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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. Jim Miller

    Jim Miller SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    So, if M's sale price were $100, your price would be $33 to $50? Gosh, it is amazing that you could earn a profit with such prices. Good for you.

    But Jeff, why would you want to price your work at 1/2 or 1/3 of your competitors' prices? Would you not win all of the orders with prices only a few dollars lower than your competitors?
  2. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Jim, in some markets that would be fine but as I've shared before there are 291 phone listings for framing in Myrtle Beach with a population of 55,000 in 6 cities. Most of these phone listings belong to artist who also compete against framers by using the most hacked together, half-a$$ed methods you have ever seen.

    Most of these people are framing because the traditional independent shops have made it so easy for them to charge half or less than the stores for like materials. Its a thinning of the heard. Our industry has lost 50% of its stores in a few short years because of the mentality that we can charge any arbitrary price we choose. Any BB doing a $100 dollar job is consuming about $10 in materials if you count the balance as waste so I'll be glad to get $50 out of it. Actual cost of materials consumed will be about $5-$6 dollars and I own the stuff so why not get that customer to bring the 20 other pieces they would like to have framed to my store rather than overcharging for one piece per year.
  3. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    What's Hot?

    Jumping back a few posts to William's discussion of the generations. I have found that what brings younger people (Gen X) into my shop is the art that I have near the door and in the window. Then they discover framing, often the less expensive offerings. Yesterday I sold two posters to a young girl, suggested the poster special, which she purchased. She came back a couple of hours later to pick them up with two girlfriends in tow who were there for the requisite compliments and excitement. That's the business I want to capture for the future!

    Here's my question: What art or products are bringing Gen X into your shop? What's hot at your shop? In your geographic area? You can poke around my site to see what we are selling. What are you selling to the younger generation? What do you plan to sell? What art sells really well right now? What's featured on the design blogs? Ask your kids. Mine is giving me art consultation right now and I'm pursuing one idea which I will share if it takes off.

    We need to put our heads together to come up with answers to some more of the issues brought up in this thread.
  4. Rob Markoff

    Rob Markoff PFG, Picture Framing God

    Kirstie (and others)

    Do you have a "referral" program? It sure seems to me that getting younger generations to refer their friends is an activity worth pursuing and rewarding.
  5. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Kirstie, I believe that the first place to head for these younger generations is digital imaging. Many in this market are looking for the high end artist wanting to spend hundreds on a single print on specialty paper. I target the average consumer by advertising Giclee Printing of digital images. My prices are insanely low for a simple photo printing and I always get the frame job out of it. The younger generations love photos because their lives are built around them online, by phone and every one of them owns a digital camera. Save yourself the heartache of a bad decision in large format printers and buy an Epson.

    I have gone after the local college photography dept. and it has grown to half the depts in the college. It all started in Dec when they needed 11x14 matboard blanks in white to mount their projects. Everybody in town snubbed them because they were looking to spend very little. I cut them 11x14 blanks out of Berkshire for $1 each and have framed 100's of their pieces ever since because I acknowledge the fact that they are on tight budgets and not everything the do needs conservation materials. Since Dec I have sold them over 3000 of these and it is the students who must walk through my door to purchase them.

    By setting up layers of framing options I have been able to educate and sell them on every level. One piece is a gift for a friend and they either get it cheap from me or they are heading to Wally World. Another piece may be for a competition and conservation framing is required. Many of them are doing the photography for a friends wedding so I get to print anything they are willing to spend more than 19 cents per print. Mom and Dad get canvas prints.

    Spend some time with your daughter and ask her to help you track down several items for you. Watch how she goes about it. Internet first but that is research on price and quality. Items that don't ship well will be found at local stores but price is king on like items.

    Now look at pricing levels in your store and determine if someone of that age group would buy from you or somewhere else. Not on that one of a kind super dooper job but everyday items. If you can't win the everyday items you have priced yourself out of the game. The kids doing the dirt cheap framing now are your retirement income.
  6. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Mine is that I hand them 10 or more business cards and ask them to tell everyone they know because if I don't stay busy I will have to raise my prices. I get tons of referrals this way. It works with every generation. Many of them bring their friends in for the first time to my store.
  7. PaulSF

    PaulSF PFG, Picture Framing God

    I think if you want to attract the customers in their 20s and early 30s, you need concert posters (here it would be indie rock groups, but in other places it could be country music), and art based on Japanese anime and manga, skateboarding and tagging. Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat are old school, they might as well be Monet and Rembrandt. The current names are people like Shepard Fairey, who did the iconic blue and red Obama posters, or Jim Phillips, who does skateboard design.
  8. David N Waldmann

    David N Waldmann SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    That is so, like, yesterday!

    (we all know San Mateo is at least 10 years behind the rest of the country....)
  9. PaulSF

    PaulSF PFG, Picture Framing God

    David, didn't you mean to twitter that?
  10. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    No referral program yet. As we have the monthly coupon through the newsletter, I don't want to add more at this time. Ken Baur uses a referral program quite successfully, I believe. He has written numerous articles for PFM or Decor.
  11. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    We still sell some Fairey, but the Obama sales have really slowed. My daughter would hate anime, but she still wears Ed Hardy, which she says is also passe. You have to be really fast to keep up with the trends. I am looking for longer lasting images that attract the younger customer as well as the Boomers. I have found a few which sell well, but I would like a larger selection.

    I also think that brightly colored desk frames, multiple window desk frames, all for under $10-$15. would sell. Those are Target prices and Target has cute ones, so finiding a supplier in that price range is tough.
  12. PaulSF

    PaulSF PFG, Picture Framing God

    Kirstie, I've pretty much given up on stocking prints and posters as a revenue-producing endeavor. Ditto for giftware, and even photo frames. However, I think it's worthwhile to put up a few framing displays with the kind of art that appeals to the 20- and 30-somethings. It shows them that you get it, that you can cater to their needs.

    I've just started a very low-budget referral program, based on the article that Ken Baur had in one of the trade mags last month. I printed up some referral certificates off my computer, and I hand them out to customers when they pick up their artwork. I also mail them out with my thank you notes. Basically, when they refer a customer, the new customer gets $25 off the first order, and the referring customer gets $25 off their next order. No limit. I would be thrilled if one of my customers came in with 10 or 20 of those, that means they have referred 10 or 20 new customers to me. No payoff yet, but I really just started it and May was a disastrously slow month.

    Oh, and I've told customers that if they refer a designer to me, they will get a gift coupon for more than $25.

    P.S. You heard about Hankins-Koppel selling out to Delta Mat & Moulding? Sign of the times, I'm afraid.
  13. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    No, I have not. Maybe now they won't sell to my customers who walk into the warehouse. HK prices are still online. I had to show a customer their glass chart yesterday because she was going to go there to get her MG. My volume price to her was lower but she did not "get" this until I pointed out that "wholesale" is not always so. This is one of the vendors we cut out years ago for this practice. They went retail and we got nothing in return.
  14. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    I made quite a bit of money on Obama posters a few months ago, and I also continue to sell very selected art both framed and unframed. It takes really knowing the style of homes in your area and what sells to those customers. That's why I am looking for the new What's Hot...
  15. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    Jeff, we see a lot of giclee prints in the shop, in fact we have an order in house to frame thirteen 20 x 24 photos and another for 4 of the same size. Both of these customers print thier own. (And they both want MG, thier request.) The serious photographic artists, it seems, buy printers. For the casual photographer, this could make sense in our area. We have a lot of printers near us, however.
  16. shayla

    shayla WOW Framer

    That's how it is with us, too. So many good photographers with their own printers, and a few good printing shops, too.

    One of our guys has worked at a national printing company for years, and has his own business as well. He does printing for quite a few local artists, and is so good I wouldn't want them to anyone else. He's patient, has a keen eye for color corrections, and willing to do multiple proofs to get one that's just right. He has a great big scanner and a wide assortment of archival quality papers,
    from glossy to heavy cotton. Plus, he's good with people. I've referred several artists to him, as well as framing customers who are looking to have high quality prints made of personal photographs. They're thrilled with the results, and bring the resulting prints to me for framing.

    For us, it wouldn't make sense to set up our own system. But it makes a lot of sense to develop this kind of relationship with someone who already has one. It's benefited both us and him, and our customers are so pleased with the results that they refer others.
  17. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    I also do occasional framing info. classes for the local city collge. Every artist in town takes a city college class every year so they can use thie huge printers set up there for them in a well equipped studio. If I could find a way to make this profitable, I would!

    Shayla, you have just given me a newsletter idea!
  18. surferbill

    surferbill SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I am so glad I made the plunge and bought my two Epson printers. It was a bit of an investment in time and money, but it's been well worth it.

    As photographers morph into picture framers, it's only fair that framers buy high quality printers and compete with photo finishers and photographers for business. IMO

    I recently got a job over the internet for 32 20x24 photos double matted with nice wood frames.
    They sent me a disk and I printed all the photos, framed them and then hung them.
    I would have never gotten the job without advertising on my website that I printed photos and giclees.
  19. shayla

    shayla WOW Framer

    I didn't intend to sound like a wet blanket for getting printers. It's just that, for us, it's not something we're wanting to do so far. Bill, what you've done sounds like a great way to diversify. I suppose this is what I think. If someone is going to get a printer, they need to decide at what level they're going to do work for people. Are they going to print from pre-scanned images already on disc, or scan themselves and do color corrections? Doing the former is easier than doing the latter, and someone choosing to do the latter needs to make sure they charge enough for the time it takes.
  20. Jay H

    Jay H PFG, Picture Framing God

    I'm as frugal as they come and I am glad I bought my printer. I'd sell it in 10 seconds if it wasn't an asset to my business. It is though. My fear now is that as it gets up there in age, I'll have to replace it soon. I've been waiting for over a week to get Inkpress paper and in a panic ordered some Epson paper that I do not like. If my whole printer went down, I'd replace it in a hurry because it's such an asset.

    Anybody looking to expand should abandon the "what if's" and buy one. Give it 6 months to a year and if you don't like it, sell it. It will be like new and you'll likely get out of it about what you have in it. It's very little risk. It will also make you more relevent to more people. Who cares if there are 10,000 printshops within 100 yards of you. How many of those printshops are framing? Wouldn't one stop be better than two?
  21. Jim Miller

    Jim Miller SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    For those who have plenty of competing printers in the neighborhood, maybe sub-contracting or recprocal referrals make the most sense.

    Or, maybe acquiring your own printing equipment and learning to use it proficiently could be justified by having complete control of the process. You control the inkset and paper combinations, you print at your convenience, you sell what you know to be best for each job. And, depending on the economies of scale, maybe you could maximize your profit.
  22. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Kirstie, we have bazillions of printers over here. In fact there are more printers than frame shops and there are 291 frame shop phone listings. Most of the better photographers that buy printers only buy the 17" printers and I get anything larger than that.

    I target the ready to print market and am not looking to print on a $100 sheet of specialty paper. I print on Epson paper and the majority of my printing comes from current framing customers. Once they have you print one they are hooked.

    I don't have the time or patience right now to do color correction so when they ask how much I give them some isane quote that always discourages it. One problem I have found is that the semi-pro photographer spends 30-40 hours in Photoshop and walks in with an illustration rather than a photo. The guy last week said that doesn't look the way it did on my computer. I asked if the monitor was calibrated and he said no. I asked how old the monitor was and he said 5 or 6 years. I asked if he had printed a test copy he said no.

    I sent the customer home to print a test copy on his photo printer and told him to call and let me know if they were different. He never called.

    Your target market is the casual photographer that is not going to sweat you for a month over a $100 print job. Two weeks ago I printed the first ever professional print for a girl that had me frame it for a competition. She won first place in a large and established art guild competition with her first ever competition. I framed the 2nd place winner also which was a watercolor. The funny thing is that the week before the guild had purchased 2 gift certificates as first and second prize from me. They also sent an e-mail to 150 members recommending my store. I have seen at least 25 of them in my store since then.

    There is a lot of competition at the top end and I don't want to work that hard babysitting a bunch of "Pros". I'll take my slice from the bottom half. Nobody other than me around here markets to that half. Generates a lot of framing jobs.
  23. Jay H

    Jay H PFG, Picture Framing God

    Where's "here"? That sure sounds like a lot.
  24. nikfrz

    nikfrz SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I was wondering the same thing. I used an approximate 50 mi radius from MB. I looked in the yellow pages and online, and I didnt come up with near that many. There is a lot though in your area.

    I havent looked up the printers. I do know they are cropping up all over the place. There is a photographer near me that bought the 9800 a little over a year ago and all the bells and whistles with it. He just wanted to print his photos. And he doesnt even sell them. Talk about some disposable income!
    Anyhow, an artist that lived near him asked him to make some prints for her, and it snowballed. He is now so busy printing everyone else's, he doesnt have time to do his own.
  25. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God


    How do you market printing only to the lower end? With my luck I would get all of the nitpickers who would demand constant reprints to get the job to be what they want. This is my fear with a service like this, the revisions. I think it's great that you are able to generate the business; I just wonder how you eliminate the high end photographer. What paper are you using?
  26. Jay H

    Jay H PFG, Picture Framing God

    I can't answer your question because I don't notice a high end/low end printing customer. However if you're using good profiles with the paper, the print is what the print is. Also many photographers are kicking around with junky unprofiled printers and are more than thrilled with what you give them back.

    Photographers typically find a printer that jives with what they want out of print and never go any place else. Sometimes I'm not that shop. When I am it's hard to beat this type of loyalty.
  27. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    I'm using Epson Enhanced Matte. Based on independant testing Kodak photo paper has an expected15 year lifespan, Fuji has a 17 year life and the Epson Enhanced Matte printed with Epson Archival inks have a 47 year life.

    The paper is an extra heavy paper like you would find very expensive posters. The finished prints are stunning and customers flip out when they see their own photos turn into art.

    Kirstie, I advertise in the main paper when they run the monthly sale. I advertise Digital Giclee Printing and my prices run from $9.95 to $29.95. I have hundreds of my own photos hanging on the walls and let them know that theirs will look as good as mine if printined on the Epson. Most people try a ten dollar print and get hooked. Lots of frame jobs.

    I also do printing of store signs through graphics firms or store owners. I print on adhesive exterior media for cars, store windows and sign panels. I scan and print a lot of slides and old photos. I've always got a dozen print jobs stacked up.
  28. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    Jeff, what are you using for blow up software? The last time I had to have a series of 8 x 10 photos enlarged to 24 x 36 for a local corporate job, I used pictopia.com (10 minutes away) and they did an excellent job. I am told that this is way beyond Photoshop.

    Do you have two printers so that you can print smaller jobs on the smaller printer or do you wait and gang the printing on one sheet?

    This is all fascinating to me. We don't plan to add printing anytime soon, but understanding the cost/benefit is helpful.

    And you really don't get picky customers with regard to color?
  29. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    I print from photoshop and the only time enlargements are a problem is when the customer has the camera set to low resolution to save space on the SD card. Any 5 mega pixel camera will have perfect results in a 40x60.

    Scans give huge files so ther is no issue there. As far as color issues the only time you'll get into that is printing $150 prints on specialty papers. Color match comes down to what is on the file is going to be what appears in the photo. Different printers will be somewhat different in color. For color matching I quote $150 plus the cost of up to 3 test prints.

    A customer that has a calibrated monitor will get what they see. People that are that financially involved often times have their own equipment or use their favorite lab. Like Jay said, they are thrilled with the outcome.

    AS far as resizing in Photoshop, that is the most commonly used software for this kind of work and if it doesn't do a good job tens of millions of owners around the world would want a refund. They may have been talking about an image that the pixels are blown out beyond 8x10 which would mean they took the shot with a cell phone. The Epson software assists in the enlargement but again any 5 mega-pixel can go 40x60, even a cheap Kodak Easy Share.
  30. Jay H

    Jay H PFG, Picture Framing God

    I've quit using photoshop to resize anything. Genuine fractals is good and I've just started using Qimage to print and resize and it makes PS seem like a joke. I also don't understand what the paper has to do with the final color? A good paper profile is all one needs. Most papers have them for Epson printers and if not they will make one. You can even get profiles for your specific printer for a few bucks. I would think a 5 mp image would would be greatly degraded at anything over 20" especially if sized with PS. Enhanced matte also is softer and less "photo like" than a luster paper. Do all your photographers just ignore that? Much of that doesn't echo my experiance.

    Back to the topic though, I was chatting with a lady who used to do stained glass the other day. She mentioned how arts and crafts were completely dead right now. She said that people these days are into digital stuff like tvs, cell phones, and digital cameras. I couldn't disagree with her and it would seem like if we were going stay relevant that printing would be a great way to get the younger crowd in the door and have them hooked early on. Also I don't think I've ever been in a framing BB that did printing. It's also a way to set ourselves apart.
  31. Jerry Ervin

    Jerry Ervin PFG, Picture Framing God

    For now.

    I don't know how long that will hold.
  32. Jay H

    Jay H PFG, Picture Framing God

    Yes and with so many things being first can go a long way to winning.
  33. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Jay-Years ago, like 3 or 4, being first to market was huge

    Today, being best in market trumps all

    As the markets evolve, "Best" can mean many things

    Might be Best service or Best price or Best location or Best quality

    In fact this may be the today's version of "pick two"; one (or two) may not be enough, as long as the others are good (or better)

    As the data reinforces, consumers do gravitate to more than one resonating quality

    I might be wrong, but i doubt it
  34. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

American Picture Frame Academy 1-888-840-9605

The American Picture Framing Academy Learn Picture Framing Now

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