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The demise of a shop

Lori Drugan

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Sep 8, 2004
Fairlawn, OH
Our friend across town has closed up shop. A sad day indeed. We finally spoke to her after a couple of months, and she related to us how JoAnns and Michaels was the main factor for closing. Apparently she could no longer compete with their advertising and coupons. It made me stop and think of the area of town she was in and the unfairness of it all. How do we convey to our potential customers that our prices are competitive. Those of us who have nice store fronts, especially in upscale plazas, are persieved as more expensive. Being that we have seen quotes from both BBs that were higher than us, we know that perseption to be untrue. We are seriously contemplating contacting our weekly local paper we advertise with to do another story on us. It's been 5 years since the last one. I am trying to figure out how to broach the subject without fear of legal retrobution. I would really appreciate some creative insight. We really don't think ther is alot of cross over competition with our high end customers, but wouldn't mind gaing the "everyday" customer who thinks the BBs are such a greater value.
Thanks much,
The thing you have to look at with your local paper is that the BBs probably pay more in advertising than you and the paper would be reluctant to lose those dollars.

If you concider yourself as a superior shop to them and that is the image you project, then the clients should perceive this as well. You will never get a client that is more interested in getting 40 or 50% off of their framing than making their art look good. The most you can do is do a good job and make sure your clients know that you appreciate their possitive word of mouth towards your business.
It is much more difficult to change perception than to live up to it. My advise, raise your prices.

About 25 years ago, before we were computerized, I did a "yellow sheet" accounting of our frame department and found we lost approx. $ 20,000 that year in the department. We had been in business since 1911 and the did quality work, but the perception was that if we did your framing, "you must be rich". In reality, we were approx. 25% less than our region in the Decor surveys.

My first knee jerk reaction was to budget $ 5000.00 for advertising to get across the message that we produced quality, but were inexpensive. Then I woke up to the fact that, even though that was quite a bit of money back then, it wouldn't change perception.

Instead, I raised prices 50% (yes, fifty percent!)in one day. I made the decision that we were either going to make money in custom framing or get out of it completely.

After one year, I pulled out the same yellow pad I did the accounting on the year before and plugged in the numbers from the same sources.

The result...

We produced more units (frames) and made approx. $ 20,000 that year in the department.

Not one customer complained about or even noticed our increase...or at least no comments were made.

Saved $ 5000.00 in our ad budget too!

Your clients come to you because...

They trust you with their work.
They like your quality.
Your reputation.
Your atmosphere or "ambience".
You are conveniently located to them.
You have good hygiene...etc., etc., etc.

Somewhere further down the list is price.

Think about it before you try to "compete" with the BB's on price. It's easier to focus on service and quality and charge appropriately.

Dave Makielski

"You can't change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails."
When people like Dave suggest what he does all I can suggest is that if it works for him, great.

I have no idea what his business is nor what his sales are. Again, if it works for him-great

I cannot imagine the carnage that would occur if the "average" framer did as he suggests.

Bottom line: Consumers have choices and they vote with their dollars first, feet second. But no feet, no dollars

We, way too often, feel we operate in a vaccuum: that those things that work so superbly in every other retail environment have no relevance in our little corner of the world.

Why do you think so many "non-traditional" competitors are constantly entering our markets? And, why do so many of them grow so well and so quickly?

Because they know that consumers that buy pots and pans are the same consumers that buy framed art and get things framed, for the most part. The same things that drive them, in droves, to IKEA also drive them to Michael's.

We can pretend that consumers care not about pricing as Dave suggests, but I disagree. It is a factor

Now, that doesn't mean that you should be the lowest price in town (that's stupid and Michael's proves that in spades), but it does mean that you have to create impressions that counter the "We are expensive" perception that is firmly esconced.

And you have to understand the marketplace

Recently PPFA released a great Consumer Study

I haven't seen enough conversation on it to wad a shotgun

It tells, in detail, things about consumers and their reaction to us. Did anyone take the time to read it? And analyze it? And, perhaps look at your business to see if might do a few things that resonate with consumers?

I am not suggesting that anyone lower your quality or service standards. Not at all, in fact improve them consistently and constantly.

But, if you read the survey, you will realize that conumers don't see hardly any difference in the overall satisfaction between home based, independent frame shops, national chains and franchisees and the Big Box guys. If you truly believe that those factors are your safe harbor or your salvation, you better start trying to convince consumers. They ain't buying it.

You simply have to be a better merchant and do th ethings that resonate with consumers. And, if you are hitching your star to that, you may wish to broaden your thinking to be a little more inclusive.

And, I would start by reading, and understanding, the most recent Consumer Survey. This is powerful information and to ignore is, well, ignorant. There are tools out to help you in this most dificult marketplace.

And, there is not any single easy piece of advice that will create a short cut to success-not here on The Grumble or anywhere else. It is hard work, it is fluid and it requires as much attention as any framing technique
I think what I most wanted to convey by my story, was that I firmly believe most framers underprice themselves and are fearful of raising their price. In the scenario I described, I was at the point of quitting custom framing and was willing to do so if things were not turned around. Having made this decision was easier because framing only consituted about 20% of our business at the time. Also, the fact that we had a good reputation established over so many years and were already perceived as expensive enabled me to make a very brazen choice.

I'm not advocating such a drastic move by anyone. What I do want to emphasize is that more businesses go out of business for undercharging and not maintaining profitability than for most any other reason. It is vital to all of our businesses to make sure that we constantly analyze both what we charge for our services and what we pay for services and goods. It's too easy to "give away the shop" and be fearful that we will lose a job if we charge what we know we must to maintain the revenue needed to cover overhead and still be profitable.

As I write this I am also reminding myself of these points as I am among the guilty. My customers are mostly great folks and I consider them friends. It's way too easy to not charge for something or figure the price and say "Oh my gawd!..They'll never go for that!." and then fudge the price to make it more palettable.

Monitoring your prices is a constant excercise. You can't let price increases slip by. Most of our overhead is increasing daily and, those of you who have employees, are seeing rising labor costs and want to keep your good workers.

Four ways to increase profitability...

1.) Increase units produced. (More business)

2.) Increase average revenue per unit (raise prices or sell more premium services).

3.) Reduce COGS (Cost of goods sold).

4.) Reduced overhead (both supposedly fixed and variable costs).

There is a happy balance among these four which will be different for each of us depending on our target market and environment. What is good for one is not necessarily good for another. Until you define your market and the degree of inclusivity or exclusivity you can't make many of the decisions which would enable you to set into place pricing and marketing strategies.

Dave Makielski
Originally posted by Dave:
"Oh my gawd!..They'll never go for that!."
Thats why we employ staff, owners are shocking for this type of behaviour... (and believe me, customers know it)

Anyway, using the local paper to convey your message via an article is a good plan. You need to establish what it is that you're conveying though, Bob mentions a recent study, I'm not sure where to find it but this is exactly the type of information you need to read before making any decisions about your message. You could also consider looking at the furniture market to see how independant stores have differentiated themselves from the BB's.
Originally posted by Lance E:
Bob mentions a recent study, I'm not sure where to find it
It's one of PPFA's answers to the question of "what's in it for me...?"

Sort of like "seek and ye shall find." This is "join and ye shall get all this neat marketing stuff!"

Bob is right to an extent. MOST clients can't see the diference in what a BB does and what a quality shop does. I get asked why framing costs so much every once in a while and for those that ask that question there isn't an answer that they will understand. For the semi educated framing customer you should be able to show them the difference though. Unless you are producing the same level of quality as the BBs are, there is a huge difference in the finished product.

I disagree with Bob though on the concept that framing customers are the same as those that seek price over quality as their first concern. Most framing clients are framing something that they place value on such as a diploma, family photo, valuable art, etc...With this in mind they are goin to be seeking someone who can care for their valuables rather than "whip it out" for them at the lowest price. Yes their are those that price is the overriding factor but honestly I don't want them as clients. And don't give me all that "Hey we are all just in it for the money in the end" junk that some of the posters here spew. If all we cared about was money, picture framing would be the last business we would get into and we would all be California realestate agents. I believe that a quality product, with good and timely service, at an appropriate price are the cornerstone of a qulity framing establishment. Their is honor in having standards rather than "Blowout Sales". I would raise my standards before I blindly raised my prices. If you aren't charging enough to cover your costs then you're not paying enough attention to your business.
Brian-Please don't confuse my suggestion with an emotional decision reflective of a personal business decision. I am certainly not advocating that quality is not important. But, what I am suggesting, is that according to the studies, consumers do not think there is a measurable differential between independent custom framers and the Big Boxes.

It certainly may be a cornerstone of your establishment, but consumers do not see it as an advantage anywhere near as much as we do. That does not suggest that you should lower your standards, but might suggest that it does not matter much to consumers. It surely won't drive in them into your store.

My point was, for a long time, we have been told that as long as we offer quality workmanship that alone will allow us to stand apart. Consumers aren't saying that

In fact, the implied suggestion is that quality workmanship is expected: They expect it from you and they expect it from all other framers, regardless of location. In fact, when asked to rate the workmanship and overall satisfaction, there hardly was any distinction

Now, it isn't important if you agree or disagree with that survey result. It is important that you understand that is exactly what the consumers are saying. It's no more important than what we think about Michael's pricing being manipulated.

It is important to understand what the consumer thinks. And, if the consumers think differently than you, who do you think wins that argument?

Should you raise prices? Sure. On every single item that is undervalued or where you demonstrate a clear superiority or advantage to the marketplace.

Should you raise your standards? Sure. But, I am not sure where that drives a single more person into your store.

Find your strengths (as perceived by the consumer, not your own perceptions) and exploit that advantage. Find your weaknesses (as perceived by the consumers) and improve that standard.

We must abandon the "not in it for the money" suggestion. It's fair to adopt it for your own personal endeavor, but to offer it as an excuse for/to others is a little counterproductive. I know plenty of people that do make a pretty good living at this gig and I will suggest that quality is a given, but merchandising and promoting is not
I think Bob is right. Most customers that want art or framing go with pocketbook in mind first. That is why the BB's tend to thrive. They have cheaper items that most folks can afford.

Now there are customers who will go to a customer framer when they think they have something of value or something they have a sentimental attatchment too. This is when framers need to educate thier customers...if they understand you, trust you, you can make them a better customer. But it takes understanding on both parts. You must understand why they came in your door as oppossed to Joe's frame Barn around the corner. Why did they choose you? And what can you do to keep them? The first time a customer comes in you should treat it like an informal interview. (I just thought of this and I like it so I am going with it), Ask what they want if they are not sure make suggestions, help each other. If you both are happy thier is no reason for the relationship to end.

Remember a good customer realizes when they want the black metal frame and they know when they want the four inch gold leaf that they have been eyeing for months. And the really good ones will tell you upfront.
Patrick Leeland

p.s. working with little sleep
The PPFA has given a lot of great articles and business briefs over the years. In addition to what Bob mentioned I dug out Guerilla Marketing and Understanding Growth When Growing Bigger does not replace Being Better. I'm starting to accept the fact that because of where we are located there is going to be a perception that we are high end and I guess I really don't mind that. Perhaps I shouldn't be concerned with gaining the masses and concentrate on the friends, family through word of mouth of the clients I already have .
We do raise our prices accordingly everytime there is an increase to us. In addition to "cracking the nut" every month our overhead is quite expensive, but it also gives us our high end customers and we accept that trade off.
Guilty as charged of overdiscounting. We need to work on not giving the store away. I understand the point Dave made about the customer/friend relationship, because we are more apt to automatically give them a discount.
I think I'll still call the West Side Leader to do another story on us, but just for the extra exposure and not neccessarily to get the BB customers. We've always advertised in the past "come the see the difference experience and quality make", and that is the best we can offer.
Thanks for the input,
In this decade, the largest question for small shop framers is: How do we get potential customers to come into the store?

Most of us know what it takes to offer and sell products and services our customers will find satisfactory, and how to price them right, and how to turn a profit if we're selling a reasonable number of frames.

Therefore, price probably isn't the central issue. Marketing is.

To put it another way, no matter how attractive our prices, and no matter how wonderful & unique our work, and no matter how neatly we operate, and no matter how much profit we earn per frame, it's all for naught if too few potential customers choose to come through the front door.

On the other end of the issue, if traffic through the door is good, then we can probably deal with whatever other difficulties we may have.
Spot on Jim. I know that if a client walks through my door they will be framing with me as long as I provide them with what they are looking for. But there in lies the problem..How do I get more of them to walk through my door? to be honest, in San Francisco the BBs mean nothing to us but the other 81 frame shops currenltly listed do. Especialy since at least a quarter of them provide similar quality and service to me. Of course my shop is the best. He who markets best wins in cities like this.
No matter what, denouncing oposition stores will not benefit anyone, you must only counteract with positive marketing as outlined by these clever chaps above.
A sign of the times......a sales rep from one of our suppliers paid us a visit recently. The first thing she did before showing us new samples was hand us a CD featuring pre-framed fine art by the distributor. Is this not a conflict of interest on their part?

Sally Rich
The Frame Merchant and Gallery
If they are selling directly to the public, then yes. But if you can buy "pre-framed" art for less than you can do the work yourself, then buy it, and sell it for a profit - with no labor involved.

Times are slow, we all seem, or want to panic. Always save some money, even if it is only $25.00 a week. You never want to convey to your customers (or guests, clients, friends, whatever) that you are desperate.

We are always going to have slumps in our industry. I have always noticed that people who close their business's seem to have everybody but themselves to blame their demise on. The bottom line is it is ONLY their fault.

Things get tough, no savings, no credit, they quit. Quiting is the surest way to solve all your problems, it darn sure is the EASIEST way out.

Businesses that survive have savings, have credit, (that means do not go in debt if you can not pay it off.) Above ALL else, they do not quit.

If things are slow, work on your shop, making better products, advertising, phone calls, cold calls, whatever it takes. Do not sit on your butt looking for an excuse for your failure.

If you are up to your ears in debt, stop using that credit, start paying it down. At the same time, put something, anything, into a savings account. I know this seems awfully fundamental, you would be amazed at the number of people who have not grasped this one.

Remember, any idiot can give it away, don't panic and start doing that. Sure, offer a coupon, don't give all your profits away with that coupon.


Speaking of marketing, I recently played the customer at the area BB's. On the counter at one of the BB's was a nice brochure proclaiming "A truly memorable moment deserves being preserved forever!" The brochure goes on to explain how the "skilled and trained framing professionals of BB and Truguard UV glass are preserving your memories". One of the other BB's has the same message on their website and uses the combination of their name and Truguard throughout their store displays. The last BB I visited was using product names liberally throughout the frame department as well.

Would it be effective for us little guys to jump on the same band wagon and tell the consumer that our "skilled and trained framing professionals use
Artcare, Linco, Truguard, Larson-Juhl" or whatever
product names seem important to the consumer?

If the product name isn't important to the customer, then the BB's are sure spending a lot of money promoting Tru Vue.
Why is it always "Driving customers in through my front door"?

Why is it never "Go out an club new business over the head and drag it back in"?

Because one you just passively wait for, and the other may involve work, persaverence, time, effort, work, creativity, work, and a little confrontation with something called "Cold Calling".

OK, I'll make it easy on you.... when was the last time you went through 500 business cards in a month? In a week?

Business cards are cheap. Especially when you buy them 10,000 at a time. When you buy groceries, give the clerk your card... you don't know if she has two boys in Little League and her husband makes megabucks and shes looking for a framer....
When you get gas, give a card or four.
When you tip the waitress/waiter, also leave a card (unless you just did the 10% thing).
When you picked up your dry cleaning....leave a few cards. Did you know that dry cleaners are some of the wealthiest people in town? More Dry cleaners retire as millionaires then any other skilled business. Even plumbers.

Go to museums and leave cards. Go to schools and leave cards. The guy that mows your lawn. His mother might need a frame.
Absolutely, great observation and recommendation. I learned this one from Bob Carter. If the big boys are doing it, you can bet there is a solid reason for doing so. Let the big boys spend the money on research, we don't have that much anyway.


when i am seeking any service, where do i look 1st? i need a dry cleaner-- phone book. i want a pizza.... phone book. oil change? phone book. it is my belief that this is the single most important piece of advertising you can invest in- and you only have to do it once a year!
Business is hardly my strong point, but making sales is.
As I travel around the country, I keep finding shops that are doing very well. Not rich, but making a good living. I once gave a lecture and asked how many in the audience knew what their bottom line was, their break even point. Very few in the audience raised their hands. I then asked how many made over $50 thou a year and got no hands, but a lady said later. “I make over $50 thou but I wasn’t going to raise my hand in front of all those people”. You might be very surprised by who is doing what.

There are so many kinds of framing businesses today, so many areas to specialize in. Price can be a deciding factor in some, location in another. I heard Mark Bluestone say once that he didn’t always choose the best location but he knew when to cut his losses and close a bad location. Understanding how to run a business is crucial but a new customer said to me, “There are lots of framers but few custom framers”. There is so much to know, so many skills a framer needs to run a framing business and most have little to do with the craft of framing. But I still know, from experience that design drives the sale and good design brings them back. Add a well run business to the art of design and the combination is unbeatable.
Good article, C.C.H.

At first the title suggested to me that the article would be about being close in price but justifying a slightly higher price by differentiating yourself from the competition. However it had more to do with letting your competitors bring in business. Some of this advise is also contained in the book "Up Against the WalMarts"... a must read for all small business owners.

Dave Makielski
If you ever have the opportunity to take one of Nona's classes, I whole heartedly suggest it. She has such a wonderful blend on knowledge and showmanship that is the envy of this educator. And when she adds a huge dollop of passion, you can still the chant ringing in your memory of "Nona, Nona, Nona" at the end of every class.

And a she correctly suggest that every good business has a well rounded blend of great design and business skill.

With that business skill comes the ability to be flexible and adaptable. The marketplace has changed dramatically and continues to spin wildly in directions beyond our imagination. Yet, many of us run our businesses pretty much the same as we did 10yrs ago. My suggestion is that we need not be afraid of change and need to look to others for that change.

As John correctly reminds us , these huge behemoths have resources that are staggering. And they share their assessments of the marktplace by the manner in which they do business.

I am not advocating that we become clones or mini-thems, but they do many things well and we need not ignore those forces active in the marketplace.

As an easy self administered market test, chart your next 100 customers. List their wants, why the bought, why they didn't buy, what suggestions they embraced, which they did not, etc.

But, before you do this, write down your perceptions of what the answers will be. Seal in it an envelope and do not look at it until your test is completed AND you have made your analysis of the data compiled.

Then, open it and compare. It might scare you to death. 100 customers might take a few weeks to compile, but include every single client. It might be a fun and eye-opening experiment.

Be honest and don't be afraid of the findings. If you truly have no price resistance in any of these reviews, it is a great opportunity to do as Dave suggests and raise your prices.

And, for heaven's sake, if you find areas that have no price resistance (let's say for suede mats, for example)then you absolutely should increase those.

As Nona says, this is one example of developing great business skills

No, where did the shop that closed (that started this thread)go wrong, do you think? Lori said that the BB's killed her. What were the components that contributed, in your opinion?
One of the frameshops I visited recently provided some decent advice about competing with big-box retailers.

The shop is located in the same shopping plaza as a Michaels, and the owner said it actually prospers from the close proximity.

If Michaels can’t finish a job in the amount of time a customer needs it, they’ll send the business down the street to the shop. This drives in tons of orders, the shop owner says, because they usually can turn the project around quicker.

I know that Michaels often takes several weeks to frame a piece, and I know customers get frustrated with this. Maybe advertising a quicker turnaround time is one key to competition. Or, maybe developing some kind of working relationship with the framing department of a big-box retailer, as the shop I met with has, would be advantageous. Just some thoughts.

Kristin Stefek
Great input, Kristin! I think the ability to turn work around on the customers schedule, whenever possible, is a distinct advantage. When a customer asks when a job should be ready for pick-up, my immediate response is..."When do you need it?". This conveys to the customer that you are there to serve their needs and want to be responsive to them. One of the main advantages a small enterprise has is that it can react quickly and turn on a dime when necessary. A BB (Big Battleship???) can't do that and you are not talking to the owner when you shop a BB. We can also put a personality on our business.

Dave Makielski

"It helps to be a little dinghy."
I have dropped my new business (now 10 months old) direclty between a Michaels and Corners (a chain store that operates at phenominal sales volumes in a 4500 sq/ft box always in "A" locations). Some say "are you nuts?" my response is, "I am going to fish where the fish are."

My marketing approach has been a four promged stategy:
1. Be very competitive on price. The reality is, that it is not hard to be competitive on price and still make great margine. Let the world know you have great prices. Not always the lowest, but great, fair prices. Back them up with added value and they suddenly become even more attractive.
2. Offer personal/professional service. I know this is not unique among this croud, but it is with my neighbors.
3. Create great design and quality work using only the best materials. (Well, I can't lie. In some instances, I have used the "appropriate" materials in order ot hit a particular customer's budget. Usually on commercial jobs and things of that nature...) and no matter what stand behind your work.
4. The fastest turnaround time. 7 Days or even same day if needed. This one wins me a fair amount of customers. My neighbors even sned their customers to me for this service. (Once I get my hooks in them they never go back)

.. I guess there is a fifth one. We are (pardon the expresion) "whores" for press. We do everything we can to get photos or at least a mention in any paper we can. We love ink. It's free advertising. It's someone else telling the world about you. That's good stuff.

I am happy to say it is working. It is of course slow getting started, but all reports indicate that people are liking it...YEAH!

Baer said something earlier in this conversation that I would agree is right feeekin' on! GO GET THE BUSINESS! My lord, do not wait for the customers. Go through yourself in traffic if you have to. Just go get'em.

It's out there. There is plenty of business out there...... go get your peice of it.
Very good advice, Harry. And if I might add something on pricing? Some items, top of the line, ought to carry a top of the line price. Specialty work ought to carry a premium price. That 30 pc shadowbox collage ought to be priced at a premium, yet that is the area we all tend to "drop the price" a little

And some items, especially those that are easy to compare, absolutely need to be priced competitively. It's too easy to leave a negative impression on something that is too easily compared. And, I'll give you a great example

We looked at photo kiosks a few years ago. We thought we had the traffic to support the concept and thought we might be able to sell some framing off the clients getting their prints reproduced. The kiosks did fantastic work. Except that our cost for this self service kiosk was around 25 cents a print and we thought we would retail for around 49 to 59 cents a print. So we did a little market research and found everyone that we spoke to that had a digital camera absolutely knew the "hot"price on digital prints. The knew what Costco charged and what Walgreens charged and it was about what our costs were

The point? If we could not be competitive, the only thing we would accomplish was to reinforce that most harmful of impressions-that of being expensive.

That doesn't mean we don't have expensive frames or charge expensively on those things that require a lot of intensive labor-face it the clients that want the best, and you can prove that you can meet their needs, will pay. But that represents only a portion of the buying public. And frankly,we simply cannot live on that slice of the pie

But, by having enough " competitively priced" product, that which gives a comfort level to "These guys look like their prices are reasonable" mentality, overcomes that "threshold fear" so prevalent in most shops.

Pricing is a careful blend that requires a real knowledge of the marketplace and your own customer base.

We do a little more than the average frameshop and see maybe a few more, and maybe wider client base, than most. But, by attempting to attract a little wider base, you might se a widening of your volume base.

Just as we have several strata of demographics (and hope to attract even more) you ought to have enough pricing levels, at competitive prices, to satisfy as many of hose different customers as reasonable

I think Harry is right on the button
In terms of the pricing question, I always remember that there are three things that go into figuring out what something costs: time, grief, and dollars. It seems that if you pay less in one, you will pay more in another, hence the BB scenario of, "I got the hammer for $2 less, but I had to walk through the whole store and it took 10 minutes to find someone who knew where the hammers live, and then when it broke I couldn't get any help, etc..."

This is what the BBs do so well: they minimize the price, which means they have to inflate the other two. But people have a hard time seeing that, in that they are used to the hassles and think that is what it has to be like... until they go someplace where it is different.

The secret, it seems, is to somehow transmit to customers that value is determined by more than just price. Their time and the grief factor count, too.

Value-added, I think the marketing folks call it...

You hit the fly on the nose, Terry. You really hammered him...now where is the flyswatter department?

The old adage "Service, Price, Quality...you can only give two" contrary to many opinions, still is alive today in this writer's opinion. Maybe there has been some improvement in narrowing the differences, but it's still true that no one can deliver all three. A business has to define itself and its target market by deciding what balance of these three will be the goal.

Dave Makielski
This thread started because Lori passionatly explained the tale of a fellow framer that shut down their shop and listed as a primary cause as JoAnne's and Michael's

I realize that we really do not know what Michael's did that caused her demise, but don't you think it might be instructive to craft some opinions?

We do hear of store closings often and I wonder what it is that allows some shops to "flourish" in the shadows of these behemoths and others get rolled over.

Why do you think there are failures and why are there successes
I think it is because some shop owners set themselves up to be "victims". You go into their shops and it is deathly quiet, like going into a funeral home. Things are dusty, lights are turned down to save money, nothing seems to be going on. Even if I am exaggerating this scenario, you still get the feeling that things are not right.

Then the owner comes out to help help you and all she or he is projecting is doom. Why would you want to leave your work in a place like that? Why would you even want to help someone who has obviously given up on themselves? OK, I am amplifying it a little, but you get where I am going.

Nothing is more important than looking busy and successful, people like to shop where everyone else shops. If things are slow, start framing picture for the flea market or whatever, just stay busy. Michaels opens across the street from you, go and introduce yourself to the manager, leave him a stack of your cards, buy him lunch, whatever it takes to get him on your side.

Do not sit in your shop blaming your failure on the big box, your failure is your own making, nobody else's.

John, as usual, I think you're right. Attitude is everything. If you talk gloom and doom, your prophesy will be fulfilled.

This is also a reason I like to have the finished work out in the store, hanging when possible. Other customers admire the work and it spawns conversation.

People do like to take work to a busy framer because they interpret that as someone who is trusted, reasonable in price and knowledgeable.

Dave Makielski
A seminar I attended years ago summed up the image you want to project. I think it was Vivian Kistler who said we should appear to a prosepective customer to be a BUSY, PRESENT PROFESSIONAL.

:cool: Rick
Thank you, Bob. Those are truly the answers I wanted so we all don't make the same mistakes. However, I am not sure of all the reasons she believes hurt her the most. John, I very much agree failure is your own making. Ahlene and I are extremely upbeat, positive people and project that to our customers. No matter what we are feeling the "game face" goes on when a customer comes through our doors.
Thank you everyone who has responded. I have enjoyed the advice and the articles. By-the-way, the phone book ad and smart pages with a link to the phone book ad is the best BAR NONE.
Thanks again,
I have a large mirror right above my drymount press and try to glance at it before I go out to greet a customer. Most of the time I scare myself :eek: , but it helps me "put on a good face" to greet whoever's darkening my door step.

Dave Makielski
This is an old lesson I learned years ago.

" No matter how bad things seem to be, it's business as usual."

That little sentence has guided me through a lot of tough times over the years. For the life of me, I do not know if someone told me that, or if I came up with it on my own.

Its already a great day I woke up this mourning!~
With apologies to Betty--who I know just LOVES PPFA--and Bob--one of our best educators in my opinion--I think surveys are the most deadly of tools available. Think about it: you get a survey to fill out. Areyou being absolutely truthful? I mean would you rather put down your average job at $190 or fudge a bit and use a $225 figure? Or annual revenue at $200K when in fact it's more like $150K? And what about your area? What about overhead factors? I need to charge more in my Knoxville prime real estate than someone else who isn't in a primo location. Or my Knoxville area is a whole lot different than Atlanta/Chicago/Tuscon, etc.

How many STILL use Larson's "sliding scale" for pricing instead of taking harsh reality-type looks at pricing as Jay and others have countless times suggested. And Jay goes into quite a bit of time explaining why the Larson-type sliding scale is a vicious circle. OR, how many price base on competition rather than their own realities of location and overhead?

Finally, as I recall, that survey was based on statistics over one year old. But that's vague memory 'cause I read it in the bathroom, had a chuckle and tossed it.

I'd be very VERY wary of industry surveys due to the above factors. But then again, I'm just an ol' cynic.
Hi Mike-Every survey has the potential to be wrong; that's why you have a margin of error. And sure people lie and fudge. So, that's why you have base of 40,000 to create a leveling factor. Most people do answer accurately

Dating of data is problematic. It may take 6 months from inquiry to publish and that is if all goes well.
There doesn't seem to be any shortcuts.

But, the real power of surveys is to give sense of market and trends. Once we start getting back to back surveys, their value is increased

The best thing I can suggest you do with any of the data is to test it locally; compare the findings as best you can. In fact, the local data is much more appropriate.

You are pretty straight shooter and would love to discuss any area that you found troubling. Sometimes we do read more into this stuff than needed

But, I will tell you every single survey teaches ne something about my biz. The changes in our operations have shown great measureable results.

We recently did a retirement award for the gentlemn at AMEX that created a program to highlight abnormal, statisticaly, purchases that cut their fraud losses substantially. His favorite expression was something along the lines of "Without hard data, we're just a bunch of nomads wandering through the desert"

And thanks or the wonderful compliment
Jerry: semi retired and enjoyng my lake house in western NC, plus haven't had a lot to say 'cause we've been REEEEEALLL busy.

Bob: the problem with surveys, I think, is that too many people don't take them as trends but take them as Gospel. This month's Decor's a great case inpoint: I KNOW,'cause Ishop them, every one of my competitors' pricing schedules. I know where I fit in that scheme of things. And no one in the Knoxville area has pricing anywhere NEAR this survey. I don't know where all this data comes from but it sure didn't come from my area.

So that's it: hopefully people take these as you suggest, as trend setters and not wht people are doing downthe street from your shop
Mike-That is exactly the point. The Decor surveys are a couple of hundred respondents, most with a very decided bias. The PPFA survey was 40,000 people of whom 27,000 responded.

Exit surveys (what did you do) are typically the much higher accuracy variety. Way back in the days, I remember a gifted Professor that explained the differences well (It might be the only thing). He indicated that if you asked a bunch of 19-20 yr old college boys (that would be all the guys in the class) what they thought of their chances of getting "lucky" on their Saturday night date, the numbers would be drastically different than if you asked the co-eds on Sunday morning.

I do agree that I don't put much stock in the Decor surveys either. The numbers are what we used to refer as statistically invalid. Just not enough participants.

And that highlights the need to validate these numbers with a local confirmation. When in doubt, go for the local angle

But, I do understand your skepticism