SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 28, 1999
Shippensburg, PA 17257 USA
We just received Liebermann's CD (the upgrade) and it is so cool I'm wondering if we should have a stand alone computer to promote ordering prints. It has a great screen saver that you can customize that I think would draw people in. Usually print orders translate into framing sales, so I'm thinking a new computer (Pentium 4 processor, 512 MB RAM, DVD, Flat screen $640 at Dell) would pay for itself and then some. Does anyone do this for print sales? How do you promote it? Any success stories?
My debate is whether I should try and compete with the dot coms. I pretty much have decided to stop buying prints for stock after some recent experiences. There are NEW Wild Apple Graphic prints and Aaron Ashley prints on ebaby for much less that I can buy them for wholesale....and then of course there's and others. I'm thinking that special order may work though.
Any thoughts would be welcomed!
I have also thought this would be a great customer convenience. Years ago I worked in a shop that had a cute little "desk and chair" area where customers could browse print catalogues. But the books were heavy and confusing for a lot of people. The peronal computer concept sounds like a good idea.

Keep us posted if you decide to go with this.
We had a stand alone computer in the showroom with Art Information about 6 years ago. It worked okay, but not great and we did get print sales from it. We had lots of trouble with it locking up and it was too frustrating for us and for customers. Often they were upset because they thought they broke the computer, we had others scurry out when it locked up (obviously thinking they broke it and they were not going to buy it). Not a good thing. So we took it out.
We have two comfortable arm chairs, coffee table and lots of new print catalogues. People do sit and browse but I'm thinking the computer would catch peoples's eye and we might generate impulse purchasing.
There's the "leading edge' factor too...
I have had Lieberman's Cd on a stand alone computer on a desk with chairs and print catalogs since I openend about a year and a half ago. I get some sales from it. Almost always resulting in a framing job. I would say about a dozen a year. I don't view it as a big profit center, but it is a great service add-on that seems to at least pay for itself. I have a couple of customers that would rather pay me more than a web site so 1) I am the only one handling the print, 2) they don't have to use their credit card on the web.

A number of people get frustrated with sitting in the corner staring at the computer. I have pointed a number at Lieberman's website with the explanation that I can order the print for them when they find what they want. Some seem to prefer looking at home (or work, my guess ;) )
After fourty years in this business, I have never experienced the all time low volume of print sales we have nowadays. I have thousands of prints dating back to the 1960s in boxes in our upstairs storage. I have three full New York Graphic Society flip print bins. I have a huge assortment of catalogs.

Just about all our customers get their artwork on line now. I would suggest you spend as little as possible trying to promote in house print sales, it is now, without a doubt, a huge waste of money.

If we sell twelve prints a year from our inventory, it would surprise me. You've probably heard of being "insurance poor", well there is also, "print poor" to take into consideration.

People do enjoy browsing the prints and catalogs though. Perhaps you could offer free lattes and croissants so they could enjoy themselves even more.

Hi Maryann-Prints like this need to have a critical mass to make money. With Lieberman, and no disrespect to them at all;we use them, you get a 50% discount plus shipping. You almost need to "bundle" orders to make any sense.

For example, someone orders a $25 retail print and you order it solo, you will pay $12.50 + freight. That, in this part of the world, is arounf $10 and going up. So, you have a $22.50 cost for a $25.00 sale. Even if you get two prints, it's $25.00 cost + 10.00 for $35.00 cost for a $50.00 sale.

For the life of me, I don't understand why the freight is $10.00 when the same item from is $4-5, still a margin buster, but, at least, it's better.

I know Lieberman's uses those heavy round tubes to ship and uses UPS or Fedex and uses those triangular shaped boxes and USPS. I do know that the shippers charge more for round tubes as they tend to roll/fall off conveyor systems where flat bottomed do not. I helped do some research for one of our best vendors to reduce shipping and that's what Fedex told us, anyway.

So be very mindful of the shipping charges and low margins before you make the investment.

Then don't forget you have that "It isn't quite what I expected, I'd like my money back" possibility.

The only way this makes sense is to do some numbers, and onesy-twosey's might be more trouble than it's worth, especially if they don't frame it

But, if you are going to commit to a program like this, Lieberman's is as good as anyone with way better service.
I am in agreement with JRB.

Even my best framing customers are ordering their prints on line and bringing them in for framing. I like that arrangement. I haven't ordered a new catalog in years.

The only hitch I've run into is that some of those prints are not offset lithos and they melt if you dry mount them. Then I end up replacing them (at retail.)

People do like browsing through print bins and catalogs. I've found they like looking at an assortment of specialty magazines just as well, and the resulting sales are about the same. In fact, if you have the right magazines, they'll get framing ideas from them.
Hi John-We, too, always have a steady stream of "barking spiders", prints that just flat out ran past the curve of popularity-way past.

But, turn that litho paper into green paper by setting up a bin of clearance prints. Get some 24x36 cardboard (white faced, if able) and 24x36 clear bags from Impact. You will have less than $1 involved. Mark those bad boys anywhere from $3.88 to $9.88, and I guarantee you will sell some. Once in awhile, we even frame some.

But $4.88 is better than nothing and all they are doing is getting more out of date. This sometimes satisfies that "just browsing" customer and if you sell 3-4 a week, it's a whole lot better than none a week.

Be judicious on what you mark them for. The worst should be the lowest; the best being higher. If you do one price for all, you force the best to be sold first and continue to "collect" the lesser images.

Try it
I started to invest in prints when I first opened. It wasn't long before I saw the light that it was trading money at best. The several thousand dollars that I had bought was burned
to solve a tax problem last year. I got 50.5% back on every dollar invested :cool: and it took only a minute. Pictures were taken per instructions from my financial controller.

Be judicious on what you mark them for. The worst should be the lowest; the best being higher. If you do one price for all, you force the best to be sold first and continue to "collect" the lesser images.
Bob, thanks for your perspective. Your advice always gives me something to think about. We do have a clearance bin for the barking spiders and I have them all priced the same. Need to change that.

Thanks to everyone else for their thoughts. What I thought was a good idea this morning needs re-thinking. (I really just wanted to buy a new computer)
OK, I will give you a different perspective.

We have the Liebermans DVD on a stand alone computer and sell on average 5 per week from it. But everything depends on how you run your business and market your business.

We carry over 2000 prints in our store at any given time, and the inventory turns on a pretty good basis. If you want to make the concept of special ordering prints in for customers you have to have many prints in stock, let people know that you can order and you order frequently. Most of the people say that their customers order art online then bring it to them and frame it. Let your customers know that you can order the same thing that they see online and frame it. Charge them for shipping unless they frame it with you then free shipping. Set a policy as to when you order (once a week, 1 time every 2 weeks) and then you can bundle your orders and get a better rate on shipping.

If you decide to stock prints in your shop, start with the national best sellers or a particular publisher's best sellers. How do you know what will sell? Ask the publishers, ask Liebermans, look at catalogs and TV and see what is on the walls.

If a print does not sell after a year or maybe 2 years then put it on sale for half price and get your money out of it. Don't put it in a box in the basement or your back room, it won't sell there.

Remember that this will not happen overnight. We have been in the business 13 years and still have people ask if we can get a print for them, but we also have many people that come in and ask for a particular print and we say we have it over here or how soon do you need it because we can order it for you. Very few other shops will do that, in fact many shops will say they can't get the print anymore when I can get it for them in a week.

As you can tell from other post here, it is a tough business but once you know what you are doing and you market the service correctly, there is god money in it and many people will frame their artwork with you.
Tim's point is well taken. Print sales are not something you can dabble in. You either make a commitment to do it right, or stay away from it altogether.

Maryann, by all means, go ahead and buy that computer, and use it for something else.
I think there is a big difference between a mall store and a stand alone or strip center location.

I don't see many browsers, most of my clients come in for framing. If I were in a mall store I would expect to sell a lot more art than I currently do in a strip center.

We too are seeing a lot of boxes, but at least were seeing the boxes and framing what came in them.
When I opened I decided that I was never going to carry prints (at least no L.E.). When dad closed down his frame shop 10 years ago we were left with 100's of Frace's, Phillip Crowe, Redlin, to name a few. I picked about 15 that I liked to frame and put up in this shop that opened a month ago. Although I think they are dated and I'm tired of looking at them, nobody has commented on the time warp in my shop.

THEN IT HAPPENED. Yesterday I had my biggest sale and even sold a print that was in a drawer that I didn't get a chance to frame (ran out of money). I had no clue what to tell him what I wanted for it. It didn't cost me anything. I thought that it will probably sell on Ebay for 20$ so I told him $120. He said he would take it and to just "frame it like you did that one right there!"

That "one right there" was triple matted with $12/ft (retail) moulding. I later when back and looked and found that the print sold brand new for $90.

Another guy came in and told me he couldn't find anybody around here that carried Redlin.

Although I'm fighting the urge I think there may be a shortage of prints around here!
Diver Dave is correct, there is a difference between a mall store (which I am) and a strip center or stand alone shop. But as I said, everything depends on how you run your business and how you market your business.

If you market your business as only a custom framer then you will only get people wanting custom framing. If you market your business as the only shop in Anytown USA with an in stock inventory of 1000 prints and posters with access to over 150,000 prints and posters that you will gladly special order for your customers, then you will have people coming to your store for art.

I have heard numbers that say a strip center will sell approx 10% of what a mall art/framing shop will sell. I would be willing to bet that the number is lower than that since most strip center shops do not even carry art or advertise that they carry art.

Location will play a factor in your art sales, but it does in your framing sales as well. If you have a good location that people are willing to shop you for framing then you may be able to sell artwork as well. You also need to see what the competition is in your market.

Remember that most of the online art retailers use Liebermans as their supplier. Most of them carry no inventory and electronically send their orders to Liebermans who processes and ships the order to the customer. The online retailers have access to over 150,000 images (of which you do as well) and show them to their potential customers. I do the same in my store to my potential customers with the Liebermans DVD.

The key in any business is to get people in the door, no matter if you are in a mall, strip center, or stand-alone. In order to get them in the door you have to give them a reason to come in the door. Artwork, photo restoration, gifts, nutcrackers, stained glass, ect are reasons to get more people in your door so they can see your key business..Custom Framing.

Artwork and custom framing are complimentary products but if you do not let people know that you have both you will not be sucessful in the art market.

As Ron put it, you can not dabble in it, you either do it right or focus on the framing end of your business.
I just read Jay's post and thought of one more thing.

One of the worst things that you can do is order the same image in bulk quantities. he mentioned that he had 100's of Redlin, Frace, ect. Many people who get burnt in the art market will think I like this image I will order 25 of them, or think that they are getting a better deal if they order in bulk. They sell 2 and then 23 sit there for years.

Most of the publishers deliver in a week, you don't need to order more than 1 or 2 of any image unless it is a proven seller. Set a day that you reorder prints and only order on that day. You know that you will have the order on Thursday if you order on Monday (example) so you can tell a customer that the print is out of stock but you will have it back in stock on whatever day, they will wait.

As I said in an earlier post, if it doesn't sell in a certain amount of time then put it on sale and get rid of it. It will be a lot easier to get rid of 1 print than it is for 25.
We have a 'profit center' for the Lieberman's disc. (dedicated computer, and nice office-type chair) You can set what you want the 'add on' to be, so all our prints have an $8 surcharge. That pretty much pays the shipping, and when we bundle them, then lucky us! I like it because it makes us look Leading Edge. But I would say we frame less than half of them. Perhaps we should bump that 48 to $18 and offer a $10 off deal when framed with us... I'll have to think about that...