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You think we have it bad?

Discussion in 'Picture Framing Business Issues' started by Kirstie, Mar 26, 2008.

  1. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    I disagree Paul. I think they are ordering them framed. We just don't see that many posters coming in anymore and I don't think they are being tacked to the wall. Have you seen the prices of framed art on art.com? Have you seen the latest allposter.com mailer? Pretty slick. Pretty cheap.
  2. PaulSF

    PaulSF PFG, Picture Framing God

    Kirstie, that may be. And those consumers that are purchasing posters and getting them framed via Art.com and such, they don't give a hoot how it looks. They want it cheap, and they want it up on their wall. If they ordered a black frame and it comes in blue, I doubt they'd even notice. So unless you are prepared to set up a mass production operation with e-commerce presence and spend millions of dollars to get there, don't worry about these customers. You can't compete for them. Don't even try.

    Some of the doom & gloom folks here are making the Business 101 mistake of not differentiating market segments. Even the relatively small art & framing market has several segments within it. One is the rarified finished corner/fine art segment. At the other end of the spectrum are the people that go to Goodwill and buy something for $5. Not far above the Goodwill segment are the people who buy a framed poster at Art.com, because the total cost is only $100. There's another segment that might want something different than the Generic Soup Can, who cares what it looks like, and is willing to pay more than $100 to have some options.

    P.S. You know where Art.com's HQ is, don't you? Look out your window.

    P.P.S. Black Oak Books' location in my neighborhood closed this week. Rumors abound. Be glad we aren't in the bookselling business.
  3. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

  4. EllenAtHowards

    EllenAtHowards PFG, Picture Framing God

    Well, there is no doubt that there is a difference between a commodity and a service. Commodities (posters, cameras, other 'things') are easily sold on the internet. Lots of folks will buy them there. Heck, I did my entire Christmas shopping at 6am in my pajamas this year.

    Services, on the other hand, can't be done in China or over the internet (yet). This is where we can work. We can hang, we can refit, we can design, we can carry out to the car.

    Now the sad thing is that the cream has been skimmed, and sometimes I think the dipper is down into the milk a little too, to stretch an analogy.

    We need to beef up the services, and also remember that there are folks who don't WANT to shop at 6am in their jammies. They want to touch and feel.
    So we need to make sure we have some commodities for them to buy from us.

    Howard's makes a point in having an excellent selection of readymades that are not from the same company as the BBs (Furst Brothers, Baltimore www.furstbros.com and no, I don't get any commissions from them) and a nice choice of photoframes. And sheets of matboard, and scraps of matboard, and now Assemble-It-Yourself (Thanks, Kirstie!) which is picking up speed. It brought in about $200 last week, which would have been money that I would not have otherwise had.

    I guess the point of this is "Don't just keep doing what you were doing, because it ain't gonna work anymore, but don't stop doing it entirely, either, because sometimes it does work.." And that is the tricky part about being in business these days....
  5. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    I hate to even get involved in this because we are seeing "the rose colored glasses" coming out

    Bottom line: If you are doing well, putting more bucks in your pocket, then, great for you. Many, many privately tell me differing stories

    Honesty seems often to be a casualty when we reach philosophical stances
  6. surferbill

    surferbill SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Since we seem to be stuck on posters, I'll relate my online experience with ordering posters Friday.

    I had to order from Art.com and Allposters.com which are the same company. The ordering was easy, pleasant, and quick. At the end, the lady asked if I would like to frame the prints. If I was not a picture framer, I think it would have been easy to just say "yes, I would like those framed."

    I think just 2 to 3 years ago, not many customers using the internet would use an online framing service, but those days are over.

    If anyone thinks this is a fad, or it doesn't apply to custom framing, I think they would be kidding themselves. It's a slow progression, where the customer feels confident ordering a poster or print, then feels confident ordering framing.

    I think it's not that far off where our customers will feel confident mailing off their precious artwork to a stranger on the internet to get it custom framed.

    I'm trying to think of ways to adapt to this kind of thinking by all consumers, that you can get it cheaper, and better on the internet.

    I'm sure there are hundreds of camera store owners, and photo finishers out there, that are now out of business, that said "my customers will never buy cameras or have their photo finishing done over the internet." ;)
  7. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    Yes, Bob, for us it is true, we are doing better, really. Last year was our best year, as was the year before that. This year I'm not sure about. March is flat. We're talking gross sales, here, not profit, but that is growing as well.

    Overall, the shop is doing quite well. I owe some of that to your suggestions regarding poster specials (framing packages is our new term) and value moulding. This year we even added a web page just for Bargain Basement moulding. The barking spiders we need to close out. They are selling, but not online. Some coming in for them, but mostly we pull out the two trays of yelping dogs and offer them up at $2, pf. when we have price resistance. Selling well and we're clearing space.

    OK, so if one is offering DIY (space permitting), carrying well purchased length, offering framing packages and specials, and appealing to a cross section of the market, the only selling vehicle I now see available to increase sales is the internet, or to do what Barbara Markoff has done, and dedicate 110% of one persons working time to corporate sales. If you know something I don't, I'd love to hear it.

    Hey Ellen, congratulations on your growing and changing business. I hope the new DIY helps more and more.

    Domino magazine has a section on posters this month. Quite nice until you get to the cheap online framing

    I had to order a $175. poster for a customer this week. She found it on art.com. I dug deep (and I mean deep because their search engine brings up so much) and found it on Liebermans, added a few others to the mix, and placed the order. Now I'll have art for a Cinco de Mayo window.
  8. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Hi Kirstie-Please forgive if anyone thinks I am calling them out; I realize there are success stories out there; Jeff and you are certainly great operators

    I deal with publishers, distributors and retailers all around the country daily. I am not exaggerating if I suggested there is a fair amount of angst

    I will amend my question to suggest that even if your biz is up, are you as confident or is it as easy?

    I am not trying to paint a doom scenario, but that we (and I'll limit this analogy to me)need to be aware as the market is changing.

    Fair enough as I get back to another project?
  9. etlock

    etlock CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    Here's an honest and simplistic opinion from a picture framer who has lasted
    40 years or more in this business. With six hundred dollars in my pocket and
    no income from an outside source, I purchased a glass and mirror shop that
    dabbled in picture framing, for five thousand dollars. ( It was dollar down and
    dollar a week, so to speak.) Hypothetically, I've always wondered if " Mr.
    Wagoners General Store ", worried a lot about whether the worlds largest retailers were coming to town and would they hurt his general store back in the year 1900. " Are Montgomery Ward and Sears and Roebuck going to put me out of business?" Well, Mr. Wagoner lived out his life and the worlds two largest retailers folded. The point being I never wasted a lot of time or energy worrying about the "big boxes"! In business they walk the same road as the independent.
    Yes, there may be fewer independent camera shops, but so too are there fewer independent; corner drug stores, ice cream parlors, soda fountains,
    hardware stores, corner grocery stores and even funeral parlors.
    It's the world of business being driven by technological advancement and social need to change. This is not the first severe economic downturn during our business run. It is not our first time witnessing a purge of our peers in this industry. One must fight to survive ! And without wishing your fellow
    framer any ill will , you must develop the mind set to be the last person standing.
  10. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    No, Bob, I am no longer confident. At the beginning of the year, even through February, I was delighted with sales, but March is getting more and more slow and Jeff and I are certainly concerned. Hoping it is just seasonal, but I don't know. No, it is not easy. Good Lord, it is not easy, but it never was. Perhaps 20 years ago, but then we worked so hard we could barely stand.

    Our son arrived tonight with a friend from France, here on family business--the wholesale fur trade. His business is to arrange trunk shows for Nieman Marcus, and the like, and sell wholesale to the stores. The fur business is suddenly WAY off. The customers have money, lots of it, but are afraid to spend it. Not a good scenario. He says that on the whole, people in France are really worried. His comments had to do with recession, not changes in buying habits. He called it a "disaster."

    As framers, we have to deal with both right now.
  11. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    Etlock, welcome. It would be nice to know more about you. We have been in business 31 years. 9 years behind you in age as well. We too have seen the demise of neighboring shops, the shake out. But this time the competition is completely different. Losing our independent competitors won't help us and will just weaken our suppliers. How are you planning to be the last standing? I'd like to be there with you, but I'd like the industry with me.
  12. EllenAtHowards

    EllenAtHowards PFG, Picture Framing God

    As one of the 'last standing' in drafting & art supplies, I think I may have a little insight here.

    We have only one trade show a year. And it's not all that big. But ALL the big manufacturers and suppliers are there.

    There is one big supplier left, and a few small ones (like 3 or 4)

    The suppliers who supplied for one area (drafting) are now selling art supplies as well.

    There is a store in Baltimore, and one in Washington kind of like us, each about an hour's drive away. But other than that, we are it.

    Thank goodness, some folks understand that I am not just a showroom for them to lookysee and then order online.

    Challenges abound.
  13. Dermot.

    Dermot. In Corner

    Bob……you flatter me………

    I’m afraid on this occasion I’m not of much use to you………..I really could find nothing that meant much to me………..I did rise to your challenge to look ………..

    Below are a few links that have some information it may be of some use to you…I suspect that you have already seen some of them, if not there may be a nugget or two for you….





    Nothing great………perhaps one or two pointers……….anyway for what it is worth….

    BTW I do understand what you’re saying and trying to explore…….it is very interesting …
  14. Dermot.

    Dermot. In Corner

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