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Industry Wide Meltdown


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Scarface, some of what you say is true. LED sales for me have died, and I think that reflects problems and changes within that area of the industry. However, sales in Utah of "non essential" product, such as framing, are down dramatically. Our area is dominated by one religion that for year has emphasised emergency preparation. This year with the end of the century and the Y2K problem on the horizon, they have a seemingly perfect reason to stock up and prepare for disaster. In addition, their leaders have encouraged them to get out of debt, stop using credit cards, etc. In and of itself, great advice, but it doesn't help the small retail business. Across the board people I meet from framer's to photographers, to hot tub sellers are telling me that business is flat. My business was off 40% last December and I am averaging 3O% down for the year. That's more than just boredom. That's a deeper problem that I don"t see going away before 2000, if I'm around then.


I agree with Woody on the Y2k thing. I think people are sitting on their money not sure of what may happen. I have recently redone a large portion of my shop with new, exciting GRAND pieces and although I get much praise and interest, no one wants to lay down the bread to purchase. People seem ultra hesitant to spend (in most cases $250-$600, not alot). Yet major chain stores (Best Buy, Wal Mart, Michael's, BA Framer, etc.) are always packed-in around here. Some one made reference to Gen x er's giving up the quality for the best price and I agree to some point. I will wait and see what happens over the next 4-6 months or so. If things dont change Im taking my last $1,000 bucks and advertising "Cheapest Framing In Town, Nothing but the worst materials will be used and I will only guarantee my product for 1 week because Im sure it will disintegrate within a month. COME ON IN AND TAKE 50 NO MAKE THAT 60% OFF" I will have a profit margin of about 10% but I BET that I will have a line out the door. Service, delivery, design dont mean ****... people want CHEAP.
Sorry, but its so hard to lose sales to people like Michaels and BA Framer when I know what the quality of their product is. 90% of all custom framing customers DONT
If they cant get it now... well... thats OK, as long as its CHEAP.

John Gornall

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
At the beginning you tell us you have put fine expensive framing on display. Then you tell us your customers want cheap. You have missed the mark somewhere. Remember the 20-80 rule in business - you get 80 percent of your business from 20 percent of your customers. When a person rejects your expensive display and asks for cheap be carefull to identify if this person is a customer or not. Those people at Michaels that keep asking for cheap are not your customers. Carefully identify those people that actually are your customers and be careful not to lose them. Cater to them and try to get this list of core customers to grow one by one. Listen to them and find out what more services you can sell them and their friends. Be different than the chain stores - don't try to hit them head on. Real customer service and prompt delivery is worth at least 50% more to these "real customers". I have just crossed North America looking at frame shops and other small businesses and there is a lot of pain but panic and depression doesn't help. There are also a lot of good ideas out there. JG

[This message has been edited by John Gornall (edited 10-05-99).]


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
I think we had this discussion before, but discounters like Michaels are NOT cheap. They are perceived as cheap because they advertise large discounts. It is a marketing ploy since their moulding prices, especially, are artificially high in order to give the discount. See LJ's simplified pricing guide in their catalog. This is the moulding price guide created especially for such chains. I have such a chain nearby. Often the advertise 50% off framing and will always tell walk ins they have a 20% sale when they are not advertising a particular sale. Usually their mouldings are at least 20 to 30% higher than average to accomodate this. It is the quality of their work and the design that is suspect in the case of the shop close to me since their "framers" are mostly teenagers with no training, no experience and no particular love of the job.


<span style="color: red"><b><i>Charter Member</i><
Those interested in the Michael's discussion may be interested in this.


MGF, Master Grumble Framer
...interesting the changes a year has brought.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I don't for a minute believe that the framing department in Michael's is a lost leader. They are now advertising that they are the largest framers in the US. Is BIG good??

I cut the mat, I pet the =^..^= cat.


True Grumbler
Fascinating thread. In answer to the previous post, I believe that big is good only if Big is what you want. To quote Mr Bernstein in 'Citizen Kane': "There's no trick to making alot of money . . . if all you want is to make alot of money"

All across this great country of ours we see the effects of what I have heard called "Generica". Every place looks like every other place in the country. The spread of corporate mentality is astounding, and people flock to these places, be they restaurants, record stores, card stores, or big hulking craft centers with frame shops because of name recognition. No other reason.

On the fringes though, are people who seek to find the original, the unique, the one-of-a-kind place to do business. That little out of the way corner grill that has the greatest burger you've ever tasted. The record store that always has the latest release from the artist only you like. The Card store that carries images of your small town. They have their place, and the reason you keep going there is because it is a fingerprint that identifies not only your town, but you as an individual.

Same with the 'small' framer. Your customers come to you not for your prices, but because of your work, your ethic, your disposition to their needs. You are the fingerprint they choose to place on their walls. It is something to be proud of, never mind those who are satisfied with the generic. They will continue to go to the big shops and there isn't a whole heck of alot you can do about it.

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Art Lady-you ask the rhetorical is "big good"?.The same could be asked is big "bad". I think way too often because some never want or can be big, that it somehow is bad. I think bad comes in all sizes. For the record, I'd rather be big than small, rather be really good rather than really bad. The key is to be smart enough to be start out really good and then add really big to the list. It's called growing your business and a really good book on this is Herb Kellehers book on Southwest Airline. But lets face it, a lot of people can be good small but never make to the next level. There's nothing wrong with that, but don't confuse the issue. Size can and does matter

[This message has been edited by Bob Carter (edited October 23, 2000).]

Peter Ackerman

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
At United Mfrs. Supplies, Inc. we support the small frame shop, over 40,000 of them and growing. Our experience has been that the big guys are slow to pay and require special handling. We do not sell to Michaels stores or the other discount giants listed in the previous postings.
It seems to me that perhaps the small framers are worrying a lot about something that will have a short life span. Here on Long Island in New York we had several Corners locations open for business a short time ago. All are now out of business except one. And as we can see by the stock value of Michaels, things are not going well and the future is not looking very positive.
I believe the average shopper is smart enough to see a bogus discount. Customers who care for the art they are framing will always go to the custom frame shop that really offers true value for the dollar. By value I mean quality in design, fit and finish.
Someone posted that framing industry suppliers give special hidden discounts to the large stores. United posts its prices for all in the industry to see and we do not have a special price for the big guys. We are always available for advice to start-up frame shops and will do anything reasonable to support our customers. What I do not understand is that the small framers continue to support the large supplier who is supplying the leviathans and we all know who that is.
Home Depot and their ilk may well be able to sell lumber, food, or paper towels, but I do not believe that the big-box concept will work for custom framing. It is my opinion that the custom framing business is not the place for the big guys and they are doomed to fail. We have always supported and will continue to support the small shop owner and I am sure that if you do not run, but stand and fight, the small frame shop will be the last one standing.

Peter Ackerman, President
United Mfrs. Supplies, Inc.
80 Gordon Drive
Syosset, NY 11791
Toll Free Phone (800) 645-7260
Fax (516) 496-7968


<span style="color: red"><b><i>Charter Member</i><
Let us all applaud Mr. Ackerman: this is a big guy who seems to understand the little one. Someone once said about the commission on the sale of one $150,000. home: It's just three $50,000. ones. Hooray.


It is unfortunate that some of the other major (and not so major) suppliers don't see things as clearly as Mr. Ackerman.


Nicely stated Pete. I was so impressed I called UMS and ordered a brandie new Fletcher 3000 60" model and a bunch of other stuff (they have a big sale on now with really good prices on F-T equipment). I will order from you more often. Apparently not only do you have the best prices but you have a good attitude as well. Recently someone asked if the big suppliers read the grumble; looks like we have an answer.


MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Mr. Ackerman:

We buy from you but we need to gang a pretty large order to make the shipping worth it. Are there any plans for a UMS on the other coast?

Greg Gomon

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Very profound thread which has remained timely over a very long timeline. Raises many interesting thought provoking ideas. 1."Change (evolve) or die" seems to be a recurring theme. Go to framing workshops and conventions when possible, BUT don't limit yourself to those. Also attend gift shows and sit in or their workshops. The merchandise may not directly crossover but the marketing ideas certainly do.
2.stop thinking of your fellow non-chain framers as competitors, share ideas. 3.Network with local artists, chamber of commerce, local museums, local craft guilds. 4. Decide on the marketing niche you want to fill, realize you can't (shouldn't) be all things to all people. Unless you have 500,000 sq feet to offer everything from standard size close corner ready-made frames to custom manufactured gold guilt frames. Keep your shop clean, organized, staffed with friendly knowledgeable people,don't be afraid to move merchandise and samples around, and remember you (your business) are only as good as your last customer's perception of you.
Sorry, just a few rambling thoughts.

Lance E

A common quote around here is "a negative attitude will equal a negative dollar", think of it what you will, if you think your industry is a failure consider the fact that it may not be the industry.


<span style="color: red"><b><i>Charter Member</i><
Some fun and interesting reading for those of you with nothing to do for the weekend. Some interesting names, some have changed and some have changed attitudes...or maybe not. At least we can all still remember before the turn of the century.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Is Corners a chain? Haven't heard of 'em.

Oops, I just reread the first post. There must not be any Corners in Ohio!

[ 05-26-2003, 11:14 AM: Message edited by: Jana ]


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

( I've been away for the last week, when I read this I didn't notice the original starting date of this thread until the last few posts. Talk about time travel.)

Jana - Corner's WAS a chain. Now it's a small group of stores, 5? 7? I heard a rumor that sound's similar to the IVY saga.

[ 05-29-2003, 10:03 AM: Message edited by: ERIC ]

Mike Labbe

Member, Former moderator team volunteer
Corners only lasted about a year in our competitive market (Rhode Island), but as far as I know they are still going strong elsewhere. They are based in Framingham Massachusetts and have about 31 stores in MA, CA, CT, NY, NJ, and PA. There was talk floating around at the NY trade show that they had plans to open a new breed of larger framing superstores, on the level of Michaels/AB/BF.

Ben Franklin also failed here. Do those still exist elsewhere?

We have 4 Michaels craft stores within a 10 minute drive of our location, but no ABs.

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