail mdse that draws the customer to the store.

    Our superior designs, and great customer service will not attract the retail customer looking for a $15.99 readymade.

    I believe it's the rows and rows of readymades and photoframes that give BB stores their competitive advantage, especially with the younger customer.

  44. surferbill

    surferbill SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    #1 I'm sure my Millennial sales are as low or lower than 7%.
    I question whether any of us baby boomers will have a clue how to attract younger customers, and I would think we might have to hire a Millennial manager or marketing person to come up with ideas.

    #2 My business has grown in the last ten years, but most of that growth has been an increase in corporate sales.
    The retail sales have been flat for a few years.

    #3 When I found out they were moving in across the street, I freaked. There was a definite negative affect on my retail sales, and I believe there still is.
    Almost every day someone comes in and has either been over to M's recently, or is planning on going there for something.
    A typical statement from a customer would be "I'll just go over to M's and get a cheap readymade for this picture."

    #4 I have customers bring in M's quotes all the time, and I can usually match or beat them.
    Unfortunately, for every time someone brings in a quote from them, I bet 50 to 100 people have gotten something framed there.
  45. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Hey Doug-The $750K is inclusive, but perhaps some of the ex-M's employees might share how that Balance of Sale breaks down. Not sure it matters much as most of us have sub-categories. But, it might be interesting. Perhaps Kathy might offer

    I have spoken to folks that have worked in $1M+ frame dept's at M's

    That's a ton of stuff

    Shayla-I will add my anecdotal info to the Big Boxes. I had a few share someinsight and it is hardly empirical, but most of their efforts exclude us. They see us as neither a threat nor necessary evil. In fact, they take a benign view: someone that might cut down a frame, place to send complex jobs. But i might suggest that if they seriously monitor the forum, it might be to ferret out an employee violating policy

    I certainly could be wrong, though
  46. shayla

    shayla WOW Framer

    That's a good point, Bob. I talked to someone who said that when an M's opened up in their town, they took them business cards and established a rapport. Sounds like dancing with the devil, but they managed to keep their own business up and when M's had overflow customers or jobs that they didn't know how to handle, this was the one frame shop they referred people to.

    This thread has me thinking about something else that's probably been discussed at length. How to be just appealing as the big, well-financed framing departments of BB stores, but at the same time maintain a uniquely appealing identity. It's a good idea to keep up with the times and have a store that's appealing to younger customers, but at the same time, a custom frame shop needs to have a distinctive difference from the big boxes. If they start looking too much the same, then it seems like it would make it even more likely for today's shoppers to think of them as similar. And if the two places look the same, why not take work to the one that costs the least?

    Kirstie, I really appreciate everything you write on here. To me, you and Jeff seem like the perfect example of people who have managed to make a custom frame shop survive and thrive over decades of economic ups and downs. You do good work, have an experienced and reliable staff, and are always looking for ways to stay viable and proactive, to keep looking ahead. You might feel like you're uncertain and flying without a compass sometimes, but to myself and many others, you are a model of how to do things well. I'm sure you've made some mistakes along the way, and will make them again in the future, but your flexibility, open-mindedness, and forward-looking perspective are examples that I admire greatly.
  47. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Hey Shayla-William and I have served on several panel discussions over the years and his best lines at the events deeals with exactly that. He suggests to drop off a dozen Krispy Kremes to the staff at M's and introduce yourself, offering your services. He says that you may need to do it every 3-4mons because of the turnover...

    Always gets a great laugh
  48. shayla

    shayla WOW Framer

    Maybe I should just cut to the chase and take them turnovers instead? :icon21:

    This reminds me of something that happened here a dozen years ago. Our local bookstore had pretty much been the only game in town, and then the franchise of a larger independent chain set up camp just two blocks away from it. On the day of the grand opening, I went to see what the new store looked like, and there on the counter was a bouquet of flowers from our local store. With it was a card welcoming them to town. That showed so much class, and it said a great deal about the kind of spirit that this town has.

    The owner of the smaller store has managed to stay in business, and as time goes by, this is due more and more to his online sales of special editions and hard-to-find copies. He might wish that he was the only one in town, but he's made a real effort to show goodwill toward the other place. In a way, they're in the same boat, just like all the art galleries in a town are. It's a changing world, and anyone in a business with such a sea-change future ahead of them had better learn how to cooperate for the sake of survival. A few years ago, an even larger store opened across town, and both of these shops took a blow from it. They've stayed afloat, and a big part of that is the way that they've made themselves into destination places, where people go as much for the experience as for the book.

    I've benefited from this kind of attitude in my own life. In 1999,
    when the gallery that I framed at closed, our main framing competitor
    called and asked me to come work for her. I had always made
    a point to be friendly with her, and to be helpful whenever I could.
    It felt so good knowing that this bridge was here because I had built it
    and then kept from ever burning it down. I still work at the same
    shop, and am glad that she felt free to approach me in that way.
  49. Warren Tucker

    Warren Tucker MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    If the big boxes are doing $750,000 in Wilmington, the only market I know anything about then Wilmington must be the framing capital of the world. There are two BBs here and with me that would mean $3.5M in framing for a community of, say, 175,000 souls. There are other shops so add another $150,000 for the small shops. The BB aren't doing anything like 4175,000 now and I think we'll see a shake out pretty soon. We're doing well enough to not lay off anyone and are hunkering down for the duration with the present staff. If anyone is laid off it'll be me.

    Falling sales during this deep recession has nothing to do with age groups. Duh, it's a recession, and a deep one. We did 700k in 08 and that was a down year.

    Any small, and I really mean a micro businessman as I am, who depends on national surveys is too detached from his market. I don't need national statistics to tell me what my market is doing and where it's going. Anyone paying any attention to a national survey has lost touch with his customers, has lost the advantage that he has over a more centrally located wider business. We don't need surveys; we see out customers every day. And, BTW, we have customers across the age lines. We have college art students as well as retired affluent customers. The younger customers tend to be children and grand children of our older affluent customers. That's an advantage of being in business for 30 years.

    If you're are running a small business and you don't have a feel for your local market and need a national survey to test where the wind is blowing, maybe you should get into another line of work. And how well are these guys pushing national surveys doing? I'm happy with my business and I expect it to last long after I've retired. Would my daughters go into the family business? I think they wouldn't want to have to compete with the employees who have been here, one 30 years and the most junior, 12 years. This is a going concern, making money even during a recession. We don't even have to game our credit card company for a free airline ticket, we don't need a discount that bad. There is nothing complicated about running a very small business; it's all about real value (not perceived value), service, and longevity. And has anyone charted the gradual rising of framing prices to the gradual falling of framing sales? I think, without the benefit of a national survey, that the problem with our industry can be paralleled with the the increasing price of our services. How many times have I seen posted here "I don't offer paper mats", or "My default glass is Conservation clear"? We sell literally tons of regular (ssf) glass and tons of paper mats. We need a fork lift to unload the stuff. We also sell a lot of Alpha mats and coated glass. Probably as much as the average frame shop. We sell way more closed corner frames than average.

    It's the price that's causing the problem.
  50. shayla

    shayla WOW Framer

    Do you actually mean this?

    To me, there's a huge difference between paying attention to something and letting it be your sole guide. Your point about the value of knowing your local market is worth it's weight in gold, but these two acts don't have to be mutually exclusive. It seems smart to do what works with your local customers, and to also maintain an awareness of the broader scope of things. The former might be far more important as a guiding factor, but the latter can also be a useful tool.

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