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Designer discounts?

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
Dec 8, 2003
A designer is ordering about $7000 worth of posters and framing from me. Thats is regular price before any discounts. THEN she asked the question "do you give designers discounts". Suggestions?
Only if I have to.

It depends on what the competition does. In our area the standard discount is 25%. Even at that they ask if I can do any better.

A looooong time ago designers got the discount since they did not charge an hourly design fee. Sort of being an outside salesperson on contract. Today the both charge a design fee and want a discount.
Normally I do not encourage the designer trade. I do have several I work with, who are professional enough to be able to do their own design work without destroying my store or stopping myself and my employee from earning our living. To these professionals I offer a discount that reflects the volume of business they do with me.

Give your designer a discount on that $7,000.00 order. Make sure they understand that it is not a permanent discount on every little thing they bring in. Believe me, whatever discount you offer on this medium sized order, they will insist is their permanent discount from here on in.

Lay out the rules in plain English before you begin any association with a designer. Make sure that you reserve the right to change the rules after working with them for awhile. You will be amazed at the schemes designers can come up with to screw you out of a living.

If I seem bitter toward designers, that is a correct assumption. I used to have to work with them, I learned the hard way, from experience. Don't get me wrong, if you are dealing with true professionals, your problems will be minimized. Make sure they are ASID members. Make sure they are not working from their homes. Make sure they are licensed in your state.

Take into consideration how much time she took up. If it was more or as much as a customer that brought you $7000.00 worth of business.

I always remind designers that time is money and the time started right now.

If she gives you free riegn sure. If she designs it without your help sure.

If you have to design it to fit her taste Why would you?

Unless you have a commission built into your pricing Then Absolutely.

But you might want to establish a design fee of say a dollar a minute to tack onto the job.
I was thinking about 15% as this is the most I have ever given so far. I have a pretty no-nonsense pricing structure. BUT I have only given her a price range and nothing concrete. Plus the price range I have quoted was chop prices. She is looking at using about 3 different mouldings for the whole job. I can cover that 15% with no problems just by ordering length. But I will mention this "no-nonsence" pricing that I currently have. My only consern was that 15% was too much. Now I think I'm very confortable leaving it at that! Thanks friends
Jay, much has been talked about designers in the past on the G and most of the salient points have been covered. The discount you have to justify with numbers...its pretty simple math. Making sure you get paid in a fashion that is pleasing to you is the next step. Make sure you have qualified the client and that the designer is obliged to fulfill their end of the contract. I would guess that all of us have some horror story about the designer or the client failing to pay the bill after we made a "good faith" contract.
15% is pretty standard in my area with 20% being rare, although there are always exceptions.

Heed JRB's words and keep them in mind when working with designers/decorators in the future. You can get burned real easy, real fast. As a new business, you are easy meat for those who conduct themselves less honorably.

I have assembled a written policy concerning my professional relationship with des./dec. that leaves nothing to be guessed. I'll be happy to email you if you'd like. It is actually a modified version of something someone posted here on the G some years ago.

Absolutly I would like to see that. Thanks!
Something Jay said sent up a red flag. (Nothing personal, Jay.) "I can cover that 15% with no problems just by ordering length."

You spend less money on length, but you spend more time and you have more waste. Sometimes it's a good trade-off, but I don't think length automatically gives you more wiggle-room for discounts. In fact, I am less inclined to discount my time than I am my materials.

Therefore, I agree with whoever said, in effect, that the only way a designer - or anyone else - can earn a discount is by taking a lot less of your time than the average customer. Some designers require more time and pampering than anyone else and want everything yesterday. They deserve a PIA surcharge.
I agree Ron, but I don't agree! :eek: Here is some numbers on a random 2" moulding by LJ. It costs EXACTLY $32.04 less for 9 foot of moulding chop vs. length on just an average priced moulding. In my mind that is TONS of wiggle room (waist and labor). Well maybe not tons but 15% worth of it. But leave to an eagle eye like yourself (observation is why I'm here anyway) to watch out for my mistakes like this. I guess I should have said, "I can cover that 15% with no problems just by ordering length, glass discounts, mat discounts, and foamcore discounts."

One of the most important things I have learned here is (although I don't totally agree with it) "If in doing a project I can save money, then and only then apply a discount."

I know that time is as important, to some, as simply sending more frames out the door. But the other side of this spectrum is that there are those of us who have WAY more time than we do customers and don't like it this way. Isn't there a price we can put on this? It makes no sense to order chops and this read the Grumble all day, when doing all the chops myself would put even an extra dollar in my pocket.

There will be a day sooner or later when I feel like the grace required to handle this type of customer just isn't worth it. However today aint it!

Mike, I don’t have a gallery so I deleted large portions of the policy you sent me. I won’t be paying commission to anybody! However I hope you don’t mind I did use some of it. I also added a deposit to it.

John, I read some archives and got the extended version of your aggravation. Pretty funny stuff. I don’t think I’m dealing with the same lady that wanted a 4”X5” masterpiece.

I have to say at this point I welcome help protecting my financial investment. Red flags are welcome. These are some HUGE numbers for me and I can’t afford mistakes. However cleanliness of my shop and my patience are up for bid to the highest bidder. At this point if she wanted to move the design counter further from the window because of the glare, I would be hiring the next person that walked by my door to help me move it. Thanks friends!
Jay--I understand your desire to grow the business, and your feeling that if you have the time now you can pass on some of the difference between chop and length. But you should look at that price difference as your profit from the job, not a discount for your customer. The waste does add up. Besides what is lost in the chop, how often will you end up with a foot or so left in a stick? Can you sell the leftovers, or will they represent an investment of your scarce capital in "inventory" that will sit around your shop till you need some kindling for the fireplace?
Jay, on this order, you will be OK if you give her/him a discount.

If you make it a permanent discount, I'll guarantee you that the next order will be a 4"X 5" masterpiece that will require a moulding that you can only get in a ten foot stick that costs $15-20 per foot. They will not listen to any minimum footage charge and will make you spend the rest of the day explaining to them why you have to charge it.

They will insist that they will probably use the remaining 7 or 8 feet on some future order. When you think you have them convinced that the minimum charge is a absolute necessity and you go home late, they will be in the next morning to spend that day trying to talk you out of it.

This will continue until you finally figure out to either decline all future business with them because it would actually save you money, or to give them the job for free so you can get some other work done.

Jay, I think you're headed in the right direction. When you have some time, use more length moulding (as long as you can actually use it and not store it.) When you're too busy to cut frames, use more chop. And when you're really hopping, consider using a chop-and-join service if you have a vendor that does a good job and will deliver.

There are other parts of the operation that work this way. When I'm really busy, I tend to use the fomeboard products with mounting tissue already attached for my dry mounting. It's more expensive than tissue and board, but can be a time saver. When things are slower, I use tissue and board.*

I suppose you could buy powder-packed glass, if you have time to clean it and the price is right.

If you think 15% is going to make or break the deal, go for it and make it clear that it's for a single order over $5000, or whatever you decide.

Then, keep track of the actual cost of any discounts and add them to your cost of doing business - just like advertising and utilities. Ultimately, those costs should be reflected in your prices and - in effect - the rest of your customers will be subsidizing the ones who get the discounts.

I can't imagine doing it any other way.

*These days, I'm doing so little dry mounting that it doesn't pay to stock the single-step products even when I'm really busy.
Mike sent me a "policies and requirements" form that I have altered to fit my business. It covers deposits and minimums. I think this will solve most of the issues.

I will keep track of this Ron. I hadn't thought of that.
Here's a case where giving a discount really makes sense. It looks to me that you will be doing multiple pieces using only 3 different frames so cutting and assembly will go much faster than if you were using a different frame on each piece. You're probably using the same or only a few different top mats so there is no time wasted searching for the correct mat for each piece. You can do the job batch style where you mount all the art then cut all the mats then cut and assemble frames etc... This also saves a lot of time. Buying the materials at discount saves some cash up front too. So yeah, 15% is not unreasonable.
Actually it is (so far) 20 prints framed with 3 mouldings and one mat. I would suspect that several will have the same mat.

I must say that so far this has been a great experience. She came in yesterday and said "well they cut my budget in half!" Johns past posts started ringing in my head. I was just about ready to put my karate belt on and prepare for war. Then she said "Let me just pick 2 mouldings and give me a price on those with a single mat and I will start naming off the prints that I want. Tell me when I run out of money." It took me way longer to give her the prices than it did for her to pick the 2 mouldings and prints.
So now, surprisingly, to only a few of us, your $7,000.00 order is only $3,500.00. We have only just begun.

Remember, your discount was based on a $7,000.00 order, now she will expect the same discount on your soon to be $1,500 -2,000.00 order. This project will drop in value to you every time she comes in. Her main objective will be to get what was originally selected at a price below your cost, and then some.

The time you are spending with this "designer" would be better spent going from door to door in your neighborhood drumming up real business.

I am hoping you cut your discount in half when she cut her order in half, but your new, and she knows it, oh well.

She should be in today to get you to frame up just one of the pieces as a sample to show her clients. Remember she is going to want it today or first thing in the morning.

The price you ask? It's free of course! You are doing it in order to get the big carrot dangling on a stick just in front of you nose. Should you actually do this for her, that is the last you will ever see of her, that IS a guarantee.

Samples should always be at FULL retail, paid in advance.

Originally posted by JRB:

She should be in today to get you to frame up just one of the pieces as a sample to show her clients... that is the last you will ever see of her...
Thats the oldest trick in the book. Big corporations like to use it also.

Originally posted by JRB:
Samples should always be at FULL retail, paid in advance.
...and then you could offer the discount on the sample back as a credit toward the invoice of the quantity order when that is secured, if ever.

John's last post made me chuckle because it shows how similar our experiences are. I had a local designer/owner of a well established firm ask for a price on creating nearly 40 B&W prints from old negatives and prints, all sized to fit in 24 x 30 frames, single mat. They were going into a new hotel being build along the Chesapeake. She picked out a moulding and mat. Wanted a price for the "total job" but broken down by the pieces--scan, print, mount, mat & frame. Clearly, she would be doing some shopping.

I gave her a pretty good price, but ended up doing just the scanning and prints. She said she could get them framed in a different moulding by a production shop in North Carolina for $75 each. My cost on the moulding she liked was about $6 a foot. Even with a different selection I didn't see much upside to doing this job at her North Carolina price.

She did decide she really only needed 25 prints "to start" the job and expected them at the price quoted for 40. Fortunately, I had anticipated correctly and did not discount the price for scanning and prints in the original quote prepared for the entire job.
Man you have been poured over the coals huh? Just out of curiosity I counted and there is exactly 4 interior decorators here and 4 frame shops. I think that prevents the type of abuse you’re referring to.

"She should be in today to get you to frame up just one of the pieces as a sample to show her clients. Remember she is going to want it today or first thing in the morning.

The price you ask? It's free of course!"

That would be a problem because I don't stock moulding. NONE! You mean you would consider doing any framing for free?

Although this had been a fine experience and she has gladly given a deposit, I think I will just tell her that I don't really want the biggest customer I have. I guess if I want to be the big guys I should act like them huh? Even though I have recently run 15% off ads I will tell her that sense she is a "designer" I not only can't give her a discount that I am going to have to charge her double. That will teach her to try to do a measly $3,500 with me at one time.
Now don't get cranky Jay, you have a good account, look after it as you see fit. I am just trying to give you a heads up to just a few of the things that have been pulled on me in the past by designers. I have several professional designers I work with all the time, the key word is " professional ". I did not know you where in a small town, so that could make a difference as well. Good luck with you account, I hope it works great for you.

Cranky? Who me?

Yea well I guess it happens.
You might check the YP’s under Architects or Interior DESIGNERS, decorators are a whole different animal.
Under interior designers and decorators there is exactly the same listings. The real funny thing is the listings are on the same page. That’s putting advertising money to good waste.

There is also 4 Architects. I don't recognize any of their names. I've never needed one. Are you saying that some designers hide under the guise of Architects?
No, some architect firms have both architects and designers on staff.
Interior designers have a degree, much like an architect and have to be able to pass a stringent exam given by ASID. (American Society of Interior Designers) www.asid.org
Decorators do not.

Sorry, I worked hard for that degree. :D
Jay, Another issue I've come across is that the Designer wants her client to pay, and I should credit her account the 15% (my max. discount to designers)Then the client pays with a credit card.
My contract with designers states that if the Designer pays for the job, the 15% is deducted off the top. If their client pays, any credit card charges will be deducted from the amount they have been credited. Their credit is in the form of In-store credit (which costs about 1/2) Most of the designers I work with love the in-store discount, they then get something nice for their home!
Thats an intresting idea. If your going to lose that money forever you might as well gamble on making just a little more in the process. Or at least limiting that amount. Awesome!
Jay, I don't like to give more than 15%, but for the odd time I think it might be good exposure for me (a Showhome, as apposed to a private residence,I will give 20% ~ because of the advertising benefit. You may also want to mention to the Designer that if it is a Showhome, and you give them 20%, you would like some kind of recognition through signage or placement of business cards in the home.
ps....I am also an Interior Decorator (I was a framer first, though) Most Interior Designers post in both places in the yellow pages as most customers don't know the difference. The difference lies mainly in the amount of schooling......2 years and up for Designers, and less than 2 for Decorators...Designers deal alot more with architectural issues, Designers deal more with the aesthetics.
Is this what you meant to say?

"Designers deal alot more with architectural issues, Designers deal more with the aesthetics."

or did you mean...Decorators deal more with the aesthetics?