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"custom?" framing pricing


CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
From recent and past postings, I've been doing a bit more than average thinking about "custom" framing pricing.

By "custom", I don't mean milling moulding by hand, hand-leafing etc. I refer to what most of us do most of the time: we help select appropriate matting combinations, moulding, glazing, backing etc., all from pre-existing products, and then chop up the integrants to size and put the finished product together.

Every time this subject comes up from new framers, we always hear the same song and dance about how one MUST adjust pricing according to location, market conditions, overhead, etc...

Now, at first glance, this does indeed make sense. But when we look at virtually every other retail business, prices are always based on a "suggested retail price". This s.r.p. is "universal", for the most part...

Do I expect to pay a higher price for a particular national magazine in New York City I would in Hoo Haw Tennessee? If I look to purchase a Toyota, do I expect to pay more at Dealer A than Dealer B because Dealer A has a higher overhead?!?

Now, of course, there are sales (both real and fabricated), purchase incentives, negotiated discounts etc. etc. etc., which can dull one's perception of the topic. And yes, at the end of the business day, I can probably wheel and deal a better price from Dealer B than Dealer A. But, when all is said and done, should not this industry have a universal "suggested price list" for that which we commonly refer to as "custom framing"?

It is easy to rationalize why we do not have a uniform price structure. For the buying (and not buying) public, our reasons may seem hollow.

One of the main reasons we got involved in framing over 25 years ago was that I was tired of bending over and saying "Ahh", every time I had to go get work framed.

In our industry, we already do business with that tiny minority of folks who have accepted our practices and policies. But I strongly suspect that many of the people we would love to see frequent our shops feel uncomfortable with the way framing is priced (and yes, I know this is not the sole reason we don't see these people).

I'm not trying to start a in depth philisophical discussion on our business practices here... just trying to find out why we can't, or don't have an industry standard price guide to follow for what are standard industry practices and products?

Just a thought. Lunch break is now over. Thanks for letting me rant. ;)
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SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Find someone with an MBA and they will explain it better than I can, but here it goes.

There is no reason for it.

(Maybe I can explain it better!

That's it in a nutshell and I'm not being difficult here.

MSRP, list price, etc . . its all about the wholesale price discount, channels of distribution, & authorized retailers/dealers.


Plus, the most difficult thing about framing is that we sell a value added product that requires labor prior to retailing it. I can't think of another type of product or industry that shares this and also has a MSRP associated with it.

Am I overlooking an example? If there is such a product, it may serve as a model for us.

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
For some items we do have a SRP. We do use SRP for prints and posters. Those that stray far from the SRP will either go broke or choke on posters.

However if you drive that Toyota to get a new paint job you will see a pricing structure similar to what we use (all over the board). Maco says they can repaint it for $199. The guy down the street that paints street rods could probably put on a coat for around $2200.

Which of them two guys is off on price? I mean paint is paint right?


CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Originally posted by ERIC:

Plus, the most difficult thing about framing is that we sell a value added product that requires labor prior to retailing it. I can't think of another type of product or industry that shares this and also has a MSRP associated with it...
Playing devil's advocate (for a change
), I would say that any manufactured good is a (raw) product(s) which, by its very nature, has labour prior to retailing.

The fact that we add this "value" later in the process, rather than sooner, justifies the lack of industry standards?


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
That's not a very fair way to look at it. You are wrong to assume that a lack of SRP equates a lack of industry standards. There is more to standards than price.

How much does an 11 x 14 color wedding portrait cost where you live?

Not the same as is costs in my small upstate NY city. If I drive 90 minutes to midtown Manhatten, it will equal a down payment on a house.

Kodak still makes the film, paper, and chemicals used. They may even all use the same Pro lab for their services.

An artist uses the same canvas and brushes as another. His fame and reputation adds value.

[ 11-10-2004, 05:04 PM: Message edited by: ERIC ]


Angry Badger
I've always thought of the msrp as some fabrication of the marketing end of the business. It has little to do with what you actually pay, other than a starting point for the bidding process.
If all frames were made by the big 3 in michigan, and the options were limited to a handfull...standard or otherwise, I could see some kind of structured pricing. But we are (Jim, how many shops now?) 8000 small manufacturers, jobbers really, that are all working with different sets of variables. How much is your overhead vs. how well do you buy. How well do you design? Do your clients live in tract homes or mcmansions? Way too many variables.
By releasing a suggested markup, like Larson does, we do see some trend towards controling the market from the top down, but who among us actually uses that scale?

Cliff Wilson

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Ummm, not saying this is a good idea, but ... the car dealer I used to go to had a chart on the wall ... Stilson ratings (or some such name) anyway, as I recall there was an "industry standard" time rate for a given type of job ... change oil - 10 minutes (made up time) replace carburator - 2 hours. Then the dealer posted his hourly rate. You got charged that multiplier plus parts. Might be interesting if such a "industry standard time chart" existed. You could point to it and say "see I just use the industry standard."

Wish I could find the chart ... ummm, maybe they stopped using it? I can't seem to find it with any web searches?

Jerry Ervin

PFG, Picture Framing God

It is funny that you brought up the 'Flat Rate Hour Charts'. My first career was that of a dealership mechanic for GM brands. Most all large scale auto repair businesses use some form of these charts. However, if the owner feels that their labor rate per hour is low, then they add to the time in tenths of an hour.

Example: My car repair business only charges $25 per hour. Yours charges $30. The 'book'/'chart' calls for 1 hour labor to replace brake pads. You charge $30 labor plus parts. In my shop, I find that we can't get the job done in 1 hour so I charge 1.2 hours labor. What the customer sees is the hourly charge, not always the number of hours they are charged for.

It works the same in our industry. If we all sold exactly the same product, no matter how we arrived at the final price, we would all be pretty close.

David N Waldmann

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Originally posted by Cliff Wilson:
Wish I could find the chart ... ummm, maybe they stopped using it?
They certainly haven't stopped using some version of it. Working on cars has just gotten too complicated, so it's all in the computer now. But I don't know that it's a national standard - I've assumed that each manufacturer has their own, since changing the spark plugs in Brand A may take twice as long as in Brand B.


Angry Badger
Just out of curiosity...how mant billable hours can a car mechanic charge for in an 8 hour shift?

Jerry Ervin

PFG, Picture Framing God

When I was a dealership mechanic I would turn in 10 to 14 billable hours per day. The 'flat rate hour' scale is based on a technician knowing exactly what to do and then proceeds with basic hand tools. By using labor saving methods such as air tools, you get the job done much faster.

Makes you sick don't it.

Cliff Wilson

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Actually, if we all "billed at the same rate" (which apparently even the car dealers don't) and made money by doing it faster and/or better, then the consumers might feel better and those with more expertise and better equipment would make more money. Seems fair.


PFG, Picture Framing God
We will never have standard pricing for the following reasons.

1. There is always some idiot who thinks he can sell it cheaper than anyone else.

2. There is always a customer who thinks he/she can find the framer in example #1

3. Few framers are knowledgeable in common business practices, consequently they "invent" prices as they go along.

4. Many framers have a rough idea what they need to charge to show a reasonable profit.

5. Many framers do not.

6. Labor rates vary by geographic regions.

7. Fixed costs vary by not only regions, but by neighborhoods.

8. Many distributors offer suggested retail price sheets, almost no one follows them.

9. this list can go on and on, I need help.


Pat Murphey

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
1. "...some idiot..."

10. "...some genius..."

Full circle Jay - Warren Tucker may be number 10.

Pat :D :D

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
What are you kidding me? If I had all his money I would just burn mine!
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