Price shopping the competition?


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Aug 7, 2005
Nanticoke, PA
WOLFrames Picture Framing
I was just wondering how others go about doing it? It's been over a year since I price shopped my competition, so I am probably going to be doing it soon. Once I took a picture to 2 of the chain framing stores and asked them what they could do to frame something classy and elegant, but not just using an ornate frame and they just stared at me with their mouths open. Had no ideas. If a customer asked me that, I could give them half a dozen ideas off the top of my head. I usually act like I don't know much about framing, but this time I would like to get prices on something more complicated so that I could compare my prices on other than basic things. I also usually go during the day and make my choices quick to not take up too much of their time (trying to be considerate with their time. I've probably been price shopped by others myself.) Let me know what you do.
The most important thing (often overlooked) is to find positives about your competition. It might be selection, pricing strategies,or a million other things.

It is important to understand the pricing dynamics, but more important to find out what they might be doing effectively.

If they do more business than you (and many do) then it would be wise to see if anything might be worth adapting (okay, stealing)
I'm just the opposite of Bob, I never shop my competition. I set my prices on my needs, I could care less what someone else's needs are.

I know, I know, your supposed to know what the market is etc. I have had many customers tell me my prices are way too high, I have had many customers tell me my prices are too low for what we do. To me it does not matter, I know what I must charge to pay my bills, Mary's salary, taxes, suppliers, etc. and have a little left over for me.

Don't get me wrong, I am not disparaging Bob's way of doing business, how could I, he does a lot better than I do. I just know what seems to work for me, and what keeps me happy. THAT, is the most important thing to me. Thank God I'm old enough to understand that, finally, after all these years.

I meant to finish my post with John's sentiments.

He is most correct when he understands his needs and accomplishes his goal. No research will alter that position. I used to question that philosophy, but now understand his point of view

But, if you are not meeting your goals or growth is a strategy, then understanding your market might be paramount.
People seem to get very hung up on what others are charging, and think that they should do competitive shopping to set their prices. As Bob will tell you, only you can set your prices. But it is helpful to know where you fall in the pricing spectrum.

Probably a more valuable lesson to be learned from shopping your competition is finding out what they're doing to help you improve your business.

Look for things they're doing well, and make darned sure you're doing the same, and better.

Look for things they're doing poorly, and turn these to a positive for your business. They have a four week turnaround? Make sure your customers know you can get it done in one week. Bad service at the other place? Kill your own customers with kindness. If the other place is dull and dingy, make sure your store shines.

Of course you see that I said to turn these things into positives. It's bad form to run down your competition.
Originally posted by Judi:
Any suggestions for shopping a very close(1/2 a block away)and friendly competitor?
It is not a good idea if they might recognize you.

But you can send a friend who is a bit nowledgeable, if you have to do it.
"Any suggestions for shopping a very close(1/2 a block away)and friendly competitor?"

Drop by with some cookies when you see a customer walk in thier shop. Then hang out while you watch the sales presentation. You will get your cookies worth.

I have shopped competitors that we are friendly with. I just have a friend drop off something and tell them what to look for. It has worked out well in the past. My friend gave me some very good "fresh eyes" feedback. I learned what we could do better in our store. I have my friend actually get things framed there so I can see the finished product and all that goes along with it (ie. invoices, how they put things together, etc)

It's not so much about pricing, but all the other goodies that are involved.
Dave is correct that only you can set your own prices. How do you do that?

Do you follow a printed chart in the back of some catalogs? Many do

Did you take a class and plug everything into some formula? Many do

Do you let your POS determine your prices based on not what YOU pay, but what a published cost is? Many do

Or, do you understand your own market and understand your position in the marketplace and then add a dollop of your own needs?

Hardly anyone does

Which method is probably the best?

Why don't we do what's probably best for us?
It seems to me that if you are serious about your framing business, you need to understand the market in your area and that includes knowing your competition. Obviously, you need to know what you need to charge to stay in business, but I'm not convinced that knowledge is especially helpful in a vacuum. Knowing how you are positioned vis a vis your competition can only facilitate making wise business decisions. Obviously pricing is just the tip of the iceberg.
You can usually find out from a sales representative what line of mouldings and other products they carry.

I generally send my wife to scope out the competition. She is one real aggressive shopper!

Armed with a print or photo, have her (or, if you are a her, send a him), into your competitor and have your wife/husband/friend pick out a moulding that you, too, carry i.e. know the wholesale price of.

Have him/her ask silly questions: “Is the glass acid-free?” “How are you going to stick the print/photo to that cardboard-like stuff that surrounds the art?”, “How much more for glass that doesn’t fade?” etc. You will probably be able to get an idea of how knowledgeable (and helpful) they are from their responses and demeanor.

Get a quote using the same reference moulding. Go home and compare their prices to yours.

Also, tell them you have a signed Bruins/Patriots/Red Sox jersey (which you forgot to bring). Will they give you some ideas and a ball park estimate without seeing the piece? That, too, will tell you something.
Hi Bill-Gotta be straight, here. We do not go in to waste anyone's time. I think asking questions like that is a little out of bounds.

In reality, if they are a good shop and they have a good person at the counter, you will get all the right answers. If not, put that on your "We need to make sure we don't do that in our shop" list

Once in a Blue Moon, someone asks questions like that and we simply think it is a shopper

Above all, when you shop, be respectful. Same as you hope when your competition shops you