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Price checking at the competition


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Any hints for surveillance of other local frame shops? What are some good techniques for comparison price shopping? Do you get relatives or friends to do the scouting/spying for you? What's the best kind of work to take in for an estimate? How do you play dumb and not give yourself away? And does anyone really get into acting out this subterfuge? I wish I could psych myself up to go out and get some answers.

I'd love to hear some ideas. I visit other frame shops out of town, but don't compare prices because the markets are different.
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B. Newman

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
The only time I did this I took a Lena Liu s/n print into a couple of craft stores and said "This was given to me" (and it was - my son gave it to me from the back seat...) "How should I frame it?" And then just waited to see what questions they asked me.

No one asked where it was going to hang, what color the wall was, what "mood" the room had (formal, rustic, music, etc..) No one asked if I would need/want reflection control or what colors I might like to bring out in the picture. They picked out colors and gave me the price. I really had no say in the matter.

I had no coupon, but was assured that I would get the discount anyway.

I actually walked away feeling very good about my shop!

Now, what I'd like to know is, does anyone have their own shop "shopped"? I'd like for someone to call my place when I'm not there and see what happens.



PFG, Picture Framing God

Are you trying to get Omar's job?? He and Terminator are the "spyguys on this forum!

I really feel fortunate in that I am on friendly terms with most all the other frame shops in my area.In fact, a few of them call me for help on problem framing projects and I am more than willing to help them. If I had to sneak around and "spy" on my competition, well, I just wouldn't be up for doing it at all. My prices don't match the competition's and neither do my techniques, quality, nor volume so what I do in my shop has little to do with the other framers in my area.

On the back side of the coin, none of us are getting filthy stinking rich from the framing we do so there isn't alot of competitive feelings amongst our small group. We loan matboards when one of us needs one, we help with moulding when we have it on hand, and we always try to help with framing problems when they come our way either in our own shop or in somebody else's shop.

I hope that I can generate these same feelings in the next area that I locate into. It is a comforting feeling to know that somebody down the block isn't trying to scalp you behind your back while you are trying to help them with their problems.


The King

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
In 25 years, I've never checked out the prices in another shop in our city. Sometimes I get to compare anyway, 'cause someone will come in with a quote from another shop. If the other quote is cheaper than mine, and I get the order anyway, I start thinking I'm doing something right.

I don't think I've ever seen a quote from John Ranes' shop, so either they're taking such good care of people that they have no reason to shop around, or they're not giving written quotes. My guess is both.

I did get a call from another shop a number of years ago. Clearly, the caller had never heard of caller ID. She asked for an estimate on framing a specific Redlin, including a particular mat, frame and glass. I gave her a price about 3 times what we would actually charge and told her I frame 3 or 4 of these each week.

Mike Labbe

Member, Former moderator team volunteer

The same thing happened to us! About 6 weeks after we opened, one of the local competitors called for a quote. We told them that we don't normally give phone quotes, but threw them some numbers anyways. The shop's name and number was on the caller-ID box. We played stupid...

Some advice if any of you call around: Disable CALLER-ID


Jin Wicked

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
I wish I got to scope out other people's shops, that would be fun. We're on friendly terms with a shop quite a way from hours, even though they're much more expensive they serve a different area. We do get a lot of disgruntled customers from the [Major Craft Store Chain] near where we are located, though, who are usually happy to pay our higher prices to get something that is actually done correctly and on time.

To disable caller ID, press *79 in most areas, but it only works for the call you are making. I believe the phone co. also has a service that permanently disables it. ;)

John Ranes II CPF GCF

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Some Observations......

The most likely shops to "get shopped" are the new ones......curious folks want to know where they stand against the NEW COMPETITION, regardless whether they're good, bad or ugly!

Over the past twenty-five years, we actually have shopped the competition, but only from time-to-time. (I believe that Bob Carter advocates this to a degree, from a scientific business plan.......makes sense!)

Although we've never shopped Ron's shop....truthfully :D , we did just (out of coincidence) shop a "new player in town" just today.......We used one of our newer employees to play the prospective shopper, and she did a good job playing dumb. She picked up both the postitive and negative aspects of the design and shopping experience.

After arriving at a selection, the job was priced at $136.00, where our estimated price would have been about $158.00. Our "spy" then reached into her purse to pull out a coupon she'd just received. The new owner catches her midway, and states, "Oh is that the 25% off coupon", to which our "spy" replys, "No - this is a 40% off coupon!"

The new owner states, "Oh, I've got so many coupons out ther right now, I can't remember which is which". The 40% discount coupon was valid on the entire order......$81.60 :eek:

I give this guy about 18 months!


The King

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
If John or someone else openly wanted to compare prices, I'd probably be happy enough to do it. But with friendly, cooperative comparisons, you have to be careful about any appearance of price-fixing.

A Grumbler who is not in my market recently emailed me to get an opinion about his pricing on a shadowbox project. While we were quite different on each individual line item, the total prices came out within 10 cents of one-another!

I find this is often the case. We each have our own price structures and formulas and will frequently come out very close to the same total, at least among Grumblers (who are, of course, a minority among framers.)

BTW, when I get a "blocked call" on my caller ID, I do not answer the phone. On those rare occasions when I have, I always end up regreting it.

Framing Goddess

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I have checked out my competition many times often to get an idea of pricing (not a huge range there, btw) but also to get a sense of their "style." Do other shops hesitate to show fillets or pricey frames, or to recommend UV Glass and c/p framing? Do they educate the "customer" on hinging techniques? Do they show "exciting" designs? What questions do they ask regarding the "customers'" expectations of the finished look? Do they "qualify" customers or pay any attention to price restraints or the lack of them? What lines do they carry? Any readymades or photo frames? Gifts, etc? Were they busy? What was the demeanor of the other customers there? What did their framed samples look like? Are they nice people there? What was the feel of the overall shopping experience at these other shops?
I have sent employees around with a nice piece of artwork and have found different things... some shops immediately show cheap boring little frames-- almost as if they assume that the job needs to be inexpensive. (I always have the employee mention NOTHING about wanting to "keep the price down.") One place near me showed a lovely design, recommended c/p framing and quoted a competitive price, but not cheap. I have some tough competition out there... which is motivating, lemme tell ya!
So, there's another way to "shop" the competition.
e the fg

The King

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Ya can't do that over the phone, can ya, Edie?


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
In some aspects, I subscribe to the Jay Goltz theory that "I don't care what my competitors charge, I know what I need to make a GREAT living." Emphasis on Great, not just "acceptable"

That said, though, I am often curious as others here are on the presentation of the design package.

i therefore go to a profssional temporary agency, hire a woman with design or interior decorating experience and pay for a full day for her to shop all my competitors. I'm not concerned with their pricing. I'm concerned about how they do the presentation.

I always learn ways to do things better. But I'm very fortunate to have three very high end art galleries within two miles of me. Learning how they do things can really increase my bottom line--like using two and three 8-ply mats on an abstract, double and triple fillets in a job, etc etc. So I may spend a hundred or so on the temporary (ad I provide her with a sheet to fill out after each interview) I earn thousands more learning from her interviews.

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
John is right, we do shop religiously. And we monitor it to see trends, to see movement, to test price elasticity and to learn. If all you really want to know is a price, use the phone.

But, if you want to develop a real sense of market, you have to get into the marketplace. Every retailer on the planet has a sense of their competition and the overall marketplace. This seems to be another of those issues that seems to be "exempt" from our trade.

You shop for several reasons; the least is price.

You shop to see where the market is, what your competition does, what they carry. You shop to see great design, new product, new sales technique. In essence, you shop to keep abreast. To make sure you aren't left behind. Why is the guy down the street selling so much more than you? Or, if you sell so much more than him, maybe he does one or two things better than you. Couldn't you stand to learn a few, new tricks?

Now, this only applies to those that want to run their business as a business. It doesn't apply to everybody. We have many members that are perfectly content with what they have and where they are. Great, good for them!

Let me share a few examples why shopping is important.

A wonderful family run business was priced ridiculously low on glass. I like the family; they are nice people. I called Momma and told her she was the lowest in town by several dollars a lite. Her defensive response was that her son did all the pricing and if he thought the price was correct, than it was. He is a nice young man and I'm sure he did his pricing by formula. But he was $4 a lite cheaper than the cheapest. He, too didn't care what the competition was charging. But he was leaving at least $4 on the table on each and every order.

That just isn't good business

Like Betty, we shop for the way others do what they do and often very dissappointed in the way most do what they do. Like Edie,it is very common for our people to return from a shopping trip to comment how bad the service was or tired the design was (I know, I know all of us are true experts indesign and presentation-so who is this "THEY"). And the point is it is a subtle reinforcer to my people to not act that way; that if we feel we do it better, that was a graphic example of how not to do it.

Market research is as important as going to your vendors or trade show to see what's new. You just can't afford not to know in this marketplace.

And you simply can't not care

John Gornall

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Good idea to shop frame shops in markets other than your own to find new ideas and different ways to sell, design and price. When I travel I take a couple of prints with me. I even shopped Jay Goltz store once - very interesting!

Last week my daughter was in Bob Carter country and I asked her to shop one of his stores but unfortunately she didn't have time.

Later this month I'm going to shop Anchorage Alaska. Anybody from Anchorage out there?

Lance E

As with many others I also have a good line of communication with other framers who are willing to share information on various issues, one of which is pricing. This is also the case with many of the other departments within our business.

We do have a regular "Mystery Shopper" programme in place that covers individual areas, these are:
Develop and Print
Digital Services
Digital Cameras
Restoration/Manipulation (conventional and digital)
Street Presence/Appeal

These encompass not only our opposition but also our own. Some of the categories require a purchase to survey the quality/back-up support. It costs a few dollars but gives extremely valuable information if you can get to grips with handling it. The surveys are carried out by persons with minimal general knowledge about the product so as we can obtain a more realistic observation, the most obvious point that our shoppers are looking for is product knowledge and the ability to demonstrate it.

I have been the "target" on more than one occasion without even being aware, the results have been very interesting! I challenge Betty to have herself "shopped" while she is there to see if [maybe] there are ways to improve service! The information we get about ourselves is far more valuable than the information we receive about others.

Without doubt the most unstable and unprofessional (low level of product knowledge) is Framing, I have no problem in stating that there is only one other framer in town that I would call competent (very much so) however it is unfortunate that the sales skills appear to be extremely poor.
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