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Aaron Brothers custom framing at Michaels?

Discussion in 'The Grumble' started by snafu, Nov 12, 2018.

  1. snafu

    snafu MGF, Master Grumble Framer

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  2. FramerInTraining

    FramerInTraining MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    Yes. They owned Aarons’s before and closed all those shops. They renamed their old custom framing department Aaron Brothers.
  3. Joe B

    Joe B SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Michael's has owned Aaron Brothers since 1995. Same Michael's Custom Framing just a different name - same poor quality - same outrageous prices
    FramerInTraining, neilframer and DSR7 like this.
  4. cjmst3k

    cjmst3k SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I have a comment, but since this is on a public forum and they might benefit from any advice, I'll refrain. :)
    FramerInTraining and neilframer like this.
  5. snafu

    snafu MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    I saw this last week on HGTV
  6. Rick Granick

    Rick Granick SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    That's actually a very effective commercial for custom framing in general. Too bad it's attached to a BB.
    I find the branding crossover a little confusing... Scott Brothers / Aaron Brothers. That a lot of brothers. Waiting for the Marx Brothers to show up.
    :cool: Rick

    BTW, I have a brand new Michaels a couple of miles from me, and I checked out their framing dept. The mouldings aren't really that special.
    Still, national marketing with familiar faces can be quite influential.
    cjmst3k, Jim Miller, prospero and 2 others like this.
  7. alacrity8

    alacrity8 MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    I also find it to be a pretty good commercial fro framing in general, but on second take, it shows a skewed perspective of the customer experience.
    They are walking around a warehouse picking out the moulding.
    It looks like they are even partially putting the frames together themselves.
    Is that what one should expect from a custom frame?
  8. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    let's not forget their frame shops do 3x- 4x the volume of most independent shops. They clearly are connecting with consumers. A smart operator might look for opportunities when examining any larger competitor in framing or any biz

    they are doing some things well
    Won Jun Hong, IFGL and shayla like this.
  9. neilframer

    neilframer PFG, Picture Framing God

    Yes, Michaels is very helpful to us.
    We are an independent shop and Michaels sends us a number of customers.

    Some of them have figured out the phony "70% off" discounts that are not any less than our regular prices.
    Some of them are not happy with the poor quality of some of the framing.
    I have seen UV glass installed backwards more than once and mounting not done properly.

    Some customers are even actually sent to us by Michaels because they can't do the job.

    We aren't interested in emulating what Michaels does or being Michaels.
    We don't have to, our reputation stands by itself as well as the reputations of a number of independent shops that we know and we're all pretty d#mn busy, especially now.
    As independent shops, we often help each other whenever we can with materials or if their Wizard is down, they can use ours, etc. and it works well for all of us.

    Maybe Michaels needs to study us.
    alacrity8 likes this.
  10. alacrity8

    alacrity8 MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    We have 6 Big Boxes within 15 miles of here.
    I don't know much about how much business Michaels does in framing, but I know people who work or have worked at the 3 non Michaels boxes in the area, and we are busier than they are.
    They may be out competing each other.
  11. Paul Cascio

    Paul Cascio SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Let me see if I understand this correctly: Michaels closes its failing Aaron Brothers stores, then renames all of its in-store framing departments after the corpse, a business that not only failed, but whose name recognition was mostly limited to the West Coast.

    Brilliant. BTW, how's Michaels stock doing?
    neilframer likes this.
  12. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    not so fast, Paul:) I own a few shares and it started Jan about $20, its about $17now. The merging is a good move; M's brand was beating up AB. Lots of stores in older locations. M's will be fine. Last I checked framing was about 17% holding steady for last 3-4 years at around $650000 average per store in spite of increasing internet framing. From memory, they did about $5.5bil in 2017; about $ 1bil in framing. tha's a ton of v-nails

    point i was making is while they are he favorite whipping boy much like some folks just hate the Yankees, they still are an industry leader and they do a lot of thngs well. If i was still in biz i would be all over their internet communications and customer acqisition

    Been in several industries and always found watching the leaders wise

    here is a sobering truth: not sure how many AB clients will follow to M's; probably a lot. But, i'll bet very few get captured by indies. There was a reason they didn't shop at indies before and i'll bet that hasn't changed

    like i said I always felt I could learn something from most any competitor

    just sharing an ol' retailers observations
    Won Jun Hong, IFGL, alacrity8 and 2 others like this.
  13. Paul Cascio

    Paul Cascio SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    MIK was at $24.74 on Jan 1, 2018. Down to $17.xx.
  14. framah

    framah PFG, Picture Framing God

    Great if you're short selling!!
  15. Joe B

    Joe B SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Like I said, Michael's Custom Framing has changed in name only - same poor quality - same outrageous prices. The majority of their certified framers are high school or college students that really aren't framers. From what I have read, Aaron Brothers did not have a good reputation, sort of like Michael's and the only thing they have going for them is their 50% 60% & 75% that a mess of older people think is giving them a super deal. The younger people are smart enough to know that if Michael's/Aaron Brothers continually run those coupons that their product must be far overpriced. Us older retired people are pinching pennies and want to believe we are getting a good deal with those coupons. This week alone I have had 2 customers in here that first went to Michael's and then came to me. Both said they were treated poorly, the Michael's/Aaron Brothers recommend designs were terrible, quality of the moulding per Michael's corners were no where near the quality of my corner samples, and the prices with a coupon were horrendous. This was 2 separate customers that went to 2 different Michael's stores and they both said darn near the same thing. I have 4 Michael's, 2 Hobby Lobbies, and 2 Joanne's within a 5 mile radius of my shop but I will have to say they are not much competition. Bob, if I were you I would quickly dump their stock :rolleyes:
    alacrity8 likes this.
  16. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    all stocks are long plays; 100 shares, no worries

    Joe it's been a few years but Research clearly showed the younger the client, the less likely them using 'ma/pa' shop. The research showed 'older' clients more aligned to those framers. As thoseage groups got younger the pcts shrank, too. Reality was as those 'older' groups 'aged' two things happened: their need for framing reduced and they died. Great example: Art.com

    Another interesting fact from Research was consumers didn't perceive any great difference in quality between big boxes and indies. In fact, highest level of satisfaction was with 'home based', easily explained. We had several BBs close by and they wilingly sent us 'more complex' jbs in exchange for re-cutting mis-measured frames (not many). Lets say they concentrated on things in their wheel house. How you use your 'craftsmanship' advantage to attract new clients may be a distinction without a difference

    Been a few years, but the 'phony' pricing complaint has been around. May I say, I can't recall ever seeing an estimate from M's that broke down components and their pricing to compare to ours. We did pretty extensive competition shopping every 6 months and developd pretty good feel for market prices. They usually fell in the 'bell curve' range. One thing their prices were incredible was glass, especially Museum. With coupon, many frame shops could from Hobby Lobby cheaper than supplier; i still do

    Bottom line: how you reach this 'younger' client has changed. Guys that are effective are worth examining

    this isn't 'doom and gloom'; great operators like Joe wil do just fine. I had a 'casual' relationship with a restaurant chain (very to framng biz).We had a really huge outfit popping up near our units and many mgrs focused on their 'many faults'. One really bright GM told his troops 'if a competitor has 2 commas in their sales volume, you better pay attention'. holds really true for 3 commas

    just an opinion
    Won Jun Hong, Joe B and shayla like this.
  17. Rick Granick

    Rick Granick SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Wow. Makes you wonder why they would locate their stores so close to ones they already have. Seems wasteful/repetitive. I have a hard time believing that the first ones there were "at capacity".
    Anyway, it would seem to vindicate your choice of location as a good market.
    :cool: Rick
    Joe B likes this.
  18. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    hey Rick might also mean stores are 10mi apart.:D depending on density, that might be pretty safe. these guys have real pros in site selections; mostly part of 'market place' clusters developed by huge scale developers surrounded by other typical 'well known' retailers. He easily could be in a good location. Joe is a good operator; wouldn't surprise me

    my opinion: many framers do not have good locations. one of three hinderances
    Rick Granick likes this.
  19. shayla

    shayla WOW Framer

    This week, a customer told me our HL wouldn't sell him a piece of glass alone. They'd only do so if they could also do the fitting.
  20. Rick Granick

    Rick Granick SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    They probably don't have a protocol for sanding the edges and safely wrapping a lite of glass for transport.
    :cool: Rick
    alacrity8 likes this.
  21. shayla

    shayla WOW Framer

    ....which is likely intentional.
    alacrity8 likes this.
  22. IFGL

    IFGL SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Whilst I do not always agree with Bob, I think every point he made on this thread was very valid, we might not like big companies like this one and we certainly do not want to emulate them but we can learn a great deal from them.
  23. Joe B

    Joe B SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Rick, it is even worse than that. If I extend my radius to 8 miles I can count 5 Michael's, 4 Hobby Lobby, & 3 Joannes.
  24. Paul Cascio

    Paul Cascio SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Wouldn't one think that Sears, K-Mart and JC Penney had real site selection pros, and pros in every other department too? Just because they're big doesn't mean they don't make mistakes. GE, Wells, GM, etc. These are the same pros that bought Aaron Brothers in the first place.
  25. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    just like the above victims of changing consumer buying habits (internet shopping for example) how many fame shops have disappeared since the last Sears was built? Another change? How many stores still carry a selection of posters since Art.com?

    hop in your car and drive to closest Michael's and see ho many vibrant centers you find. I can think of several frame shops that have closed in last couple of year. Location or changing markets? May I suggest both:D:DIn this town, many AB's were in subpar locations

    Two positives in retailing: always learn from your biggest competitor; they are bigger for some reason. The other: location, location, location. Today that increasingly includes internet. Whose name comes up first?

    In my tender years as a retailer, I have seen many 'giants' disappear. In this trade, Old America, Ben Franklin, Deck the Walls and others. Like you said, my friend, they often mad fatal mistakes, Real estate? in some cases. Not listening to the maketplace? Absolutely

    Used to teach a 12 Step Class; not many framers took it. It was all about identifying your strengths and weaknesses and those of competitors. Like Michealangelo said at age 92, Ancora Imparo; 'I'm still learning'

    oh yeah, another constant; 'the markets, they are a'changing'

    just my observations
    alacrity8 and shayla like this.
  26. bruce papier

    bruce papier MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    I can't decided whether to be worried about the box stores or not. Just looking at this discussion, you can see how many facts and opinions are flying around. Firstly, the statement about their sales volume, although I'm sure it's true, seems to be at odds with my experience being in the stores. Most days, we have somewhere between three and five people working full speed to keep up. I've been in each of the big box stores at a variety of days and times and I've yet to see more than two people in the framing department. Frequently, there is nobody working the framing department at all. I also think that, because we are framers, we assume these stores depend on the framing department to make all the profit. I don't think they do. I realize this is just what one person told me, but a local framer worked at Hobby Lobby after he closed his store. They offered him a regional manager's job. He turned them down after looking at the books for the region's framing departments because he couldn't figure a way to make the framing departments profitable.
  27. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    hi Bruce i can assure you that category in M' is highly profitable; otherwise that space would b filled with floral arrangements or scrapbook supplies. Take a look at Annual Statements; they are on internet. HL is privately owned; no public info. Sales under $2bil

    Not doubting what you heard, but may I suggest it highly unlikely that this information would be shared. I will suggest shared information might include info like growth, sales, cost of goods. If not profitable, the job candidate would be a 'little higher' like a vp

    just my first hand experience

    I'm not defending their practices; only suggesting they have things worth examining
    FramerInTraining likes this.
  28. lowellian_grumble

    lowellian_grumble CGF, Certified Grumble Framer


    Next quarterly report will be interesting. Sales by M are essentially flat, and only growing because of new stores opening. Same store sales are flat if not falling. Also framing dipped to 16% in the last report. Would imagine it will be smaller after AB closing. Meanwhile, the company buys back stock instead of invest. Debt is.high but not yet too high. Picture is not that great and I have 0 faith in M's ability to deal with new internet competition
    tedh likes this.
  29. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    not sure where to go with this. Bought 100 shares years ago to keep a little interest in industry. can't remember price; not much. Long term play and try not to look very often. These guys are industry leaders; can't see anybody except HL as a contender but they aren't public. Been awhile, but kne a couple SR VPs. Pretty bright guys

    These guys are favorite 'whipping boys' for many in the trade. Always saw them as worthy competitors; never took much time to analyze MGT to determine internet threat. Might be weak. If so , they won't be around. And, they'll find some folks that will

    Who are the 'big boys' in internet framing today. ART.COM used to be huge. They also got th lions share of slings and arrows from ma/pa framers, too

    Would you rather own M's or GM's stock when this thread started

    Bottom line: always found them worthy competitors and never thought I was smarter. I hope I never quit learning from others
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2018
    Won Jun Hong and shayla like this.
  30. Joe B

    Joe B SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Bob, I think it is a changing market. Location for a frame shop doesn't really mean to much anymore because a frame shop is now a destination for the majority of the customers. My shop is in my back yard about 3 block from a shopping center. Customers are also looking for price and with the 50 - 75% off coupons Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and Joannes are getting some of that market. Even though with the BBs 50 - 75% off coupons most Custom Frame Shops are less or about the same cost for framing without a coupon. The average customer today is looking for a deal and they think just because some BB is offering those kinds of discounts they are getting a fantastic price. Well guess what, just this week alone I have had 2 NEW customers come to me that original went to Michaels and I was on one $70.00 and the other $130.00 less that Michaels. The word is out and people are starting to understand that if the BBs can continually offer those large discounts then they must be so far overpriced in the first place. I'm willing to bet that is why the Aaron Brothers stores were closed and brought into Michaels and I have a funny feeling that within a couple of years not every Michaels will have a framing department.
  31. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    might be correct, Joe. Been away too long to speak accurately

    may i suggest i would never underestimate the tenacity of a driven entrepreneur. You may exemplify that

    I'm guessing you might be wrong on your prediction; but, never thought we would see the ranks of indies shrink so dramatically
  32. Joe B

    Joe B SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I could be wrong but just think about it. When the custom framing was popular the Hobby Lobbies, Michael's, Joannes, a few Walmarts, & a few other BB got into the framing business and put many frame shops out of business. Now that they are starting to hurt because of the online sales are taking away lots of their business I'm sure they are talking about how to get into the online market. If they do they will put many of the online business out of business and I believe that some of us small custom frame shops will again start seeing the customers that will not do the online framing. I believe that custom framing will again get very popular but only for those framers that can do the really nice custom work that cannot be done with the online sales. You can see that now, Aaron Brother (Michaels), Joannes, and Hobby Lobby only to the simple rectangle double mat or cheap look jersey frames, all of the really nice more complicated framing is coming to us. Just my prediction...
    Bob Carter likes this.
  33. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    you could easily be correct

    but, here's ' Bob the Retailer' spiel

    each of these big guys have sales/sq ft guidelines. we used to call those studies 'Engineered P/L's' In essence if you carried 20ft of widgets you could calculate the total volume per foot, then determine Gross Profit contribution per foot. Really simple when set up. So, if that 20ft provided x dollars per ft and it meet the goals, you had a keeper. But, if fragulators generated more sq ft then widgets might be reduced or eliminated.

    In BB's if framing continues to 'carry' it's own weight, it's safe. If not, they'll use it for more dried flowers or scrapbooking.

    I'll share a real world example

    I did a project for huge home improvement BB to examine feasibilityof in-house framing. To these guys, the margins on framing were seductive. They contracted me because we were 'busy' frame operations and I understood and spoke 'retail management'. I told them to save the fee; not a good fit. They insisted. We set up three trial locations in PHX area where i could observe

    Almost immediately staffing problems were evident; logistics of sku's insane and the 'complaints/sq ft' were huge. All could have been improved but after 6 months, it was obvious they could have used that space for bringing in pallets of steer manure and generate more sales with no employees and never have to have Mrs Jones scream about that perfect shade of brown not matching the bag they bought last fall :D

    Bottom line: places like M's and HL know what to expect from their footage. They do about 1/6 of their volume from framing depts in about 1/25 of the store footprint. I Just don't have enough current knowledge on internet to pass an opinion, and you could be spot on with your prediction

    Always thought MOST framers divided into two groups: folks building a biz and those called 'self-employeed framers' comfortable making what they can but bouyed by working for themselves. You could always tell which ones they were; you just couldn't tell 'em much :D:D

    Great thing about working for yourself is you make those decisions however you like

    you'll do just fine, I'm certain

    BTW cashed their check and for my honesty, got several lucrative referral deals that really were fun. Could not have done them without PMA Research helping. Does anybody do Industry Market Research today?
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2018
    Rick Granick likes this.
  34. Rick Granick

    Rick Granick SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    1/25 ? That's only 4%. I visited a brand new Michaels a couple of miles from here, and it looked to me more like double that, not counting the back room area that they are still paying the same rent for per s.f.
    I'm just going on gut observation here, as they would probably frown on my measuring their departments with a big tape measure. ;) Even if I'm right, though, that would still mean 16% of their sales from 8% of floor space. But, those sales come at a higher cost of overhead space (back room), labor, potential risk to customers' property, etc. than simply having turnover on stock items. I wonder how the profit compares to other departments.
    :cool: Rick
  35. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    hey Rick 16% of sales from 8% sq ft still admirable. Profit from category, I do not know any longer. But, may I suggest it meets their requirements or that space will be filled with wicker or candles:D truly curious? step it off:) Truth is it's a small part of the store

    may i share what William Parker always suggested: take a dozen donuts over and introduce yourself to framing mgr. Offer your services for those items they chose not to or can't do. We recut frames that were mis-measured saving them time, effort and explaining. Charged $2 each cut

    in return, they referred customers periodically.

    Remember my comment about capturing a client. Once that client saw our capabilities, prices and turnaround, it was simple. M's spends gazillions to attract customers; box of Krispy Kremes every so often pretty low customer acquistion cost

    or, we could have disparaged them

    just always thinking of opportunities
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