What if you DON'T sell art off the wall?

Mike LeCompte CPF

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
IN conjunction with my previous thread about stocking prints, I ponder this issue also: What do you do if you don't move preframed art off the walls like you'd like? Imean what if the turn isn't what you expect?

I recall a few months ago Greg Perkins from LJ writing in one of the rags said that if your wall movement isn't that great,you may want to consider devoting that wall space to your best framed models. Models you can sell off of or using them as demonstration pieces of the work you can do, like showing stacked moulding, fillets, multiple fillets, fancy mat decorations, etc.

So I wonder: could this be a better use of wallspace instead of those framed prints you hope would sell but aren't?
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Sarah Winchester

CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
On my walls are 6-8 of my most popular prints (framed, of course) 15-18 limited editions (framed very nicely, showing many framing options) and 6-10 of my personal collection of originals, which are framed very, very nice. The prints, framed are usually less than $100, the limited editions are $300 and up, my personal collection starts at $1000 each. I usually sell 2-3 prints, and 1 or 2 limiteds per week. Mostly , though, I use them to show framing options, and they work well for that purpose.


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Having framing options on the wall is really useful when you want to do something special for a customer's work, but they don't quite understand your explanation.

If something has been on the wall too long, it's time to change it out. Donate the framed art to a worthy cause, and put something new up. (I don't like having mark-downs on the wall. In a bin, maybe, but not on the wall)

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Mike-You are a merchant selling, say, swimming suits. It's July and you have a lot of suits still on the racks. History tells you if you haven't sold them by the 4th, you probably won't.

Most smart merchants will have taken some form of periodic markdowns starting in June.

But, by not taking action, those dollars are tied up preventing you from paying some bills and buying new inventory.

If you are going to have a preframed art inventory, it ought to turn. I use an example of the dollars wasted on just one preframed "testimonial to our egos" (The term I use in my classes-we all have jut such an item on our walls right now, don't we)that never sells. Kathy had mentioned it in a recent post; it is truly mind boggling.

Hanna-A smart merchant will mark it down and display it prominently so they can get rid of it.

Otherwise, you have,de facto, done what Greg suggests and created a model. Because it probably ain't going to sell

Inventory ought to be controlled for turnover. Sell it for some price, use those new dollars to invest in inventory that will turn. Donate it? Not if you can sell it? Even half price buys more new inventory or pays a few bills

Mike LeCompte CPF

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
I really think I was pretty clear in the original post:

Is your wall space better served using models vs. prefamed art that is stocked from everyone from Bed Bath Beyond to Office Depot to who-knows-who-else.

Coupled with this question is this: are you a gallery/framer, gallery mostly, or framer/gallery. I know most of my customers walk into the door with stuff under their arm. I've wathced their eyes, changed my traffic flow, etc and MOST of them just want something framed. I point out what's on the walls, I watch them look at the walls but often the response I get is "I'd like it to look like that" as they look at a model with linen liners or fabric mats or fillets or whatever.

I just ponder if selling the stuff priced as framed art at discount prices and solely putting up framed models.

What's a better use of wall space, in other words?

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
In our case, our walls are powerful selling tools.

In your case, a better question might be as you asked: Should you devote that space to models (which really is what most framers have, unwittingly) or to saleable product or a combination of both?

That's like "Boxers or Briefs"

The problem with many that attempt to "sell" preframed art and are unsuccessful often blame the line.

You mentioned the "stuff carried by Bed, Bath and Beyond et al". If I was in the drink business I would carry Coke or Pepsi; if I was in the sports shoe biz, I would have Nike or Adidas-in essence, why not carry what people truly want? Carrying Verners Ginger Ale might "set you apart", but will that translate into sales?

You are correct, my friend, that you need to decide what it is that you are and what type of clientele comes to you. You, then, need to decide if you wish to expand that base of potential clientele by offering some products that seem to sell so well elsewhere

The biggest obstacle in this particular line is that too many framers simply haven't understood that this business has changed radically. Those that continue to buy chops and prints at straight 50% have no chance of competing. The marketplace is pretty unforgiving to those that won't change

But, if you are willing to embrace some of the great plastics and buy well like that the Image Conscious offer, you might improve your chances of being successful in that line

Bottom line: I would rather have a great blend of some great selling wall decor and some nice samples closer to the design counter. Walls are a valuable asset-to not fully exploit both opportunities is a mistake

These are two separate parts of the biz and need to be merchandised and managed as separate entities.

Those incapable of doing that might be wiser in filling their walls with "Advertise Your Product Here" signs like they do at the car wash. Because I sure wouldn't tie up valuable inventory there

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Our walls are a combination of both. The area closest to my design table has a number of designs which are dedicated as models of design. They include, a fishing rod and golf putter amongst other things. These are marked up heavily so they are for sale if some one wants to pay a premium price.

From the counter to the front window is a collection of limited efition prints, originals and just prints. Nicly framed which still show design principles. These are my gallery pieces. I choose onse that sell in our local community and if they dont sell they go out and get discounted untill they do sell.

The space also has a collection of minis, which we mat and frame using up a lot of those smaller pieces of mat board and frame.

This gives you a chance of having your cake and eating it too.

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
I'm confused (again). We have a wall that doesn't sale art. So we replace lesser art/framing with knock-your-socks-off framing. Wouldn't you expect the “samples” to move faster? I mean every body's customers want ONLY the best "quality". I don't get it?

If our customers come to us because of quality, why aren't they snatching these samples off our walls in droves? Maybe Mr. Perkins has that answer. I mean after all he is the brainchild that came up with this idea.

For what its worth, I would suggest that we don't sell from our walls for 2 reasons. That is price and selection. Of the shops I have been in, the framing usually looks great already. What do I know? I hardly ever sell from my wall but I just purchased $2000 worth of posters from IC at the price of about $350. I'm trying to turn this trend around. Wish me luck.

Carry on.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I have found, through my gallery experience, that I never have on the wall what anyone wants. They want it this by this by this and it has the color of maroon in it. I will never have on my wall specifically what anyone wants. So, I have decided after much analyzing, to have a few original artists on the wall that will do commissions, and to have the source catalogs, and the search engine vehicles available to help them to find the art they want. I give them Liebermans website to search at their leisure, and I also have the computer for them to search at their leisure at the store. They take their time and find what they want and I order it for them and then design framing for them. this has worked out much better for me than stocking art and prints that no one is looking for. If they want original art, I can find the artist and style they want to have something commissioned. This has worked best for me. I went from selling $40k in orginal art to $2K in one year - too much of a change for me to weather in my demographics. I have chosen to become more of a "source" to help find art and to become their guide in hanging, interior decor, etc.

Not sure if this helps, but it is my conclusion after a year of analyzing what is going on in my area and adjusting to the changes. We are not currently hit by BB's, but don't expect that to be much longer. Need to differentiate now and adjust to customer needs, requirements now, before its too late.

my 2 cents

Hey Bob,

You state: "Those that continue to buy chops and prints at straight 50% ... But, if you are willing to embrace some of the great plastics" ...

Please excuse my lack of experience/knowledge in this area, but what is it that you mean by those statements? Are you referring to "plastic" mouldings? Or are you suggesting that the only way to make a profit is to buy length and chop it yourself? Being a real newbie, this sort of advice would be most helpful as I plan for the future of my business.

Thanks in advance!


PFG, Picture Framing God
I am totally guilty of the shop that Bob described.

Our walls are full of beautifully framed prints, posters, and originals. They look great, they don't hardly ever sell.

At my old store, the big box wannabe, we purchased pre framed "art" from other manufacturers. The stuff looked great for what it was priced at. We sold one heck of a lot of it.

The difference now is, when I opened this store, I wanted my walls filled with the best framing we could do. I did not want any "junk" on the walls. I do not care if we have to order expensive mouldings and mats in for a picture or not, I just want it to look it's best.

In our old store, metal frames ruled our sales in custom, whatever was the cheapest, that's what we sold the most of. In my present store, we hardly ever sell metal, although lately it has been picking up. The bulk of our custom framing is quality wood frames, double and triple mats, wrapped mats, mission style frames, etc.

At my old store, I had twelve people working at one point, just to be able to keep up with the volume. At my present store, I have myself and one other person working.

I don't do anywhere near the volume of my old store, yet I, personally, make a heck of a lot more money. The reason is, we are selling a much higher end product.

Myself, I would like to sell more off my walls, however, what is up there is time consuming to produce, and expensive. I want my walls to look great, it helps my custom sales. I call it shill, as I think Bob would as well. It's the price I pay in order to sell better framing at my sales counter.

At my old store, my reputation was a cheap place to go to get framing, although you had to wait, that was because of the volume of orders.

At my present store, my reputation seems to be, expensive, but top quality. You continue to have to wait, mainly because I am too old to be working under pressure and deadlines. I honestly want to enjoy going to work, and I do.

I guess we all have to set our own priorities,the problem with that is, trying to figure out exactly, what our priorities are.


Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Ever notice how often John and I agree-it seems all the time.

And, i think it is because I finally recognized that everybody has their own objectives and priorities. Knowing John as I do, I am firmly cinvinced he knows exactly what he wants and what he needs.

The problem is that too many really don't and dance from this idea to that without ever understanding why something did work and why something did not

I am now convinced that the majority ought not get into preframed art. Not because it doesn't sell, but because most simply won't do it well. Something done poorly is worse, in most cases than not doing it at all.

Peter, I'l share my take, and I'm sure that you will get an opposite opinion (probably from someone that either does not carry preframed art or has had a bad experience). See what will work for you

When I say that if you buy chops or you buy prints at straight 50% or if you won't consider some of the great plastics (my favorites come from Omega, then your coststructure will be so out of whack that not only will you not be able to compete, but it will probably create a horriblly negative price impression.

Let's face it most people think framer's prices are higher than a cat's back already. When you add a line that is so far out of range, it can only send negatives

Most folks never get out of their stores, never understand their markets, never get a sense for what the market will bear. And, they should never make an investment into this highly competitive arena.

You need to see what others sell this product for. If you find those great, popular images and you see them at prices way below what you would need to sell them for, than stay away

Or, look for ways to improve your buying

We recently stayed in San Diego at major downtown, expensive hotel. It has recently been remodeled. We did not find a single wooden frame on any art in the entire hotel. Period. And the stuff looked very good (and you know that we framers look at this stuff much more than any consumers-perhaps we ought to think more like them since it is they we wish to sell to)

For preframed art, reg glass or reg mats or dry mounting will not send you on a one-way ticket to framer's h e l l. But, that level of buying advantage can easily bring your price points into a more competitive arena

If you are serious, please contact me offline. Rest assured that this thread will quickly be hijacked.

Again, for those that have problems with doing some of the things that I suggest, please save yourself the money and aggravation and just don't do it. But, if you think that this is an additional line that might work, make sure that you understand what it takes to make it work

Your consumers do


Mike, I was interested in your post. It is a dilemma I have been pondering for a while. Like everyone else, my framed art sales have dropped off to negligible. The market for framed posters is over as far as I am concerned. No one wants to pay the price of custom framing for a $30 print. And I have never sold original artwork.

Like you, most of my existing customers are looking for custom framing and pay little attention to my framed art samples when they come in. Why should they. They are not interested in framed prints. They are either framing their personal mementos and photos or original artwork. When they enter the store they come straight to the design table where they know I will present them with all the design options they want.

However, my street front location gives me a lot of walk by traffic and browsers. I find it is these people that are attracted to the impressive stuff on the wall. They rarely buy it, but it opens up opportunities to discuss the power of custom framing with people who may never have considered it and often converts them into new customers. So it serves a function, but one that is out of proprotion to the benefit it generates.

So I am going to try a combination of things. I will expand my wall samples of truly unique items that will not be for sale. Some of these belong to employees who will take them home when they have served their purpose. Others are mine. I will try to keep these changing.

The second thing I am doing is entering into an agreement with a local gallery that does not have a street front presence, to display some of her artist's work, framed by me, which will be for sale. I hope that this will give me a constantly changing display of well framed art as well as earn me some money.

The last thing I am doing, as a new Wizard rentee,is showcasing my new design abilities with a series of black ready made frames featuring white mats and great mat designs but no artwork. I have just made these into a window display and they are starting to attract attention. I plan to continue to use them as models, with different series of designs.


PFG, Picture Framing God
Myself, I think if you are serious about moving a lot of pre framed pictures and mirrors, the best way to go, would be to purchase finished products. Trying to keep up with your custom work and keeping your walls full and sharp looking is next to impossible, if you are making the product yourself. Sure, fill in where you can, just don't try to do it all.

Bobs contention that it be merchandised and managed as a separate entity is right on target.

On all these pre made things we sell, frames, pictures, gift items, the key points to moving them is price, then merchandising. You can have the most unique things for sale, if they are priced way out of line, forget moving a lot of em.

Whatever you do, you have to commit yourself to doing it right, it takes a lot of effort and work. I think I am just to lazy to start doing it again. Perhaps I'm just to busy doing other things.


Mike LeCompte CPF

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
thanks all for the diversity of opinion which is what I wanted when I posted the thread. Just seems to me, in reconsideration, that there was a driving force behind Greg Perkins' article; i.e., IS the stuff on the walls of the majority of businesses not selling and this was the philosophy behind the article?

Or, as a corollary, what WAS the driving force behind that article?

I personally think the solution, at least for me, rests somewhere in the middle. Have the stuff offered by the Chinese or Taiwanese or whatever on the wall for, say $100 along with my models to be used exactly as that--models so a customer can see what a stacked fillet or stacked frame looks like.

Thanks once again y'all. I'll shut up now and go take my Sunday nap

Framing Goddess

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Gosh, if I had the space I would load up half of my shop with decent looking premade stuff priced cheap. I like that it would bring in some perhaps easily-intimidated newbie framing customers.

But, I don't have the space nor the location for that kind of thing, so about 10 years ago when framed art sales started dropping off, I tried a new tactic.

I loaded my walls with what I considered framing sample pieces. I collected odd bits of ephemera, original 19th century British drawings I bought for a song on ebay, local old maps, distressed mirrors, antique needlework, outsider art, local original artwork, my family photos, black and white photos and needlework; in other words, more like what I have at home.

I use in-stock moulding, leftover moulding and totally tarted 'em up. I show lots of 8 ply mats, french mats, fabric-wrapped mats and liners, stacked frames, fillets and the like. The nice thing is that I have little invested in these because they are smaller pieces generally. They show off my framing and are nothing like anything anyone would see anywhere else. I do sell from this collection quite regularly, though not enough to make a living from it. These pieces sell A LOT of fancy pants framing at my front counter- I have many pieces framed half with museum glass and half with regular glass- those displays alone have sold a bundle.

So, Michael, my answer is yes.

edie the gettingtothepoint goddess

Sherry Gray

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Five years ago I recognized sales of framed pieces in my store were going down. I switched tactics and only framed unique pieces that slowly sold. Now one wall is local, original art and photographs, which sell pretty quickly; and one wall is dedicated to customer framed pieces not for sale. It gives us the opportunity to showcase various mouldings and techniques (without tying up cash), showcases plenty of Museum and AR glass; and makes the customer quite proud their work is hanging for all to see. It's a great sales tool when new customers come into the shop to see what we're about and gives them an opportunity to see what types of framing we do. And it gives previous customers ideas for their own home.

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
I think these ideas by Shery and Edie are great and probably do help in selling "fancy pants" framing (I like that term). And we all need to expand that portion of our biz

But, what we never seem to explore is the ways needed to "recapture" segments of our biz that we al seem to agree was a major part of biz in the not so distant past

We, too easily, abdicate market share after market share without a fight. Oh, sure we take a few stabs at al the usual villains. Yet, we never seem willing to fight them on our own turf. We just roll it over and rationalize our decisions as "Good Business Decisions".

Sure, we are making good decisions if we discontinue lines thatare not profitable or stale. But, what have we done to take up that slack?

If we continue to convince each other that by highlighting our "fancy pants" work (I still like that term), then why don't we continue to promote this "fancy pants" work AND recapture some of the preframed biz.

In essence, grow both

I just don't believe that we ought to cede a single centimeter without a fight

Let's examine why we have lost the preframed biz first, then see what maybe we can do to reapture some and let's find out where the weaknesses are in our competitors offerings that we might use to our advantage

Oops-That's Marketing 101 and we know that stuff doesn't really apply to us , does it?

Mike LeCompte CPF

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
the above post is why we should insist on QUALITY speakers/businesspeople at these trade shows and, frankly, one of the reasons Ididn't go to Atlanta. Very few people that I considered true experts in our industry were holding classes.

Sherry Gray

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
I believe this discussion points out that no one idea works for everyone. I don't just hang fancy framing on my walls. I hang everything we frame from start to finish... from plain to fancy and I use those customer framed pieces to my advantage. But using my inventory and employee time to frame lower end wall art is not an option. The wall pieces I offer (originals by local artists at every price point) are not something a customer can buy at just any store and that works for me.

Jim Miller

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
We've always had nice print art in framed models on the walls, but art never was a big part of our plan. This is a frame shop and selling art is secondary. It used to sell well, but these days our art sales are dismal.

I have seriously considered taking down all of our framed models and removing the art in them. That is, re-hang the entire shop with framing models that have white boards in the mat openings. Or maybe I would use different colors; really bright ones. No art in sight. And each mat opening could be, in very small, faint gray 8-point text, a quote or quip to amuse anyone who gets close enough to read it.

That should catch the eyes of passers-by, and it certainly would emphasize that this is a frame shop, not an art gallery.

Should I try it?


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I found that framing quirky small pieces with killer cominations and techniques for $125-200 works real well - where can you find anything like that?

Then, like others have said, lots of local stuff that is in a lower price range - $30-125.

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
My good friend makes a comment lament-That his framed art sales are dismal

Most everyone seems to echo that sentiment.

But, why?

C'mon, guys, we are giving up without a fight a segment that ought to be a strong line for us. It almost wants me want to get on top of a table and give that great speech by John Belushi in "Animal House" when Delta House was being kicked off Campus.

I don't know Sherry (Congrats on your award) but she acts as if her people are at capacity and framing great looking art at great prices at great margins (when you buy and merchandise smart) will cut into her custom, high labor/skill intensity, business.

My suggestion is that she is that close to capacity, one mid-range skilled framer (assembler) could easily satify every bit of framing necessary to all her preframed art at 15-20 hours a week.

Then she would have a whole new category and mayb next year, she might win the same award, but in the $500,000 category

Rick Granick

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Jim- the problem with doing what you described is that you would not be demonstrating how your beautifully-executed framing relates to the design elements in the art or object being framed, which to me is a large part of what framed models accomplish. Leave the art in the frame. You can still add explanatory text, but make it highly readable, almost like an ad. That wil attract attention to your message. For example, you could create on your computer a dialog balloon exclaiming, "Ask me about "invisible" glass!" and print it out on cardstock which could be floated above the glass on a piece with museum glass in it. Suddenly your framed model is a "spokesmodel" too.
:cool: Rick


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
We frame art the way we would like people to frame it. We sell a lot of framed art, but sometimes things just don't move as quickly as we would like. If we have something around for a long time, we will have a sale of those particular items, then people who have been mulling it over will usually buy. We take them down and keep them seperate as well.

Also, don't forget that Christmas season is just around the corner (already starting in some cases) and that's just about when pre-framed things start moving.

Things that work really well for us are ranged- We sell a lot of old style movie posters/vintage posters that have been Z-gelled with black frames. These have been popular for a few years and with the Z-gel process, we can sell them for less and in lighter weight frames, thus keeping the cost down (no glass/etc) the look is also reminiscent of canvas, so that helps.

We also sell a lot of black and white posters (beatles/old trains/etc) in black frame kits, and usually for around 100.00 or less.

We also keep a healthy amount of local art around, though not consinged, we just buy numbered prints from well known artists in the area.

I don't have a problem with resin frames per se, but I figure if our main business is selling top quality frames with preservation materials/etc we should try to keep our samples/wall art to that. If a customer sees a resin frame/with art on the wall that's 50.00 and a similar hand gilded wooden frame on our wall that's 50.00 a foot, something is going to click.

Jim Miller

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Originally posted by Rick Granick:
Jim- the problem with doing what you described is that you would not be demonstrating how your beautifully-executed framing relates to the design elements in the art or object being framed...
Not everyone agrees about what looks good in a frame design. For every person who says "Wow!" about a framed model, there are ten who think it's just OK and a couple who think it's all wrong.

Nobody can criticize the way a frame design relates to art that is not in it. On the other hand, an observer might be inspired use her imagination. Maybe the frame becomes the art.

But for what it's worth, note that I have not yet gathered enough courage of my convictions to actually do it.

Bob, selling art has always been considered incidental to my framing business. Our framed models and unframed art are simply bait -- always have been, always will be, I guess.

There are a few reasons for that. First, selling art requires a continuing, significant investment in inventory, which in turn requires a significant investment in marketing & advertising to keep moving it out -- and in my experience, it is not the same advertising that attracts framing customers, especially since internet art sales.

Second, when I researched my business plan in the late 1980's, I was startled by the number of frame shops that had thousands of dollars worth of art old and new laying around. I was also startled by the number of art galleries that relied on framing to pay for their slow-moving art inventory. I think there's fundamental flaw in a $300,000 art/framing business carrying $100,000 or more inventory. Have these conditions have changed for the better in recent years?

Third, I'm no art expert. Like most other folks, I know what I like when I see it, but I don't know art.

My inventory investment will remain mostly in framing materials. Like my COGS, my inventory turnover rate is not bad. You ladies and gentlemen who know the art market are welcome to it. Happily I say it is not an issue for me.

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
I think Jim makes a great point (doesn't he always?)in that this biz isn't for him.

I guess I need to clarify that I think it is not for most, either. But, I must suggest that if, an dthat's a pretty big if,you do dabble in it to do it well. I also suggest that most of the shops that do carry preframed art, don't

Many do pretty well with this product and I think there are some pretty simple rules if you wish to compete.

My main participation on this thread is not to convince anyone to carry preframed art. Frankly, I think most should not.

We see it as a great addition to our total sales and experienced the exact same declines in the last several years as almost everyone else. We think we have turned the corner big time in identifying what was needed to recapture that segment.

It is simply a different market than it was just a few short years ago. The "old"rules just don't apply any longer

Jim Miller

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Another thought:
I've always offered to sell art; I consider "bait" to be important - but by customers' requests, rather than buying speculatively.

There was a time when we maintained more than a dozen publishers' catalogs, which were costly and always seemd to be out of date.

Now we display Lieberman's Art Explorer on a customer-accessible computer...no more catalogs. The selection is updated by web access, and new disks come out quarterly. For my business, this is the way to sell art.


I'm just getting started with my own "boutique" one-man framing shop. I've been in business for just over a year now. As my shop is new, I wanted to give myself the opportunity to try different kinds of art to test the market, so I change the art every 6 weeks or so, following an art gallery kind of model: I show original art, send out announcements for each show, have an opening reception, etc.

One model that I've experimented with is working with local artists. It works like this: I give the artist a large (50% ) discount on framing with the understanding that we work together to do creative framing that display different framing techniques, rather than the stark "gallery" style framing artists often want to use. I pay for the postcards, mailing, the opening reception. In return I take a portion of the art sales (less than a gallery would take). This has worked out well for several reasons: The cost of materials is payed for by the artist, who is thrilled to have gotten such a big discount on framing. The cost of the mailing and reception is ussually more than covered by my share of the art sales. On two occasions I've even convinced some local vineyards to donate the wine. My customers love the "gallery" look of the shop, the fun receptions, and the fact that I'm supporting local artists. It even generates some free advertising -- most papers offer free gallery listings, and I've had some favorably reviews and even a 3 min feature of one of the artists on local tv shot on location in my shop. Another nice bonus is that many of the artists' friends and collectors have started bringing their custom framing jobs to my shop as well. This has been an important way for me to expand my customer base as my shop is still new.

Now I mentioned that this is just one of the things I've tried with my display walls. I've also some "budget" shows, with decorative prints and photographs that were original, but of no real collectible value. These were in the $150-$250 range (basically I gave the art away and just charged the retail price for the framing). People complimented both the artwork and the framing, but sales were slow. So far it's my impression that people would rather spend a bit more ($400-$1000) for something that is really extraordinary and that supports a local artist, rather than $150 for something that is just nice.


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

I like the way you test the waters to find out what works for you. I'm just surprised you have the time to do so many things, being a one-man shop. You are 'The Man'.

I wish you continued success.


Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
This discussion highlights that there are many ways to accomplish specific goals

The most important issue , that we rarely discuss, is to preset objectives prior to launching any concept. Often, we do something and then make the objective fit the results

If your objective is to establish a "persona" about your store and you wish to do that with "quality" and "creative design", then that is a choice that ought to be expanded and reinforced. And that goal may have nothing to do with increasing sales or making more money

If your goal is to make more money and to increase volume, then, it might need another track

The key is it isn't up to us to be concerned which path you should follow, but it might be important to understand what true objectives are being pursued.

The path to those objectives are, indeed, different and one size doesn't fit all

But, be honest in those objectives and develop a plan to attain those objectives with careful monitoring and analysis. Set the parametersahead of time and validate according to the original plan

I'm not sure many of us do much of that, do you?


"develop a plan to attain those objectives with careful monitoring and analysis."

Bob, you make so much sense and seem to have unbelievable patience with those of us who have neither your business background or clarity of thinking about these matters. You have offered so much good free advice. Can I ask for a little more?

After years of barely making a living in picture framing, during the 90's, I took the advice that many were handing out at the time. Namely that upselling and catering to those that could afford and appreciate upper end framing was the best way to make a profit in my small shop. Afterall it takes just as long to produce a low price frame as an expensive one.

Now in this new millenium, having firmly established myself as an "upper end" framer, with the upper end market shrinking and my sales declining in frightening numbers, I am trying to figure out where to go from here.

My gut feeling is that my Baby Boomer customers have pretty much finished with their framing days and that the generation that is busy filling their homes with artwork is very different from their parents - driving Lexus's and shopping at Walmart as they do. I am realizing that I am going to have to restructure my business to appeal to this group if I am to continue to succeed in this business.

So how to determine if this is the right path to take, and as you say above go about it in a business manner not just following my hunches.

Judi Meade

P.S I realize that this is probably a full length course that I am asking for but I'll take whatever you can offer.

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Judi-Thanks for the compliment, however, my wife would take exception with the clarity comment

Your situation is very common and I will make a very general statement that will draw fire, for sure.

So, this will fall smartly into the "Ellen Collins" philosophy of taking what you can use and trash can the rest

So, lets "Bunker Down" 'cause the shells are a'coming
You did, indeed, take the advice of the experts and did upsell. We were told that was the magic bullet. And, I wouldn't disagree with that mentality, except it was presented as such an "either/or" proposition-there was no gray

Now comes the conspiracy theory:

Imagine that you are a (hypothetical) matboard manufacturer and you see trends much further ahead than any of us great unwashed retailers. And you see a declining trend in "units sold" to retailers (don't worry about the gazillion of sheets being sold to BB after BB at much lower margins).

So, because you run (or are responsible for sales) this giant company and you didn't get there because you aren't pretty smart, It's up to you to develop a winning strategy. Now, if I realize that I expect that the retail market will probably sell 1 million sheets and no matter what I do, I can't expect to increase that number much (anymore than Kodak can, say, increase the number of rolls of film sold). Yet, I am responsible for sales growth

Now, I am a pretty shrewd manager and I suggest that while I can not increase units, perhaps I can increase which units I sell. A million sheets is a million sheets, but if I can convert 10% from paper to rag/alpha and that difference is $4/sheet, I have effectively increased my volume by $400,000 dollars without selling a single more product

So, I create this media blitz that includes the usual industry experts and I carefully package this program as "what's best for the framer and te industry". I paint using paper mats as unworthy and will ruin art and doesn't make you a good framer and yada yada yada.

Except that I do not discontinue this most uworthy of products

So, we blindly follow the advertising message

Please realize that I am not challenging the claim, but I am suggesting that this is not a Universal Application. Let's face it, Scarface doesn't need it

And, it's true with so many other products

What's the downside?

At a time when we see increasingly decreasing average prices on every single survey taken for framing, we continue to increase the prices we charge by using more and more expensive products on things where it might not be completely necessary

In Business, it's called Pricing Yourself out of the Market.

I do not see manufacturers as evil, in fact, it isn't a bad strategy, at all.

Except we take it to extremes and it hurts us in the perception battle.

Critics will say that the BB's already sell UV glass and Alpha/Rag exclusively.

Sure at costs about you and I pay for reg glass and paper mats.

Bottom line: Quit being a Kool-Aid drinker and do not blindly follow what manufacturers tell you. Use your judgement to understand your market. Doggone it, sometimes a paper mat and reg glass on that Brittney Spears poster at a great competitive price will make the sale. And perhaps that same client, if pleased, will more likely than not, come back for more.

Do not be afraid to understand that we will have some "bottom feeders" and we will have some "value line" customers and we will have some "Cadillac" customers. We have to get out of the mentality of thinking we are above those "less desirable" clients

I do a fair amount of mentoring and consulting. I will tell you that not a single person that has embraced a "value line" concept has seen anything but positive results in both additional volume at all ends of their biz. Anyone that wishes to confirm that, may do so. I won't divulge any confidences

We have to find ways to "broaden" the market. And, in my market, that includes selling things that consumers want at prices they want to pay

If that includes some "bottom feeders" on occassion, that's fine by me. At the end of the month, I really haven't figured out how to determine which dollars come from my "serious" customers or those "unwashed" clients.

All I want is plenty (and more of) all those types of customers

I can follow up more later is the discussion doesn't get real defensive


Bob, Thank you for that confirmation. I have been considering adding ready mades to my store, but honestly I lack the space to do it properly.

I read with interest Ellen's post on her use of a Value Line. I'd love to understand more on how to market that. Or do you just keep in reserve to save the sale when all else fails.


Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Hi Judi-I must say that everything we sell, we do so proudly. I know some people just hate to show stuff they don't like. Hey, it doesn't hang in my house

Marketing a Value Line is no different than any product you sell.

I'll share my favorite meat story to help with the point

When available, I will buy Prime everytime. To me, it's worth it. Sure, it cost more, okay, a lot more. But a Prime Rib Eye or Prime NY Strip is justso much better than any lesser cut.

But, bet the farm that right next to these great cuts at your meat counter will be ground beef. And, they sell a ton of it. And, I buy it

Does that somehow diminish the "perceived value" of those finer cuts? Should the butcher just keep the hamburger (ground beef) in the back and only offer it as a way to save the sale

I will promise that the client that comes into your framing store with that once in a lifetime Christening gown, probably has many more pieces that are a little more pedestrian.

List your last 100 pieces framed in your store. Classify them into any measureable segments that reflect how many are "fancy pants" framing (Thanks, Edie)and how many are a little more ordinary?

Well, in our stores,we see many more ordinary pieces and I think the average consumer really doesn't have the expectation that it isn't going to cost a couple of hundred dollars. Sure,they may get it done, but they more be a little less inclined to perhaps do it again.

And, i think that, plus the extreme marketing exhibited by these BB's that obviously resonates well with consumers (or we wouldn't be constantly talking about them)is what is causing the declines that you and many others see.

The key to a Value Line is to not replace your current offerings, but to compliment them.

And, hopefully stem the tide of market erosion that many of us see as a real and present danger. It may be 20 profiles bought really well that creates that perception. I am sure I sell as much "high end, fancy pants " framing as anyone. But, it is not all I sell

Of course, this doesn't supplant good salesmanship and common sense

Contact me offline if you want to go further in what might help you set this up if you are uncomfortable discussing it openly


PFG, Picture Framing God
Here are the big secret expenses of my HUGE VALUE LINE PROMOTION. Sign (24x36) hanging in window yellow with black type)$150. Ad in local paper $100. Promotion on our changeable sign. $0. Two coumns on our wall dedicated to Value Line. Increase of our business over last year's about 30%. (I got figures to prove it) Like Bob says, "Buy smart, sell smart". We buy box quantities, have about 50 styles (OK, some are real dogs, but they count! and you won't believe how much red bamboo, bought at clearance for pennies, we sell!) Gotta figure something else to do for this year, now...

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Let's never forget that success of these types of programs depends greatly on the strength of the person that manages these programs

Those that know Ellen should have no wonder why she does as well as she does. She is a bright operator; a little reluctant possibly, but very smart.

These things are no magic bullet and results can and wil vary

Judi-As a side note to your Ready Made consideration, may I suggest a little exercise?

Imagine that you have say $1000 to invest/gamble on a new line/idea (adjust for real applications)

How many RM's can you buy for $1000 and if you sell through, what is your maximum return?

Now, do the same for a Value Line.

Which line offers a higher margin?

Which line offers the opportunity to sell up or add-ons?

A clue might be to follow the margins and with the better margins of one of those two options might provide the aditional dollars to add the other option with no additional burden on Cash Flow

It's like doing a mini Cost/Benefit Analysis

And we all do that, don't we?


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Bob covers everything so well that I can't really add anything to this, especially since I don't even have my own place yet. But I have to say I love reading such thoughtful and useful information.