Discussion in 'The Grumble' started by Bob Carter, Oct 7, 2007.
So when did the almighty Michael's become the ideal business model for independant picture framers?
I sometimes get asked that one too. I have two discount framers within 15 to 20 minutes drive from me. Why should I be put-off because they advertise a lot. If a customer comes in my door with something to frame, I don't want them to take it elsewhere and if I can by spending a few minutes talking to the customer, I will get the deal.
I keep a limited range of cheap contract quality whitecore mountboards in stock. I won't sell anything that's going to harm my business, this stuff is reasonable quality, it's alkaline buffered, cuts well, looks good and it's two pounds (UK) per sheet!
So here's the easy answer, "Yes, we too can supply budget quality mountboard, if you are sure THAT IS what you want and we'll beat their prices, because unlike them, we don't have to charge extra for their advertising".
I'll do them a deal on the frame too, but they have to pick the moulding from the ones I say and I still get a good profit too! Again I won't sell them rubbish, because I want them to come back again.
If every indepenant framer wanted to fight back and fight smart, they would start getting worried!
I was in Michael's once wandering around the framing section. I watched a salesperson choose a frame, mat, float, etc, etc. I heard what the quote was.
So, Monday am I priced the exact item in our shop. Michael's was $70 bucks higher. I couldn't believe it.
If and when I open my shop, Michael's will be at the bottom of my list of things to worry about. But then I could see Michael's being a problem in the smaller towns where everyone shops at th BB stores.
Steph, and others, I do not think we are wasting time here. I run a busy, profitable business, one that has sent two kids to college, given us a comfortable lifestyle, and provided employment to several hundred people over 30 years. This business is our only form of income so it has to make money. I love what I do. I love that fact that my work is varied and creative. I like working with people and their art. It energizes me. Despite the fact that we are doing well, better than ever, in fact, I see changes in customer buying habits, competition from the bbs and the internet and every catalog in the mail. This is real.
I am not doom and gloom, far from it. We have found successful ways to compete on our own playing field, not that of the bbs. We have our own niche. But the facts remain: Small shops are going out of business at an alarming rate. We compared last year's and this year's Yellow Pages today, looked up the missing shops on the YP and internet, and the trend was confirmed. This is happening in every small business industry. Some shops will survive because their owners are educated, aware, energetic, and welcoming, offering superior quality and superb customer service.
Most of the shops on this forum probably fit that description. Take Val's, shop, for instance, or Steph's, Jim's, Brian's or Dave's and many more. I haven't been to their shops, but I can tell you that their enthusiasm, expertise, business acumen, and concern for the quality of their work will most likely help them survive. They have a niche of sorts and people feel welcome in their shops and want to return. But to think that there is not a shake out going in IS to put your head in the sand.
If I owned a small shop (or the larger one I own for that matter) I would have a really great looking space, a dynamite web site, do creative marketing, be there with a smile on my face, get the press involved, hold events, go to networking events, and much more on top of my basic knock-your-socks off design, quality, and selection. I'd look for every way possible to make myself unique and draw attention to my incredible shop. And I'd keep looking for more ways to market my business and bring in exciting products and services.
This is an idea sharing forum, and we need more ideas, but if we don't recognize that the gorilla in the corner is in the room, then we might just get hurt. So fight back.
When you're in a brick fight, make sure you have plenty of bricks.
Steph, I said adapt our marketing strategy to suit our OWN needs, but there is always something to learn from successful businesses, including the bbs.
We so often get side-tracked in these discussions when we turn them into these philosophical either-or, black or white comparatives
Kirstie is right on by acknowledging that we ought not try and do what they do as a model
They are much smarter, much better, much richer and will kick your teeth in
But, what I do suggest i sto look at them and every other competitor for things that perhaps they do better and see if we can't steal or copy a good idea. We ought to getway behind the idea that whatever they do is wrong or that they do nothing wrong
Someone asks what makes them the ideal model for picture framers. I don't think they are. But, anyone that does average 5 times the average volume of the the typical frame shop will absolutely get my attention. I know that my sense of being able to respect and admire that level of activity can only be enhanced by thinking of how much more that difference ould be if they were able to upgrade their act to be only half as smart as most of the Grumblers
I love the Pillow. How do I get one. Bob is asking the age old question and the age old answer is the whole thing will blow up in their face; customer's will eventually see through the inflated prices. I'm sorry but if I can prefice that statement with "The Age OLD" it's already been going on too long. I love the pillow. I personally would like to see local shops pull together to advertise and get creative methods of educating consumers on how our service our price and our skills run circles around Michaels. I am considering trying to get my local framers together to develop a Traveling displays that go from shop to shop. This gives the shop something to advertise and their customer's something new to look at (God knows getting new stuff on the floor is hard enough) but it also gives customer's some food for thought. Love the pillow
One more thing on this topic. For years we saw our poster business and framing business drop off and we thought we were alone. By the 90's and early 2000 we wondered if we would ever catch up. We've had some tough times.
In the 80's as many have said, all you had to do was open your doors to be successful. People used to literally line up in my shop to buy posters. We'd sell dozens a day both framed and unframed. We sold metal frames, bought mats by the case, boxes of uni-frames, and simple black wood frames werel almost hard to keep in stock. We framed up greeting cards and sold them at Christmas, we sold mini frames and wrapping paper and so much STUFF.
Maybe you just had to have been around in those days to see the difference now. That business is gone. It is gone to the catalogues, the internet and the bbs. We have had to adapt. For many years now we have sold higher end framing, slowly brought back our volumes with a different kind of product. But we never quite made it back to our 80s volumes until we made one big change in the shop. We went back to our roots as a DIY shop and brought in a lot of ready made frames. A critical mass of ready made frames. Just. And now poeple come in for them, and fit them in our shop, and last year we had our best year ever and we are headed that way again. Of course we are also selling more fabric, more fancy mats, more expensive frames, but we can now finally serve our original clinetele--the artist, the student, and the new apartment dweller in our busy university neighborhood.
It took us years to understand the trend. But this year our understanding took a quantum leap because I started reading the grumble, we took maore and more classes, and we are now not alone. So thank you for talking about this. Times have changed big time and we all need to adapt in one way or another.
Who here doesn't buy anything at a bb? Home Depot? Bed Bath and Beyond? Ikea? Amazon? Longs, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, etc. Why? Because it is conveninet, the selection is great and the prices are better.
Now ask yourself this question and answer honestly: If you were young and on a budget--hey you probably are--and needed a desk frame or a cheap wall frame for a photo of your Mom for your Dad's birthday, would you go to a local custom framer or would you zip in in to the bb and pick up a nice looking frame and pop the picture in? Think of your other buying habits. We all say we shop local, but we all use the internet, and we all sometimes use convenience over local quality. Would the custom shop even be on your radar? You're raised on the internet and cheap convenience so you use it. Now think back 30 years ago. The BB wasn't there! The internet wasn't there! Where would you have bought that frame?
The folks who buy in our shops are great people who come back and they love us and they love our work, but what about the masses who now never ever set foot in our shops? We don';t even know the business we've lost. Unless we were around in the 70s and 80s and remember the difference.
I'm delighted for shops that are so high end or who give such astounding customer service that they don't have to worry about thse trends. However, from my humble perspective, if the rest of us don't wake up and smell the coffee and see which way the wind is blowing, and take action to try to recapture some of our market share we will eventually be headed for serious problems because times are indeed changing.
Now for the positive part--How? Some of the wishy washy articles in PFM won't do it. But hey, did you read Vivian's article this month? Great ideas. We need to share great ideas here with the intention of fighting back, being better, and learning how to market our strengths.
Please don't think I am saying that if you don't have a poster special or ready made frames or other bb trappings, that you cannot grow with the times. There are several shops in my area that do none of those things, but they all are doing great, they all have thier niche. One makes only hand crafted frames --Holton Studio Framing, another has a warehouse and does oversize work and gold leafing and restoration, Painter's Place. Another specializes in restoration, non traditional angles, and origianl oils. But they all have something in common: They have web sites, they advertise, they are still in the yellow Pages, they show up at arts and crafts fairs and the like, they make themselves known throughout the year. Great businesses, who I am sure DO care about changes in buying habits, the internet, and where the public spends its money. They show they care by imaginative marketing. supurb workmanship, and and an eye to the future.
What we need to do here is share ideas. What makes YOUR business great? How do YOU market it?
Kirstie's response may be the most poignant assessment ever
It's not important that you agree with it; but, it is important to appreciate her heartfelt assessment and thoughtfullness
I agree that we have a loud group that just insists on the way it used to be one is still a viable option. Hey, if it works, I am delighted. It no longer works for us an dby almost all accounts, it doesn't work for most
Maybe a November poll might be a "How confident are you of your biz's future" with a breakdown of personal earnings groth and annual sales growth.
In private, I might suggest that many with whom I speak have more than just a little concern
I do a littel "consulting" and one of my fun little "let's get started" drills is to ask for a list of the greatest advantages/benefits/strengths of the person/biz 5 yrs ago and then today and then list the biggest disadvantages/weaknesses 5yrs ago vs today
Try it; be honest and then do something about it
I am Darwinian about this; the best will alway do better than the average. Te "non-traditional" competitors hav ejust gotten a lot "better" moving that sliding scale downward
I remember the early 80's as 18% interest, rampant inflation, orders billed at time of shipping i.e. ( place order on Mon, shipped on Thurs. price went up 10% somtimes more with no notice). It is not easy now but it was't the Garden of Eden then.
Hey Fake-We opened this enterprise in '84 and shot up like a skyrocket; never paid double digit interest and don't remember invoice prices changing on an invoice to invoice basis
Did own another business in the late 70's and very, very early 80's ('81 and '82) and did pay 18% in 1981 (tecnically quaifying for the 80's, I guess). I remember that all that ended very quickly after that
But, my memory could be poor. Seems like three things signaled a big turnaround: release of hostages in Teheran; the Miracle at Lake Placid and I can't remember the last big event
The 80's were very, very good to us.
I guess I'll have to go back and check, but I think you might be a few years late
The 80's were very, very good to us as were most of the 90's
Bob, I started in framing in '84 also (working for someone else at that time, though, not for myself).
The media's attitude and also people's in general seem more negative nowadays. Interest rates go from 6% to 6.25% and there are stories as if the sky were falling. Heck, interest rates could drop from 6.25 to 6 and there will be a sentence saying it's a good thing, followed a couple paragraphs saying...BUT this bad thing might happen or that bad thing that could lead to more bad.
By the way, did anyone notice this week's AC Moore ad? They did a buy one get one free coupon.
I saw that ad as well and about 2 hrs later talked with a friend of mine (who obviously forgot I was a framer) and she said she went up to M's to get two 10x32 pieces of artwork framed and was quoted an obnoxiously high price. She told me she went up there cuz the buy one get one free sounded better than the 50% off. I looked at her, laughing of course, and said they were the same thing and handed her an invisible sign. I then reminded her of my job and she is coming in this coming week to get them framed. I laugh everytime I think about it.
I agree Bob and those points stuck out to me. The thing is Kirstie is that if we all listed the our "niche" the list would branch like a palm tree. I'm trying to change it but my list would look just like 90% of everybody else's. We all do "preservation" this or that. We all have the "biggest best selection".
I just got back from St Louis for the weekend (a little R&R with the fam). I looked in the phone book at frame shops. I was shocked to see how many frameshops there specialize in "Preservation" framing. Ya know if I as a framer can't tell what sets one shops apart from another, then I can assure you the customer don't have a clue!
If our niche message isn't going to drag em in, perhaps its time for a different message or a for real "niche"?
Jay, I think Kirstie's message was that these companies DO have a niche, and have prospered because of it. The fact the I know of both the ones she mentioned while living on the other coast is significant.
I agree that "preservation framing" in the sense most commonly used is no longer a niche, and if someone thinks it is I have a bridge for sale.
David when I say "our" I'm not lumping those companies into the same catagory. Its just that I have been around the G long enough to know what answers would follow "what sets you apart." Probably less than 10% have any compelling message. The other 90% would be indistinguishable from the pack. I mean how many shops could have "gift items" and "conservation framing" and "shadowboxes" before that no longer becomes a niche?
This might be a fun game but wouldn't it be neat if we could anonomousily list what our niche is and have other Grumblers guess our identity! I would invite our few BB friends also!!!! In that game I would be shocked if even 10% were obvious in their unique offering.
I have long counseled that including "Preservation Framing" as a bullet point coul easily be replaced, to a YP Consumer anyway, as "Really expensive framing"
Stuff like Great Selection, Great Service, Great Prices will make that phone ring quicker
Bob we opened in the mid 70's, so we had been going 5+ years by the early 80's. Now the mid to late 80's for me were matching BMW's and a nice motor yacht (had two emploiees quit over the yacht as they could not separate my frame shop income from my investment income).
Separate names with a comma.