new ideas for Christmas


Apr 13, 2003
Hi. As we approach our favorite season, I just was wondering what kind of new and "gotta have" gift ideas are on the list for sale at your frame shop??
We just started using a VersaLaser that, frankly, has our staff spinning with ideas. It will allow us to personalize frames, mats,pretty much anything we have thought of so far.

We are convinced it will make someone buy that frame from us instead of someone else and will grow not only unit sales, but per sale averages

I just wish they would have called me in September so that we could have had more time to develop a wider offering.
Bob, reverse cut/etch the glass instead of a plaque.

and when all else fails... just make money with it. :D
I looked at this in the summer, I would like to know how you like it. I was impressed, but the issue I had to deal with was the ventilation and the lease of my location.

thanks for any feedback

elaine: is Infused your new venture? Looks way COOOL. Have tried many of those products you have online and they really are tasty.

Good luck with the venture.
We started carrying Starlightz made by Artenica, The product is made from recycled paper and environmentally friendly (is that the proper terminology?). Their website is very cool, designs are great and they are a great price point. Best of all, the Starlightz will never catch fire. I have left them on for seven months straight 24/7 and using a compact fluorescent bulb, they really pop at night.

Since I have started displaying the more ornate designs, I have sold eight of them in the last month. Our clients always ooh and ahh over them. If you decide to order them, make sure you call or e-mail them first as the availability of the different designs changes.

Michael - Infused! Fun, Funky & Hot! Newest Venture, had a lease on the retail space when I found the new location for the frameshop, so I decided to do something fun - its tough to give up retail space in this area because its difficult to get your hands on.

The stuff is fun, we have a larger variety in the store from what's on the website - we just added 50 products to get it up and running. We went to a show 2 weeks ago, and were asked if we would consider opening a store in the mall here under the specialty leasing option. Still researching that, but it might be worth it since the winter months for street retail here is TERRIBLE!! Very touristy, very seasonal here.

Thanks for the feedback. We ship everywhere!

Oh yeah, Bob - next time I have a spare ten grand lying around I'll rush right out and buy a Versalaser!

It DOES sound like a LOT of fun though.....
Hey Mar-There is an old expression about having to spend money to make money, isn't there?

Perhaps there are several that won't spend much on new ideas, like POS or a CMC. Maybe a Versalaser isn't for many, but what percent of market saturation is there for a CMC?

There are lease options that make technology like this really no longer unaffordable.

I'll ask this question with the assumption that no one has $10,000 grand laying around.

If you had a lease to own plan that you spent around $250 a month, what would the Break Even point be?

We keep talking about being different; offering something the "other guys" don't do/have?. Do you think something like this might offer a level of uniqueness in your market?

I understand that stuff like this isn't for everyone, but, it's gonna be gangbusters for us

And, this is what this thread is suppossed to be about, isn't it?
This Versalaser seems to be amazing. It reminds me of the Goldfinger James Bond movie!

I think it has a good potential, but it needs a retail space in a very high traffic area (mall) to achieve good recognition and a decent revenue.

I believe though it is a bit too new / too high tech for most custom framing customers right now to make it worthwhile.

Maybe in a couple of years it will be more a recognizable name, assuming lots of commercials / TV coverage.
It’s like everything else. We just need some creative shop to show us some really knock out uses for it, then endorses it. Then its just a matter of time before somebody on the G will claim that its most valuable piece of equipment in their shop and they don't know how they could live with out it. I wonder who could do that?

I’ll be honest with you, I have seen this thing engrave in wood, stone, glass, mirrors, chocolate, paper, you name it. Even with all that, I can’t think of $10,000 worth of uses for it in a frame shop. To be honest, I think that would be a big risk to buy one with out plenty of ideas in advance in the first place. Common Bob, if you love this machine, where are the pictures? Maybe you could get a commission?
Hi Jay-If I said I was busy, I would be slightly understating the obvious.And my Director of Creative Development went in for training less than a week ago and we have only had the machine for less. If you want examples, the website is a great resource

I realize that many will simply not spend any money for anything. That's fine

We got our first CMC in '94 and how many offered the same objections? I don't want to seem visionary, but I guess I don't understand the mentality of people letting money get in the way of making money
Paul-I must say that there are many, many of thee machines in non-mall locations. It's main use is in the trophy/awards biz

I'll share an quick idea that we are developing (and, please, understand that most of you are much, muich more creative than I; I'm just theone stupid enough to share these ideas with some that could easily compete against me):

This will create company logos and college crests on mat board. We have a photog that specializes in corporate events. He now can go to XYZ Widget Co and offer a matted piece with their nifty logo emblazoned. What CEO that made a company with his own hands that wouldn't love to see his name on the mat instead of some get anywhere brass plaque?

To me, it's all about offering something that drives sales to me for more reasons than my sparkling personality

I hate the term "thinking out of the box". But, we just need to think beyond our own self-imposed hurdles. Wasn't it ol' Confuscious that said something about the longest journey starts with a single step?

Well, does the first step always need to be backwards?
Julia, that link didn't work. Try this:

Thanks for the tip. A gift shop near here carries them. They are pretty.
Gravograph has a similar product on the market; pricing a little higher, but has been in the engraving business much longer and offers an easier program to get into buying a machine

I agree with Bob on this one (really!) You have to spend money to make money, and this type of machine has all the bells and whistles that get peoples attention and the work is a no brainer after the setup is done. I've seen the demo twice.

Not only can you target coporations, think about the college logos, business logos, all of johnny's little sports teams,etc. that are out there. Unlimited potential - if you have children, think about all of the banquets, award ceremonies, coaches gifts and anything else that you pony up cash for on a yearly basis for school programs. School year after school year... every year there is a new kindergarten class, and on and on and on for at least 12 years! then on to college!!

my 2 cents!
Hey Elaine-How large is the bed on your machine? You mentioned that while it's more expensive, it's easier program to get into. I was speaking off the top of my head, so a more accurate proposal would best come from the Universal people. Perhaps, you could share what your machine costs and what it took for you to get into the deal. We are currently "test driving" this product for them and I might want to look to see what els is available. And, it is pretty simple to operate. My Director of New Product Development spent a couple of hours with them and was turning out finished product almost immediately. It looks like the learning curve is not on the operation of the tool but on which materials are best suited

We are still "market testing" pricing, but what do you charge for the engraving on a readymade frame (engraving only) for two lines?

And, shucks, I'm really surprised that you agreed with me, too. First time for everything, eh?
Some great ideas, as always.

What I would like to ask is how would you establish pricing on such an idea Bob? Whilst it can do the logo thing, and possibly quite well do you price it in line with those who do the same thing on inkjet printers?
Bob, we took a close look at a Versalaser three years ago; all the thing could do with mat board was burn the paper. We thought it had possibilities etching glass mats but we couldn't see making any money with it. As to the logo thing on mats, we've been able to do that for quite a while (and in color on white boards) with first our Epson 10000, then the Epson 9600 and now with an Epson 9800. We're real good at digital imaging but haven't been able to sell much printing on mats. We've done a few lines of text under openings using Wizard's Da Vinci but that's about it. We'd have to charge at least $50 for a logo: we'd have to scan it, clean it up in Photoshop and then print it and printing it would be hard without VaVinci, ie getting the logo centered under the mat opening. Does Versalaser have software that will do that?

I'd love to own a Versalaser and cost isn't an issue; I just can't think of how I'd use it. Versalaser's suggestions for picture frames hardly inspire me or Toni. Sure we could engrave on moulding and burn images into matboard. If the thing didn't burn the paper it would be a heck of a mat cutting tool but the one I saw did. Also, how big a piece of matboard can you put in the thing? High resolution engraving is what the thing does best but it's output is monochromatic. We could engrave photographs on glass or plastic or metal and burn them into wood but that's pretty tacky stuff according to Toni and better suited to a kiosk in a mall.

I'd reccomend a large foremat inkjet printer, one that could handle a 40 x 60 sheet of matboard and some image editing software coupled with DaVinci. If you can sell engravings on matboard, you sure as heck could sell color printing on it. Printing with archival inks would look better longer, too. An Epson 10000 using third party inexpensive inks can turn any white matboard into a board of any color (especially using DaVinci software) with images and/or text.
Hi Warren-Yes, it does burn but it is very cool. We took the loo from Arizona State University and cut it into a maroon mat and the etching is a great looking golden color (school colors).

We did a mat for Phoenix Open (we have a client that represents many PGA golfers) on green suede. The PGA logo showed through with that pure white core (that showed as the background) on suedes-really impressive.

On wood it burns, but some folks might like it. We have done about twenty frames (mostly wood) and the darker the frame, the richer the cut. If you want a richer cut, wipe it with Rub 'n Buff

Understand,we've only had it about 5 days
I am real big on testing the market,so we made a byunch of samples that we had on the Cash/Wrap and as clients checked we asked them for a little mini-focus group. The response was overwhelmingly positive and the consensus pricing ranged around $20 for two lines.

I would love to hear what Elaine is charging for her machine, though

I know it's not for everyone, but I just answered the question on what did I think was going to be a "red hot" idea for Christmas. From our initial response from staff and clients, I ordered several hundred readymades that will be perfect for this concept
Plaques are a slam dunk and am looking for various sources of metals-the engraving of photos on metal is the next step. Ceramic tiles are next

We just do not know where else it will lead

Like I said I wish they had contacted me in August or September so we could properly develop those additional lines

Right now, I am struggling to get product in and build a great display

I haven't bought/leased one yet. Its on my list of things to add to my shop. I try to do one thing new a year and this year I'm working on the visualazation program for framing and the point of sale system. You can visit Gravographs site and get more information on the variety of products they have. The versalaser was an issue for me from my lease and the ventilation required, so I started looking around at other options and found Gravograph. They actually supply the machines for "Thinking of You" gift stores for engraving and other items. This actually seemed like the most versitle from an engraving standpoint, but maybe not from the engraving of logos on mats. I'm still torn on direction and what to add to my business. I have researched and found that adding engraving services to a frameshop can be quite profitable - my last employee worked at Framemasters and Awards in Cary, NC and it worked out very well. I'm still looking at what I want to do for 2006.

Sorry I couldn't give you more input on the machines and pricing, but I do see ALOT of OPPORTUNITY to expand and create a market that the competition is not really taking care of. I have alot of plates engraved, and they don't/won't cut me a break on pricing, and this work is easy and a no brainer from a framers standpoint - you already have design sense (I'm assuming here...) so layout, etc. should not be a problem unless you are totally unsavvy from a computer standpoint.

my 2 cents for now, my glass of wine is waiting after a verrrry looonnng daay


p.s Bob, I knew we would find common ground at some point. I really do learn from your postings!
Thanks for the post, Elaine

I assumed that you had one of these; my error

Yes, ventilation is a requirement, but we got the air filter option which is nice.

I forgot to mention that we did a neat piece for afriend that was an 8x10 mat with the Notre Dame logo (you know the N and the D and below it was the Fighting Irish)Whatwas so cool is that this all downloadable and the system "reads" the difference in gradient tones and "engraves" that "3-D" impression. This was on matboard

We do let the Wiz cut the windows because we just like the bevel better, however.

About me being creative, nah. That's why I hire smart people and give them that challenge.

There all so much better
Just a tip for those who use the laser on mats. White just burns a yellow color and doesn't show well. Use a color core mat with white top and the design shows real well. I have been using the laser for mat designs for two years. I hire a man two blocks away from me when I want it done. He has a machine and is glad to do it for me. He has the expense, I have the results and he doesn't charge all that much. There are laser cutters everywhere now. We tried names on frames but they don't sell well.

Jean in Maine

question that I think has come up before when it comes to CADD and the wizard and logos...

You use the SunDevils logo or the Notre Dame Logo...those are both copyrighted logos owned by the college as well as offically you need the NCAA's blessings. How are you handling this issue?
Hey Tim-We are not actively marketing this end,so I am certain that we won't raise any problems. But, if there is an objection, rest assured we will comply.

And,if it takes off,we will get the proper licensing. We did a deal with Collegiate licensing before and while it was a ton of paperwork,it wasn't expensive.

But, I don't mean this to come off as defensive or thin-skinned, but we have 24 posts and only one idea that someone is actually doing to drive biz for the season?

C'mon, guys,we are suppossed to be a creative bunch and we can't come up with any great ideas?

It seems we are much better at critiquing than creating.

We seem to be able to tell, in spades, why what Michael's does is wrong, or what FastFrames does is wrong, or what LifeSaver does is wrong, or what is all wrong with this tool we offered.

But, no one can share what it is they are doing that will make a big difference this season?

I'm guessing that many simply aren't doing anything different (and haven't for years-and wonder where the biz is going) or they aren't willing to share.

In both cases, they are wrong

I'll promise that we look for new ideas all the time and try new ideas almost as often.

I guess it's one of the things that our business is Thankful for
Ok Bob, I will help out here, but I will say this to everyone...this topic should hae been started months ago so people could get ideas, test them and prepare for the season.

Simply's too late to prepare for the holiday season because it is here already.

Product ideas...

Hand Painted martini glasses (examples)

Wood Table top words from Cape Craftsman (Love, Live, Laugh, Relax, Dream, Home, ect)

Anything Michael Godard (Prints, coasters, plates, pens, calendars, trivets)

Reed Diffusers (new fad in air fresheners)

Many gift ideas ranging in price from 3.95 to 29.95 (Price Points will be key this year)

TV advertising every dayfrom October 1 til Dec 23

Partnering with area businesses, (We are carrying the new African American art from Image Conscious from artists like Morrison and Bua. A new Hip Hop shop opened in our mall and we put pictures on their wall with our name with them.)

Promoting local college sports art on fan online bulletin boards

Having a booth at local charity shows higlighting new home decor products and gift items.

Promote the **** out of awards that are earned (Decor top 100)

Everyone who purchases a product gets a coupon for shopping in January (spend that Christmas Cash)


Go to shows (Decor Show and Gift Shows) This is something that has to be done year round. Some of our hot items for this holiday were ones that were found at a show in February.

Look at and read trade Journals, not just picture framing but home decor and gift industry.

Study catalogs and advertisments of the big boxes like Bed bath, Pier one, Pottery Barn and IKEA. Then find or reproduce the products that they sell at a better price.

Know what your competitors have on their walls and what they are selling it for.

Know how to work Price Points. A competitor is selling a framed piece on their wall for 323.64, I sel the same for 299.95, guess who will turn more inventory.

Remember that you must start preparing for next Christmas the day after this Christmas.

Notice nothing much above about framing, the key is to get people into your store and framing alone will not do that. Once they are in your store and see what you can do, then half of the battle is done, then it's up to you and your sales skills.

How's that Bob? Is that what you were hoping to hear?

Hapy Turkey Day to all!
Hi Tim-I know you well enough to know that you live and breathe this stuff. You are a very good merchant.

I especially like the two points you made: price points and framing just won't drag 'em in

Anyone else want to help Seymour?
Quick update on the VersaLaser, if you care

Lot's of positive input from consumers. One thing about this weekend is that we get to talk to a bunch of people and plant a lot of seeds. And, I don't think that most were just being polite, either. I suspect we will see a lot of follow up

The radio stations do "live remotes" in the malls on Friday and in one of the malls which I usually spend my time had probably the best known duo (Beth and Bill) and they had me on to tout this product. We "showed" a couple of nifty ideas and Beth is a BigTime Notre Dame fan, so we cut a mat with the ND logo and the Fightin' Leprachaun symbol (hey, we're not afraid to do a litle butt-kissing)

I had several people come in and tell me they heard the remote and wanted to talk about that "special" project for Christmas

And, Warren, I sure hope that you don't think that I'm picking on you, but my staff had a little idea that might overcome your "burnt wood" problem. They are using a water based wipe (so far gold, silver and black)to highlight the lettering. They bought these bottles at Michael's for a little more than $1 each. They weren't worried about the "burnt wood mall kiosk" look, they just thought it was another option that we could offer and charge an extra $5

You just have to admire these young folks with their creativity. The best thing I can do is to get out of the way and let them create

They did a neat frame for my wife (black laquer) with a fun expression about our grandson and used Gold Gilt to highlight the letters.

I guess it's just an example of looking for ways to make lemonade instead of complaining how tart lemons are
It seems we are much better at critiquing than creating.

Isn't everyone? It's a much easier job, after all.

Ok Bob, I will help out here, but I will say this to everyone...this topic should hae been started months ago so people could get ideas, test them and prepare for the season.

Absolutely. During the summer doldrums you've got the time to be creative and think about what you're going to do during the holiday season to increase business and boost the bottom line. Make use of it. Then you have time to do some trials and find out what works and what doesn't, and refine your methods.
BOB, that was YOU?????? I heard the tail end of your segment - can't even remember which day it was. We had a houseful of company and tuned in to hear "Beth and Bill's" Christmas carols....just happened to hear the last about "cutting letters/names".

Sure wish I had known ahead of time.....I would have been glued to my radio! You are SO famous!!

Congrats on your air time!!
Yeah, Sherry, That was me. In fact, I am so well known that pretty much every Bill Collector in town knows me.

They are always looking for neat gift items to talk about to fill air time.

We have had some "follow up" from inquiring consumers so far. I just wish we had a month under our belt to have developed a better program. Every day we come up with more ideas
More on the Versalaser:

This product really excites. I,like Bob, see vast possibilities with a tool like this. This could seriously set your business apart from others, while bringing in new possible framing clients. Bob, please (if time allows) keep us posted on your progress with this machine. Awesome.
Just curious, Bob...what issues about licensing are there with the laser? Does VersaLaser aid in getting license for proprietary images, or ???

This sounds like the next best thing. The trophy and award business up the street has a 40 watt laser/engraver and is open to working on some design ideas for the corporate clients. The machine is probably underutilized and the owner is being very helpful in developing potential, even if it leads to me getting my own machine.

So for those of us that aren't ready to plunk down the 10K for a machine of our own, there is still the opportunity to use this technology in our designs.
Hi Wally-Nice to hear from you

We spoke to them if they had any software for such and the answer is no, but after they showed me a list of about a gazillion web sites that just such are downloadable.

I must say that for anyone that feels this might be a problem legally, then I would avoid the issue. But, that probably won't be a factor because they probably won't get this product anyway

I must say that my hands aren't completely clean in that this people contacted me to "test drive" thi sproduct and help them develop a Marketing Plan. They look to progressive retailers that might help them understand our industry better.

I do not accept compensation from any vendors (we have enough paid "hacks" already)but, will gladly help and tout any product that I use and feel is a worthy product. I also will tell if a product is not for me, too

This is one of those products that you have to use to understand it's potential. I also realize that many, many, many will never see beyond the $10,000 price tag and those types of blinders sure do limit one's vision. And, that price resistance is an issue that will be included in my summary. Not that the price is too high, but that, perhaps, low monthly payments on a lease option might be a wiser vehicle than a price.

But, I add them to the list of one of the many companies that I do offer advice and am glad to do so. And, I hope they find my opinions worthwhile

Some look at a lemon tree and think how tart and sour the lemons are; others look at the same tree and think of a nice cool glass of lemonade or slice of Lemon Chiffon pie or a nice bottle of Limoncello or, well, you get the point....
Gee, Bob, I didn't realize that you hadn't bought on of the things; my mistake, though, since I haven't read the posts closely enough. I mentioned that Toni and I looked at one, what, three years ago and decided that we didn't see much potential. But, then, we were going to have to buy one. I think I mentioned, also, that I thought a wide format printer that could accept 40 x 60 sheets of mat board had more promise (I actually bought one of these -5 to be exact). But, then, I didn't get a chance to try a VersaLasser out for free so my foresight was a bit more limited than yours is now. As to your metaphor of a lemon tree, sure, some see the possibility of lemonade but others might just as well see the opportunity to sell the fruit to someone else. I have to say, Toni and I didn't see lemonade when we looked at the lemon tree but even if we had, did we want to open a lemon aide stand, or kiosk?

I'd like to suggest another possibility for a substantial investment for the coming year: put the 10K a VersaLasser might cost (closer to 12K) into stocking length moulding. With a large order of length (5K placed with two different companies) you should expect to get the best discount, probably the box price even though you aren't buying a box of each pattern. In return for this investment you would realize two competitive advantages: substantially lower prices than if you were selling chops, and quick turnaround ability. Who knows, with these two advantages, sales might increase to the point that 5K orders become common and the best discount permanent. From experience, I can say these would be important advantages. Yesterday we took in an order for 30 pictures from a TV production company who needed them today. Today our frame maker has orders for 49 frames to make out of stock. Yesterday it was 67. Yesterday we got 10 boxes of varied mouldings at the box price per pattern. We have BB competition and I'd bet we do twice the business they do and that we're way more profitable. Why?

Buying and selling chops is a very inefficient way to deliver our product to customers (and it’s just as inefficient for a BB to do it) and in every competitive market I know of, the inefficient suppliers get driven out. Anyone envisioning a more competitive future should seriously consider lowering their dependence on chops increasing the amount of moulding they stock.
Say Warren, you didn't take one of my classes did you, because I swear that's pretty much verbatim.

Have you ever noticed that we end up saying the same things just with an ever so slight twist?

I guess I am fortunate that these guys asked me to help them, but it isn't an uncommon practice. I know several Grumblers that do the this type of "testing" for software, for CMC's and other products. It's just good sense for the manufacturer to get some real "field" work.

I'm sure that you must get similar offers. If I was an equipment manufacturer, I'd sure want you to test my product.

I was in Jackson a couple of years ago and was offered a similar deal on one of the Epson printers (I think 10000)and just couldn't make the Marketing make sense. I'm glad that it is a success for you

After our "test drive" they may elect to make me an offer I can't refuse or maybe a new generation might come out. But, I am certain that we will find a permanent home for this tool.
I've been trying to determine if buying several boxes of moulding for a shop our size is the way to go. For us, let's say an "average" day is 4 orders using 40 ft. of moulding. We typically buy length but occasionally order chop when it is less expensive for the order, such as when we need just over 10 ft. or under 4 ft.

We have about 2,000 samples on the wall from 7 manufacturers and many customers appreciate the large selection.

Picking a couple of mouldings at random from LJ's price list, the difference between length and box would mean an average of $40/day in our pocket if it were all box price. This is assuming we do not pass any savings along to the customer. That dollar savings, a bit of time saved (ordering, receiving, stocking), and the ability to complete a job sooner are the advantages.

The disadvantages are possibly more waste (bad molding in the box), a limited number of choices for the customer, and more inventory to pay tax on and take up space.

Every shop is different. Any opinions on how it would work for us?

Forgive me if I am over-simplifing or if this has been hashed out previously.
There are plenty here I would listen to before myself but I'll try anyway.

I went to a trade show and talked to some framers. I found who had the good stuff at great prices. You might look at Design Guild, Omega, International, Decor, and the like. I personally wouldn't mess with LJ or Roma for inventory. It’s just not a good price point for inventory. I would use them for the flashy expensive stuff and order lengths as needed.

I bought 50' lengths and in many cases got half off box price for that 50' commitment. $2000 and almost as many feet of moulding later I had more moulding than I could reasonably store.

One thing I still can't get over is how SMALL my weekly deliveries are! Orders that were easily $200 or $300 is now $80. I'm now more concerned with meeting minimum orders and increasing mat numbers to get the next discount level instead of concerning myself with how I'm going to pay the bill.

I wouldn't jump in with both feet like Warren suggests but I would jump in a little and right now. I now cringe placing an order for a length of moulding. Chops....fahgetabout it!
Larson does have a specific set of molding profiles that are sold ONLY in box quantities. They are not listed in the general catalog and they do not sell or give out samples. Your rep should have samples for you to see as well as pricing. Just a thought!
Doug-I use a Box example in one of my classes that shows how a Great Buying Advantage can be Turned into a Great Selling Advantage.

Pick a few profiles, wade into the middle of th epool before entering the deep end. But, make sure that the item(s) are in fact desireable products that you can turn quickly. And you need to establish a price point that serves a definitive purpose

If you buy boxes of inventory at significantly better costs and you do not charge more aggressive prices on that moulding, you won't sell one more additional foot of the stuff

My personal opinion is that buying by the box should help anyone. The big question is what box should you buy.

You are by my opinion, do not be offended, a low volume shop. The challenge is finding a boxed moulding that you can turn on a regular basis. If currently show 2000 mouldings yet only do 4 orders a day, then the likelyhood of using the same moulding more than once a week is low.

If you buy a moulding or two by the box then you need to actively promote it, otherwise yo will be stuck with it wishing that you didn't buy it. Now if you spend 200 on a box, you should be able to get your cost out of it in an order or two so at least it pays for itself and you do not loose any money.

Buy something like a basic black and try it out, I would guess that you will like the results.
No, Bob, I haven't taken any of your classes; in fact I haven taken any framing industry classes. You don't need a major in micro economics to know how to run a very small business. You know, I'm really worried because we don't have "a director of innovative products" or a director of creative (a way overused word) solutions or whatever.

BTW, we can point to at least 60K increase in business last year because of our large format printing; that's a fact, not a prediction. We have 4 24 x 24 jobs for pickup today that involve framing of prints we printed. We sold the printing and got the framing as gravy. Large format printing is a natural for a framing business. My guess is that a laser engraver is a natural for a mall kiosk selling inexpensive personalized items. Just about 80% of our digital imaging business (and we now have one of the best digital imaging labs in the country, recently enlarged) has come through the two frame shops. Artists and art buyers are natural customers of both. We do a big business with a multistate home builder printing and framing pictures for his welcome centers. He came into the Frame Outlet to have a picture framed for his vacation house and started talking. An employee mentioned we could print as well as frame his commercial pictures, all at one place, one stop. You won't believe this but our cabinet shop (another natural partner for a framing business) is now making all his display tables and site tables (we print his site maps).

Here's a plan, among others, I'm sure, that will work: Gradually wean a business away from depending on chop service with the ultimate goal of keeping chops under 10% of frames sold. Gradually reduce the business's dependence on deliveries of small orders of supplies from suppliers (order larger quantities and become your own supplier). Gradually upgrade frame making equipment with the aim of reaching state of the art so that the business can actually handle a large influx of new orders. Gradually build up a loyal work force with the goal of having key members with no less than 10 years with your business -10 years is a rather recent employee for us. Work toward owning your own free standing buildings and by "owning" I mean retiring mortgages. Make real sacrifices to see that you reach these goals (forget about vacations for the early years); always keep plowing money back into the business. Never accept an unsatisfied customer. Try to make every sale a good deal for your customer (he can't buy the same thing for less somewhere else) as well as a good deal for you. In fact, strive to lower your average ticket price; this'll make you tougher and more resilient when times are bad. Look into areas related to framing to make your business more interesting to you and more profitable; we went into custom moulding milling and cabinet making and digital imaging, but you get the picture. To anyone who'd argue with this plan, I'll gladly compare balance sheets adjusted for time in business and business scope. Heck, forget about time in business and scope, I'd be glad to compare balance sheets and kick in quality of living.

Now that plan isn't the only way to do it but its main elements are necessary in any plan. When I asked Toni what her business plan was when we opened our business 27 years ago she looked me as if I were nuts. "My only plan was to work as hard as I could to make the business work, to sell as many frames as I could and to substitute my effort for things I lacked. That doesn't take a plan. A plan is restrictive; we were fluid going for opportunities as we saw them."

Closer to this thread: it’s not about buying by the box (which is certainly smart) but buying length instead of chops. Start buying length and work into getting length at the best discount, i.e. the box price. It can be done; you just have to work toward it. Recognize chops for what they are, a very, very inefficient way of buying moulding. All my advice on moulding buying is based on the premise that the buyer has the taste needed to succeed in this business. Buying length is riskier than buying chops and the returns are proportionally higher. The greater the risk, the greater the potential return (an iron law of economics). A risk prone strategy presupposes you know what you’re doing.

I don’t understand having 2000 samples (btw, we make our own samples from length orders) and selling 4 frames a day. We don’t have 1000 at the Frame Works and fewer than 500 at the Outlet and any day we make under 25 frames we consider very, very slow and begin to worry a little. I don’t think you need 2000 samples; you need less than 300 good ones. But who’s to know which are goods ones? So we have about a 1000 some of which sell and some of which sell as ready mades we make when we have 25 frame order days.
I had to really consider the wisdom of responding to Warren. I rather think he enjoys being a "crumudgeon".

But, I guess sometimes I say things that those who know me, know it meant as humorous. but, not many know me that well here

Warren takes umbrage and takes a broad swipe because we have a "Director of New Product Development".

My fault and apologies to those that also must feel this a little pretentious. There are afew more outh there that do tend to hang on every word in the attempt to play "gotcha"

Our Director is actually my daughter. Her mother and I think that the very best job she can do is to become a great mother and the product that we pay her handsomely to Develop is our Grandchildren. Since she gets a paycheck, we jokingly (I guess not everyone gets it, so here is the joke) give her a "Title" (it's even on her Business Cards).

Now, she is a very bright woman (takes after her mother) and feels the need to offer something tangible to the business for her compensation. Plus, she likes to show off to her daddy on ocassion

Now, understand that this kid is no "Stepford Wife". She played her way through college on a Softball Scholarship, was an Academic All-America (we always kidded that it was a blessing that she got her brains from her momma and her athletic skill from me-had it been the other way around, it could have been ugly), made it onto an US Olympic Qualifier team (didn't make the big team) and went on to Graduate from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Again, those that know me, know this as I am pretty unabashedly proud of both our kids

So, yes, Warren, we do have a Director of New Product Development and she has Developed two fantastic products (Carter and Madeline). And,you shouldn't be worried that you don't have one, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

And, in her spare time, she does do a little "Business Card title" work for us.

I expect we will "let her go" from her present "job" with us once the kids get into school and then she will follow her other dream to fly jets. But, this time dad may not be able to foot that bill

I don't know why I feel better for doing this, but I do