Owner Struggling, Wants to Sell

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Forum Donor
Jun 16, 2000
No, it's not me

On another thread, an owner lamemted over the decision to consider selling because business was off. He received the expected encouragement and a few commiserated that business was off in the rest of the country. One well meaning post indicated that she had polled her neighbors and they all agreed that it was similar

May I offer an observation

It's your business and you should not give a flip what the guy down the street does when it comes to your own operation

Let's play a little "A Few Minutes with Donald Trump in the Boardroom"

Let's assume that we are retailers running Frame Shops for the Donald. And, we are in the Board Room because our sales are off. And, he asks you what the problem is.

You answer "Well, business is off everywhere" or "The people in my market are saying the same thing"

Who wants to bet what two words will probably be forthcoming from Donald?

Or, perhaps, one of the "grillees" says "My print sales are off 12% and I attribute that reduction to internet competition. I am developing a pogram to offer an online presence where we might be able to convert some of those internet shoppers back to us. In addition, we have a bounce-back promotion that will drive these poster buyers back into the store"

Or, "Mr. Trump, my Top of the Line framing sales are down 17% and that segment represents 30% of my overall sales. We have a program launched last week that couples a promotion on Museum Glass with Fabric wrapped mats. We have contacted a famous framer from Oregon that will come ino the store and do preentations all day to both the consumers and framing staff"

Which people will survive this meeting?

Here is the drill. Before we can assign blame, we need to determine the root cause. The guy down the street may have nothing in common and I'll assure you there are operators out there that are doing just fine

Know your business well enough to know more than business is off. Where is it off? Which categories are doing well and which are stinking up the joint? And what ill you do to maximize thoe winners and what wil you do to improve/correct/ or eliminate the stinkers

We all want a little company with our misery-it's our nature. But, I would rather be lonely in success than in a crowded room of less spectacular results

And, it's up to me to know where to go next

After all, I sure would like to be in that meeting next week and spend a few "Quiet Moments with the Donald"
Bob, I have talked to a few specific individuals lately (one being you) that has suggested that attitude is very key and most often overlooked factor.

I suppose that is the point of your post. It is a breath of fresh air.

What about in the boardroom I told Don, "I'm going to take 4 days off and drink umbrella drinks. I'm going to get a tan and tattoo. When I get back, I'm going to fill the place with some new tropical scent and paint that big wall over there bright orange. Then and only then I will get back to you with my plan to turn business around."

You see Bob, I think we too often slide into a FUNK. It's hard to get out of that funk but even harder to turn around a business while your in one. The funk starts with the "new store owner jitters". Then it turns into the "second quarter shuffle". Finally it’s the "big box blues". It’s easy to lose focus.

Either you're suggesting that now is the time to refocus or I shouldn't have drank so many umbrella drinks last night. What the he…… Is that a? On my shoulder! Who’s Tina?

I gotta go!

Carry on.
Bob I think as usual you make some very valid points. And yes it is our nature to want some company when we are struggling, human nature for sure.
Here is what I did during my slow time. I spent some time feeling sorry for myself, pulled my head out of my butt and got back to 'ok what needs to be improved here'. Not a week/day goes by where I am not planning out my next marketing move. I know that the only way I can improve a new business is to make my name known in the community.
I read tha local rag EVERYDAY! Its a big part of what I do next. I saw that our local arts council was having there annual benefit, tickets were 50.00. What do I do, I know I can't make it and don't want to spend the 50.oo in that way. I call them and offer them a 50 dollar gift certificate for custom framing to be auctioned off, I frame it in a photo frame w/ a rag oval mat and glass...all are from scraps. They picked it up loved it, took some business cards, it goes on the block tomorrow.
Three weeks ago I took a chance with a coupon book being mailed in our area, its a large chunk of dollars for me, but they work with me first payment of three not due until its been out a month. I have already received two back that have paid for the whole campaign.
Some of the best advise a rep gave me was to not worry about what the framer down the street is doing...concentrate on what I need to be doing. I have 5-6 other frame shops within a 5 mile radius of me...only 1 is a BB. I formally worked for 2 of them. It is incredibly important that I do not think about what they could be doing, that is not always easy.
Slow times will test you, and its hard to keep the miserable feelings from taking over, but for the future of any business its important to keep control over them.
Jesh I love John Tesh.....

heard this last night:

For one whole week keep a diary of minute to minute everything you do.
NO NOT 2:03, 2:04, 2:05

1:12 Johnson frame
1:28 Sales in front 1cust/2mat/1fab/conclear w/mount
2:01 Called sister to touch base about Sunday dinner
2:50 Finish Johnson & call
3:03 Creeger frames 5 quick fits
4:24 Grumbled
5:03 Remembered Taylor due tomorrow..
8:38 Finished Taylor and called.

At the end of the week, you can see where your "pit-falls" are that are not making you money.

It's the 80-20 rule... 80% of what you accomplish is with 20% of what you do.

or read another way: 80% of your income comes from only 20% of your work.

Question: "What are you doing the other 80% of the time?
BTW: Thanks Bob for another great thread.

And thanks for the Idea of demoing to a framers customers about fabric wrapping and all that goes into it and why.

Let see . . . I am brought into town to teach a class . . . usually fly in one day, teach and fly out... extra night at Hotel $80, food $30, Demo?, return on hosting a "Demo Night"????? Priceless?
Originally posted by Baer Charlton:

Question: "What are you doing the other 80% of the time?
Well, I'm certainly not sleeping...
Not to lose sight of this thread, but, when we discuss that biz is bad, I feel it important to understand exactly where it is bad and what we might be able to do to correct/improve it

Baer, I'm not discussing efficiency, I'm talking about understanding. I will easily concede most framers work very hard; too hard, in fact.

What Donald wants to know is if you can identify a few areas where your biz is struggling and then if we can pinpoint a course of remedy

Every operator ought to know this stuff. Or at least try and determine it.

This brings up the words of wisdom of one of those nearly famous business leaders: Without data, we're just a bunch of jerks with opinions

I cannot beleive that you posted this thread and referenced The Donald.

This a.m. the biggest thought on my mind has been: WWDTD. What would Donald Trump Do!?! This has been a major topic of discussion between my husband and myself about the business climate in general and our frame shop more specifically.

I have to say to your presentation: Yes! I agree with your approach. That we have to review our profit areas and see what is happening and how to adjust to the changes. But I also have to say "there is something going on" with the economy in our area, too. So many retailers (and we both know many) are in the same boat. These are in most cases seasoned retailers and they are shaking their heads at the dry spell that is occuring. Yes we can always do something different or more...

You suggest an event where we bring in a big name framer. I say to that: who? Who would the averager customer know and/or relate to? I could say that I am bringing in Baer Charleton for a 2 day framing event, and we all know him; and the frame community knows him; but the consumer might say "who?". (sorry Baer, don't take that personally)

We do not have but we need, in the frame trade, a "Martha Stewart" or "Donald Trump" that is on TV and in the magazines to promote our industry! Who will step up to the plate to create this new avenue to promote our industry!??!

My two cents,

As I realize that most of the local population isn't as rich as the summer folks who come up here, I figured I needed something to offer them that will get them to plunk down their hard earned money. I found a supplier who sold me a line of floater frames at a great cost and another had a nice line for real cheap and I can offer these at a lower price than I usually would. This will help the locals and the artists afford to have their work done right.

I'm also going thru my inventory to pick out which mouldings are sitting there gathering dust and I will have an area out front where this stock will go for a bargain price. It is doing me no good just sitting there, so move it or lose it.
This came about as I noticed too many people were not buying when told the price as they were still wondering if they could afford fuel oil this winter.
We all need to adjust our thinking in our business to keep it alive even during the slow times.
I also extended my radio advertising to the next area around me and have noticed more addresses coming from the new coverage area.
I agree with this and will go in another direction.

If you go to a doctor and say you feel sick they ask you questions...where does it hurt, did it hurt like this before. Questions, questions, on top of questions. Why? Because they are trying to figure out what to do, what to look for, and why you are hurting in such and area.

We need to give ourselves check ups every once in a bit in business. Got to know it and keep up on it in order to keep going in the right direction.

Bob-i like that you say to heck with joe down the street. In most cases he really doesn't matter. It is you and we all need to step up to the plate.

Seems some are in a 'Field of Dreams' .... you've seen the film... "If you build it, they will come" But what if they don't?

'Building it' takes a bit more than appearing from nowhere with all the gear and no idea, ,and that is exactly what some do, not just in our trade.

I like the doctor comparison, but, would you take a baby with wind to the doctor?
Hi Roz-Please understand that a little more critical thinking might easily replace Baer with any other name. The point is that I am making a comparative between answers given to someone else (like Donald). Imagine it was a reference to a plan of action after first identifying the problem, then creating a course of action. I'm sure Donald would appreciate the "forward" thinking

Now, I am sure he would also tell you "There must be plenty of merchants that are thriving in your market. What are they doing to create sales increases". I would agree with Donald that not everyone is stuck in a malaise.

So, let's take a snapshot of your biz, Roz. Can you identify any area of your sales that are doing well? Doing okay? Doing poorly? Let's identify specific areas, then you might have a chance to correct it.

But, if we continue to suggest why something will not work, then we might be the next to hear, well, you know what comes next
All good advice, I'm sure ....

Not to ignore the serendipity of the buyer, though...

After a few weeks of down traffic, today we had the best day in 6 months .... sold about $8000 of framed art, $3500 of new framing , and all kinds of works-in-progress...

You do the best you can, stick to your principals, and go with the flow ....

Not to say that we all shouldn't be constantly reevaluating our situation and delivery, but we (us, anyway) opened this place with a set of standards and a direction .... to radically change it means it ain't our business anymore .... time to do something else.

Our buying public, the one we originally went after and subsequently responded, expects Us to be Us (just gotta get their boney a**es outta the house and away from the back yard).

Anyway, today, ... Life Is Good.
Can't complain about that day can you

I am constantly evaluating my business areas and examining the whats/whys, etc. I think that is the main reason why I can say business is UP when everyone (the other unrelated merchants) around me are complaining about being down they are being reactive instead of being proactive.

I've gone back to my focus - framing. Brought in lines for "every budget", readymade frames, plak-it, become a "source" for prints & posters, provide art hanging services, do in-home consultations for space planning for art and furniture arrangement, revamping the website to sell prints & posters online (I hate to see my customers buying from allposters.com when they can buy from me! These things are working for me.

I watch The Donald, and I have learned a lot of lessons from the shows. Even though he doesn't show much compassion on the show when it comes to business, I do believe that a little compassion goes a long way to boosting someone's morale when they are down. A littl empathy can go a long way to TIP that person to the upside and light some dynamite under their butts. If it helps, great - if not, there's something missing from the moxy one needs to make their business works and no amount of compassion or empathy will help. They will bury themselves.

As far as giving a flip what other's are doing down the street - I don't, but I do think that if other stores are expressing downturns, it is an economic indicator - less people on the street - why; average sale ticket - down - why? Stockmarket up - why; down - why? A lot of this is just basic information that a business person should be aware of, and I have found that in general, some of these small storeowners I've spoken with, don't know the stuff! This is BIG Picture stuff, and some people can't see the forest through the trees, they are mired up in the every day nitty gritty and burying themselves and getting flustered and sending themselves into a panic. This could explain why they are down...

my 2 cents

Bob, I wasn't talking about efficiency [although that can sometimes help].

What I was looking at in my own instance was:

"What do I do that reaps the biggest returns?"

"What am I spinning my wheels on that return zilch?"

If I stop devoting time, energy, and dollars to the zilch and invest in and or expand on that which returns bags full, then I'm working smart instead of just working.

A few months ago there was a bunch of whine about the BBs whacking the heck out of our business.... and you suggested duplicating only better what they are doing well.
Then Jim went you one better and suggested dropping by and introducing yourself along with some donuts....

Those are both what I like to call "Return Earners", and they will work today and well as next week.


Excuse me, but I have to go out in the woodshop and beat my head against the wall because I took on a $2/hr job.....
I may be a lonely petunia in the oinion patch but I'd like to get some opservations.
I think it just makes good sense to do a regular examination of your pros and cons. My accountant used to furnish a report that broke down all my sales in departments (only 8) and cog as well. She listed them in a monthly and yearly comparisons so that we could see when there were any big changes( some things flucuate slightly all the time). So doing a more extensive annalyst is just logical.

But IMHO the point of considering bringing in a big name Framer to generate interest could have SOME problems,all of which I have mentioned in threads of some time ago.

I said at one time when you show off carved mats to generate interest and sales it might be slightly defeating if you show a Brian Wolf ( unless you are just as good ,which I am not) .The reason being the customer always wants their work to look "JUST LIKE THAT ONE" and that would be BRIAN'S.

I also at one time went to a shop owned by a friend of a friend who designed Cross stitch Charts and while there we showed some of our pictures of frame designs for the same patterens as were being done by the in house framer . End result was the in house framer almost quit since she kept being asked to do what we did and didn't feel capable or willing.And My stuff isn't as good as Brian's or many other NAME FRAMERS.

Finally while working with the PBS Art Auction that we did for 13 years we got our featehers in ruffle when the art got a lot of consideration and PR But the Framing being donated and competed didn't .So In our "Gallery"Board we secured a copy of the Star Burst Pattern that Brian Did for Crescent's Specifier cover ( only it was different colors and rejected by Crescent) I did the frame and had him sign and date as a one of a kind and entered it as a piece of art titiled "IT'S AN ART" makeing the point that what he and some of us do is indeed an art just as much as any artist.

When it was auctioned Brian's cedentials were read and while it did draw a good price the main bidders were FRAMERS .Art Aficanados din't have clue who even BRIAN WOLF was nor what made his work truly AN ART even while looking at it.

So this might work but in my uninformed but somewhat experienced opinion you had better do a lot of pre-demo PR in all the media you can so everyone will know who this FRAMING ICON is or they might just go "who was that,and why is it important"?

My 2cents worth of data in a worth while conversation.
It is probably appropriate that Donald Trump is being used as an imaginary sounding board for a framer considering pulling the plug - other than self promotion Donald's area of expertise seems to be negotiating his way through bankruptcy court.

Peter Bowe
Saline Picture Frame Co.
There are few things we can all rely upon

No matter how generalized a hypothetical, count on those that miss the forest for the lonely stinkweed

The two exampes offered could not have been any more generic and designed only to give some point of topic. If I was trying to suggest anything, it was to develop a more meaningful and analytical response to the question(s) of why so many of our buinesses are struggling so.

If we were to "review" the responses we see so often, how many of them could pass the "You're Fired" test

The worst thing we can do to help ourselves in this self-examination process is to defend; to defend what we do as correct or to become defensive as to why we think this is wrong

As a "victim" of many "Board Room" type meetings, you can count on two things: You better bring your "A" game and that if you do not know what you are talking about, it will be "gently" pointed out (but only in a non-aggressive, constructive manner).LOL

Trust me, you didn't want to make a mistake on either more than once. Way too often,in our trade, we never have to face the music and only get warm, soothing support when sometimes a "gentle" size 10 1/2 Florsheims to the back side might really be the ticket

Even if it is self-imposed
Much of what will work can't be measured.

I believe you have commented that you thought some of the best "advertising" money could be spent on the look of the store. But you can't measure that.

Don might fire me for suggesting so anti-analytical but that doesn't mean he would be just.

I think I understand the type of analysis you are suggesting but that is light years ahead of what I need or know how to obtain. I think if I just fully understood this “COG” thing everybody claims to understand so well, I will be far ahead of the curve.

I often feel like you get frustrated at the likes of me for not tap dancing when I just learned to crawl.
Hi Jay-I hear you. Some folks read my posts and see frustration on my part. And I am frustrated beyond belief that people think I am frustrated (okay, that' my sense of humor)

If there were any frustration on my part it might be on how quickly many will tell how this stuff doesn't apply

From the time when Ezekiel first showed up on the banks of the Nile to sell his camel and noticed that Abraham also had a camel for sale this stuff has had relevance

I do think most everything can be measured in business. Don't believe me? Ask anyone to tell you about their biz an dthey will tell you in detail about just how they do things so right.

We just need to settle on a measuring tape

On a personal note to Jay, you are so beyond the crawling stage. Your personal growth has been phenomenal and I can certainly measure it. Personally, I think no one ever really explained it to you before. I can remember when I think that ol' light bulb really came on (do you?) and I think I remember something about the Donald

The "curve" that you turned was admitting that you did not know things and that you could use a little help

I have to get better at not coming off quite so "prodding", I'm sure.
Originally posted by Bob Carter:

The "curve" that you turned was admitting that you did not know things and that you could use a little help
I think this applies to all of us and not only about business but life in general.
I just got a new tool that is so cool.

It is a scanner that just plugs into my USB port... no other plugs or cords. Scanner is 1"x1.5"x12". Can scan a 8.5x11 receipt.

It comes with a very cool software called NeatReceipts. You scan in your receipts after 2 weeks on the road... it identifies them, sorts them and then can import directly into QuickBooks.

Very Cool.

Now I have to go find that dam* 12 year old to set up my QuickBooks so it looks like my pages that I have been keeping books with . . . and I wonder which font looks like my dull Crayons...
I just got a new tool that is so cool.

Yah,yah, yah....thats what alllll the boys say :rolleyes:

Not trying to take a shot, but looking for a little help for newer framers. First, I have been in those board meetings. Been an officer of a couple of multi-million dollar companies. Am in this business to make money, and I'm OK at numbers and records and details. I do keep track of Sales Categories, and can break things down to too many variables I think.

My problem with the kind of tactic you are suggesting (and many of the "business framers" suggest) is that I just don't think my (or most new framers) volume is sufficient to analyze trends in a way that we can react to them. Don't misunderstand me, I act on many things. I have taken Mr. Bluestone's "do one thing on each thing each month" to heart (take the class!), but it would be WAY TOO EASY to react too early sometimes.

An example, photo frames. I buy some pre-built and make some from left overs. Should I be buying them? Should I be making more? Should I offer them at all? If you looked at my numbers for the last quarter I have to believe you'd say dump 'em. Margins low (average of about 40 points when you factor in sales on dogs), volume low since January (VERY low), but I sell 'em in spurts. Had a single $700 order (multi-frames obviously) of photo frames just before the holidays. Turned them over very well (4 times) last year.

SO, have a sale? The advertising for such a sale would eat up the margin I have on Photo frames for most of the year! My volume just isn't sufficient. Stop selling them?

Next question ... why are the sales off? ?? d**ned if I know? No new competitors, custom jobs - up. pre-framed art - up, pre-mades -WAY down. no clue. Do I react?

This whole post is a bit of a ramble. What I was trying to illustrate is that many of us struggling (relative adjective) framers have insufficient data (even with extremely detailed trends on multiple variables) to base decisions on it.

Did that make sense?

After almost 4 years, I am just getting to the point where my data seems to be of sufficient duration, volume, and consistency to make TD type recommendations from.

Most of the questions I see come from owners too "new" even with minute dissection of their data. What do you do when you just don't know enough to know??
If the owner is struggling, who does he think will buy his business? Okay, if he prices it low enough, I guess he might be able to find someone to take over his headache. But in reality, I can't imagine anyone in their right mind looking at a struggling business and wanting to buy it. When my business went up for sale, the figures were looked at very carefully (going back three years), first by the agent, then by the propects.

Deciding to sell was not something I decided to do overnight. It took me three years to set things up in anticipation of selling. The business sold quickly, for the price I wanted, and for a nice profit (not a gazillion dollars, but nice for a frame shop).

I would think that the most successful businessmen/women run their business with the thought of selling. I'll bet they sell when the business is doing it's best, not it's worst.
You keep asking here!!
The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know! Did that make sense?

Having been a framer for 25+ years, with breaks in between, a lot of new stuff has come about in this industry. I've only been Grumbling since last November, but Holy Cow, have new improvements happened, and everything I forgot I knew, or did know, has either been learned here, or remembered here, by asking, asking, asking.

I don't care if anyone thinks I'm a PIA, but if I don't ask, I'll never learn, or will eventually learn the hard way. Been there, done that. And maybe someone else wants to know about the same thing, but maybe too shy to ask.. :confused:

My weak spot is what Cliff was just talking about...analysis, etc. But getting my POS set up soon will help, and I will never stop asking!
Val, what Bob is stressing (as he does often) is the need for data and for more of us to USE that data to make decisions.

My minor frustration is that those of us that need the most help have the least useable data (even if we collect a lot of it).

The POS will help. Be sure to setup product categories, so you can effectively track trends. Eventually there will be enough history to analyze.
This discussion seems to be coming up as often as "how do I mount.....". That’s not a complaint as I hope to "get it" during one of these discussions.

Cliff, thank you. That is exactly my problem.

Here is one example. In Quickbooks we can all find our exact COG's current to this minute. I say "so what?" That might tell you that your whole operation is good, bad, or ugly. The information is to general to offer any real help.

Bob, being a total lunatic, teaches in his class how to figure COG on each individual order. NOW THAT provides you with some real data.

No matter how you track sales, the information seems to vague and pointless when they can vary so blasted much from day to day or month to month. If I had the information what good would it do being so vague with the low volume?
My opinions and examples have a lot less meaning than 9/10 of those posted here. But the ones I have the most problem with is the one that keeps saying that if you have a bunch of sucessfull shops like yours in your immediate area you are better off than if you have just a few.To my way of thiking that makes two fatal assumptions. First that regaurdless of how sucessfull the others are the area hasn't reached a saturation point of spendable Framing dollars. Which is going to happen at some point ,unless there is NO LIMIT to how much money a given location and it's inhabitants will spend on one product.

Next the assumption that you must create a NICHE .Unless that Niche is just completely different from these many sucessfull shops what differance will it make.
By this I mean that while I disagree that framing is just 4 sticks of wood. I do agree that there aren't that many new earth shakeing methods and designs that others haven't seen and tried as yet. So unless you are in a market where common place design and technique is all that is available ( not even the BB do this anymore) ,chances are there is some one else that does or can do almost anything you can. Now if by Niche you mean that you do more of these things better than any or all of the competition you may have a point. But to me that means you are more talented and skillfull or you CARE more.

So can you competet with large groups and talented framers ? I say yes. BUT it gets more difficult as the number of competitors increases and there just could be an effort to drop prices for these services when this happens to draw more of the avilable consummers.So do you want your shop in these areas if they don't have to be?Especially if you have another possibly better choice.

I did a lot of things wrong when I was in biz but I wasn't fooled into thinking those two things weren't a BIG factor in where I should place my shop .And unless I was mistaken that is the question that was originally asked.
But then what do I know.

I also may be hesitant to jump back into th e fray,and that may warrant my being considered to timid. But I 'd rather be safe than sorry especially with my budget.others can roll the dice and try agin if it all fails .
Thw answe to selling your busn for the guy who is truggling is simple DON'T, Sell off your equipment.
As for the POs I have been struggling to stay out of that conversation for some time now. I will just say read all that fine print and you will be in Awe,
O refuse to have any computer online that has any business data on it at all. I have had my identity stolen 3 times now. Anyone who says it's not likely top happen, I would ask What is the color of the sky in your world. Computers are too easily broken into by those who want to. Even MS themselves have experienced this..! It's a dead isssue for me..My work computer will not go onto the internet.
I think Bob is quite simple in his business approach. He is not sitting behind a desk, he is not framing in the back room, he is not designing-he is doing it all. He is always studying, competitors, prices, trends, ideas, and everything else. He is not sitting on his duff waiting for things to happen. He is going out to get business, before they open the door he sets the stage, they get in and the customer is treated well, the design people pay attention to the customers needs and wants, they deliver.

Bob is always going to have these two and three page threads, he is a thought provoker. He challenges us, many get upset with his ideas. I thought for a while who is this crazy man. But the more I read the more he made sense. I hope one day I can do the same, make people think. He has gotten me hooked, I look for these threads.

It's Income Tax Season. Our business always drops off this time of year. People are holding their breaths seeing if and what they owe, and digging deep to pay off Uncle Sam so...

Don't be so hard on yourselves, beating your heads against the wall. And you just might be pleasantly surprised to see things start to pick up after the "April 15" dust settles.

We do our best and we hang in there because that's just what we do.
As Patrick mentions, I have also learned alot from reading Bob's and a few others comments. There is not a day that goes by that I'm learning something, and that's the way it should be, unless you think we should be learning atleast "two somethings" :D
As far as I can see, no one in this thread has even touched on the one sure fire method of assuring that he is going to stay in business and that's prices. If your business is suffering, nine times out of ten it's because your prices are too high; figure out how to offer the same services for less and you're on your way to longevity. It's as simple as that. I know that to many, that's an umpleasant thought. Another unpleasant truth is that generally, framing is too expensive and that's why more people don't avail themselves of our services. A final unpalatable truth is that the reason our services are too expensive is that our industry is very inefficient.

Want to break out of this slump? We need to stock most of what we sell. Make most of our sells from stock that we get at far greater discounts than we can by buy buying chops and matboard and glass as we sell it.

Instead of trying to figure out how to make framing more expensive, how to sell larger ticket items, work to lower the cost of framing generally. Believe me, it'll work and I can prove it in spades. Sure self promotion, marketing, special sales are tools, but they are weak tools compared to lower prices.

Lower prices BTW, do not imply lower quality or a lower level of service; lower prices indicate that you are a much more efficient supplier of a service than your higher priced competition.

As a rule of thumb, we won't sell anything for more than our competition and we try hard as heck to sell for a lot less. I don't know, but I'd argue that it leaves a really bad taste in the mouth of a customer to realize he bought something for $10 that he could have bought for $7, and that's a taste that's going to linger and be shared with others.

Our economy is moving ineluctably toward more and more efficient distribution which is why we don't see many inefficient camera stores, book stores, hardware stores, computer outlets, you name it. One advantage that we very small businesses in our industry have is that the more efficient BB's are milking the extra profit their efficiency gives them rather than lowering prices. They may decide that to compete on price isn't worth the hassel in offering a labor intensive service. We can be as efficient as they can because of the nature of picture framing. We can easily compete on price.

When I went into the business 29 years ago there were a lot of mom and pops selling framing. The industry convinced them that they weren't charging enough for their services. They went along and offered higher prices and where are they now?

It's the cost, !
framing is too expensive and that's why more people don't avail themselves of our services
Warren, this comment is right on the money.

The trouble is the preception of the public. They feel that all framing is to expensive for them and don't even consider getting a price.

I feel that your experince is unique (and very good for you) but is something that only a handfull of us could pull off.

We stock over 500 profiles that make up 95% of our sales. We don't go as cheap as we could, instead we mark up to slightly higher then the market price and run sales on a very regular basis.

To many it is less about the cost then it is about the savings. In either case I strongly belive that length is the way to go and that chop enslaves you to your distributers.
That's why we advertise "Something for Every Budget" I think that covers the price sensitivity.
Warren buying smart to be able to sell low and still make a good profit sounds like a great idea. And I too am glad it works for you and I hope it works for everyone.

The problems I have with this concept is that I keep remebering hearing "Don't compete with the Big Boys on price alone" .They have a decided edge in that area.

I also have heard of these competitions or even the perception of a competition often result in the Big Boys artifically lowering their prices below where we can go or just making it appear as though they are.So shouldn't we be doing more like what Elaine is suggesting and makeing it clear that while our pices may have gotten lower OUR QUALITY will NEVER ? At the same time Makeing it abundantly clear to the consummer that as you said "Lower prices BTW, do not imply lower quality or a lower level of service;" and in fact we can do everything that the cheaper shops can and SOOOO MUCH more at what may be a bit higher but worth every penny comapratively?
Or am I still liveing in the old world? Or do we want to be known as costing less than the others,and why when we can still do all types of work from posters to High end originals ?
I think Warren has the ideal model.

I also think it is out of the reach of most of us in the near term. What do I mean? I think Warren's model WILL work. How can it not? And, once a certain level of volume is reached, your buying power is sufficient to overcome the problems Buddy alludes to.

But, it requires a significant investment in money and/or time, probably both. Most of the framers I have talked to are blown away by the 100k capital investment I started with. I could not have jumped right on what Warren suggests. I DO believe that using some of Bob's buying suggestions to "turn a buying advantage into a selling advantage" gives us the opportunity to step into Warren's model slowly, but offering "select profiles" in the "I can't be beat range." Over time the number of profiles can be increased and one could get closer to Warren's ideal.

Unfortunately, many framers seem to try to price according to Warren's model without BUYING to Warren's model. From talking to some, it seems there is a VERY STRONG tendency to price such that margins are insufficient for sustenance!

I believe Bob started this thread to get us to think about analysis and planning instead of "woe is me" hand wringing. I believe Warren makes a great suggestion, but it MUST BE tempered with planning and analysis or we wither from lack of margin.

I am planning (hoping to?) on achieving Warren's market dominance over time while maintaining both personal and business sustenance!
Warren's plan is sound and comes from a very time-honored tradition that was perfected by Sam Walton

Anyone that thinks that price isn't an important element in the consumer's buying habit is optimistically delusional. And, that delusion is compounded that they have some inside track on quality.

When asked to compare Quality (as a level of satisfaction) consumers simply do not see any difference (barely measureable) between Home-Based, National Chains, Ma and Pa's and Big Boxes. I know, I know some will say that cannot possibly be true, but it is. If you have a survey to contrast the 2005 PPFA Consumer Survey, I would love for you to share it

While Warren and I may (slightly) disagree on how low is, he is absolutely right on the money when he indicates how important Buying Right is

I do believe that anyone can easily match what either Warren or I have done in volume. It does require a little committment, a little understanding of the market and a whole lot of common sense

It's just the extreme ones like me that tend to want to make it so analytical
I think Warren makes sense. However I think for many framers it is hard to stock everything they sell. If they did that most would have to invest in larger shops and more inventory that they might not have the money to invest in. I think a goal that shops miss is to be able to offer four golds, four silver, six blacks, four woods, and a few special itmes in house for a faster turn around. I think most shops should know what they sell the most...no guessing know that answer or ask your vendor for a usage report so you can be sure. Then work on buying those items at better prices. Heck buy some closeout or discontinued mouldings that you can offer for really cheap. These discounted items can be sold on a regular basis or used to save a sale. If the person is a walking because it is too expensive use these items to satisfy them.

I believe Warren has crunched some numbers and knows where he is comfortable making sales. I think it would take a fair amount of time and knowledge to know where and how you can save in order to take on his agressive strategy. I think starting with some basics, like above, could be a step in the right direction.

Patrick-Your advice is excellent. Right now, many vendors are extremely aggressive and offereing Box Pricing at qtys less than full boxes.

We probably have 1200 samples on the wall and stock probably under 100 SKU's. those have great turn and greater margins

I would caution most folks from stocking up on closeouts and discontinueds. I feel that these products did not sell at the mfgrs end for a reason greater than price. Let's face it- an ugly shade of olive at $2.00/ft is still ugly at .50/ft. Low, low prices on stuff like that just means they couldn't sell it for more. I can count on one hand the times we have picked up on closeout stuff. Sure, there are exceptions, just be careful

But, I think you offer very good common sense and pick up a few well bought items, price them aggressively,add a another, and another, and pretty soon you are just like Warren
Cliff and Patrick are right on - while we don't have $100K to buy in on moulding, I don't think Warren did at the start, either. But any shop can do it if you do it right. Even a small, low-volume shop has some sales history that can be used as a guide. POS will give you the answer!!

We are slowly moving in that direction. A great (probably) underutilized tool in determining WHAT to buy is your POS. I can generate which moulding, how many feet, which vendor, in about 2 seconds. Every time we get a call -"hey, we've got XX% off on 500 feet mixed" I can look and see what we've sold and make a smart decision. Just buying to buy is a recipe for disaster. While we show about 1500 mouldings, we pay the bills from less than 100 (and most profit dollars from probably the top 15 - the ones we're begining to buy in and stock regularly)

Last year at Decor we bought 200' of our best moludings from Nurre - I think at half off - we sold it all within a month at full price. We could have easily bought more and maybe held a sale, but why discount the BEST stuff??

We don't have a huge, long history, don't have 14 product categories, don't track everything to the nth degree - but I can tell you the best 5 moldings from each vendor, how much regular vs ConClear vs Museum we sell, etc - and we buy accordingly.

BTW - I know, Warren you don't use a POS system - but with that warehouse ..... too bad Wilmington is so far from just about anywhere. There are lots of framers who could benefit from a visit to your place.

This is a cautionary tale derived from an incident that just occured at our outlet. A beach customer came in and picked a moulding and gasped when she saw the price: $3.00/ft. (We pay something like $.60/ft. for it. It's an ugly moulding and we didn't want to sell it; the distributor gave us 20 ft. to try out; we sold the 20 ft. and have been stocking it since). The customer exclaimed "the ---- shop wanted $8.00/ft for this stuff! What a rip off!) and so on. I wouldn't want to be the ---- shop. I suspect I know why they are selling this stuff of $8.00/ft; they're buying it chopped and marking it up 4 times. My point is, this is an untenable situation; this is a shop that's going to be for sale in the fuure. Selling this moulding for $3.00/ft. isn't difficult and it's certainly profitable.

It's not a matter of selling 20 patterns for a competitive price and the rest of the offerings at high prices.The opposite is probably true; most of what we sell, above 90% should be at smart buying/smart selling prices and maybe 5% unique mouldings that we don't stock and can't offer at an (for our industry) outstanding price.

Actually, we started out doing just that in a 1200 sq. ft. shop: selling only what we stocked and bought at a good discount from list. We were a frame it yourself shop and took customers as they walked in the door. We didn't start offering chops until quite recently and mostly as a service to decorators. People were willing to trade a limited, but good quality, selection for lower prices. That's the only real price advantage fiy shops had over convential frame shops; they had to stock what they sold. BTW, we're still in fiy.

In the beginning, we didn't order less than 500 ft of moulding at a time (traditionaly, the first quantity discount.) We tried to order patterns in 50ft. quantities and matboard 500 sheets at a time. We eventually moved the minimum moulding orders to 1000ft. and matboard to 1000 sheets. Now we seldom order less than 4,000 ft. of moulding. It isn't hard to stock 50 ft. of, say, 200 patterns and sell mostly that. Of course we didn't order 500 sheets of matboard when we ran out of popular colors. We used the 500 to 1000 sheets as a buffer and ordered smaller amounts as popular colors sold out, always trying to order enough to get a significant discount. We'd make big, 500 to 1000 sheet orders three to four times a year. If I remember correctly, there was a chain discount for 500 sheet orders: 25%,15%,and 10%: not quite 50%, but close. To get that discount, we had to sell art supplies so we ordered paper the first time and probably just threw it away.

We've been buying glass by the 2,000lb case for the last 20 years rather than by the box. Unloading and opening a case of 40 x 60 glass takes about 25 minutes; unloading and opening that much glass in boxes would take hours.

I really think it's important to work toward making our products affordable to more people rather than try to grab a larger share of the affluent market that already exists. Sell to the high end customers, sure, but don't bet the farm on 'em. If I were starting out now, I'd structure my business to offer a limited selection (200 patterns) of quality moulding at lower cost, and I'd advertise just that concept. "We may have a smaller selection but you'll get a high quality frame for a rock bottom price." I'd be willing to bet on that marketing plan being more successful than anything I've heard recently. It has the happy advantage of not having to convince potential customers that they should buy my product because it's of higher value than they currently perceive. In my case perception would be reality.
I think a good portion of this comes down to knowing how to get advantages. If you let reps come to your store, give you samples and leave, you are loosing out. Use Them!!! Know what you use/spend and find out how you can get it for a better price. Simple, ask a kwestion or two. These people can help and most are willing to take more money from you. Work out an agreement that you are both happy with inorder to better your business.

Business don't get larger by sitting back, you must be active in all aspects. I think it is Jay Golts that has a saying-Do one thing every week, this pertains to marketing, shop appearance, samples, pricing, and many other areas-think six in total. Sorry Jay if I miss kwoted you-I shall go back and reread the info. We all need to move forward with our own business and wave good bye to the competition as they sit back and wait. Be proactive!!!

Let me ask you all a question.
You price something cheap and most will say oh that must have something wrong with it, price the same item a bit higher and people think oh that must be a good item..look at how spendy it was. You go to someones house and there is a cheap painting on the wall and in the next room an expensive painting. People love to brag about the spendy one..exspecially if you have to stand on your head to figure out what it is?
So my question is " Why is that " ???
In the art world we did a lot of research on how to figure a price for a painting..There is none.
You charge whatever the market will bear. Some artist think they are the cats meow and charge huge money..The public buys it. then there is the guy who is shy and charges less than what he is worth and the public won't buy it...Beats me!
Art seems to be one of those things that people want to spend a lot of money on..Somehow that equates worth to them. Who am I to say no you can't spend $100 on that..its only worth $25..
If a person really likes what they see it's worth the money to them. That goes for you moldings ( sticks as I call them )as well. Take a cheap piece and turm it into something of value..that takes a lot of time, planning and talent.
I once saw this coffee mug in an exclusive type of shop. Same mug I saw at wal-mart for like a $1.50
But because of the way it was displayed at this other shop it was being sold for $8.75. The same mug..same design and same "made in china" printed on the bottom. She could sell it because it was displayed neatly and exclusively.
My point being that perhaps pricing is not the way to go all the time. I am in a small town..there is just no way I am ever going to work off of volume.. I would love to, but the census beuraue tell me I don't have volume. When we were in Spokane we had more people ride the elevator (in one day ) up to see the movie than we got in our whole state. I can sell less than my competitor, but you know what it is still spendy. Least to me it is..Right now I got an $800 ticket waiting for me...its spendy but way cheapoer than a competitor. Me personally I wouldn't give ya $50 for the whole shooting match. I learned a long time ago that if I were only to sell soemthing that I liked I would be broke. ha!
People are just funny and I don't think that their is one set rule for everyone. What works great for one may be a tradgedy for another.
I could be all washed up on this one..beats me..just my two cents worth from what I have observed obver the years.
"You go to someones house and there is a cheap painting on the wall and in the next room an expensive painting. People love to brag about the spendy one..exspecially if you have to stand on your head to figure out what it is?
So my question is " Why is that " ???"

Here is something you don't hear much these days:

I don't know!

I do think that in some small way we do operate in a bubble. You can probably get away with charging 3 times what your competitor does just because of your cachet. However everything about your store has to bleed luxury. You can't charge 3 times on accident or because you just decide to any more than you can just decide to be the cheapest in town. I would think any extreme would have to be the result of a specific plan.
Originally posted by Jay H:
You can probably get away with charging 3 times what your competitor does just because of your cachet. However everything about your store has to bleed luxury. You can't charge 3 times on accident or because you just decide to any more than you can just decide to be the cheapest in town. I would think any extreme would have to be the result of a specific plan.

Forgot to add:

Couldn't agree more.