The future of custom framing

J Phipps TN

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I am in the mist of making some very big decisions for my shop! I am just wondering, for those of you who have been in business for a while...

What do you believe the future holds for a very small independent frame shop? I'm not talking about the garage framers with no over head, I am talking about the small independent retail owners?

Is there going to be a place in the future for them?

The shoe maker business of the past come to mind! There still are a few, but they are usually doing it along with something else. Are we on our way to ending up like that?

Just need some opinions.....

I know this is a terrible time of year to ask, but I just need to make some important decisions about my future now.
 

Mike LeCompte CPF

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Future? There is none. Buy a McDonalds or Subway or a tatoo/massage parlor. Probably more profitable and tons more fun
 

Framing Goddess

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Jennifer,
Is your lease up for renewal?
I say yes, there is definitely a future.
Depends how hard you want to work for it.
edie the beingrealistic goddess
 

seido

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My opinion is..."SPECIALIZE" in something and promote the **** out of it. Make your shop the only one that is an expert in (fill in the blank). Go after every interior designer in town, go after all the art galleries that don't do their own framing, or go after corporate accounts etc. and focus you business on that area.

We can't compete with the Rag Shop or Michael's and never will, so why do what they do?

I am convinced that I will never get rich framing but, I love it, it makes me happy and I absolutely refuse to do anything that doesn't make me happy so, if I can make a living and pay the bills, that's just fine with me...just try to be different than the competition.

Joel
 

Dave

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I don't believe you will become wealthy operating a small independent framing operation, but, if you love to frame the satisfaction can overcome the modest financial rewards. A living can still be made, but the rewards are more in the affirmation received due to your craftsmanship and the satisfaction that you are presenting and preserving someone's treasures for future generations.

I think that a one or two person frame shop must create both a niche market and a loyal following. Just a few quality minded customers can make or break an operation. Or, alternatively, a commercial framing operation with the right business customers can also support a small framer.

I believe it would be difficult to open a small shop without at least some customer base already in place unless it is potentially a vibrant untapped market. As mentioned before in past threads, financial resources would have to be committed to marketing and staying power to develop a new enterprise from scratch.



Dave Makielski
 

Bob Carter

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I hate it when I hear comments like "you cannot get rich" or "modest finacial rewards". It sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy

Jay Goltz said that he felt, recently, that about 1/3 current framers probably wouldn't be around in a few years. Look at how many prolific Grumbler posters have gone out of business just in the last few years

I know several framers that would disagree with the "modest finacial rewards" limitation

My suggestion: If you do things the way you used to and are unwilling to adapt, your prognosis might not be as rosey. We tend to be a "yesterday, today and tomorrow" bunch.

As in "I did it that way yesterday. I will do it that way today, and I will do it that way tomorrow".
 

stud d

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I think it will be increasingly harder for one or two person shops to gain ground. I think it is now more than ever harder to do. I think you really need to cover your area. You must be able to go outside the shop and drag customers back to you-cave man style. You need to work with artists, decorators, interior designers, museums, whoever you see that you can provide framing too. The build it and they will come era is over. Being proactive is a must. Go, do, learn, improve, build.

I beleive in smaller markets the one and two person shops will always exist. But there is alot of competition going for the same group of customers, that will hurt all shops. The larger shops if set up to run more efficiently and provide as much as possible can do it at a faster rate than the smaller guys.


It is going to be hard for all. Who knows maybe these big craft outlets will crash soon and it will go back to the mom and pops? Anything could happen.


PL
 

Baer Charlton

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Originally posted by Mike LeCompte CPF:
Future? There is none. Buy a McDonalds or Subway or a tatoo/massage parlor. Probably more profitable and tons more fun
I've gotta agree.

If your asking the question you are asking, then you are asking for affermation of your own fears.

If you are asking about new trends and capturing some of that new exciting market... you already signed that lease and are just open for new ideas and money to fatten the IRA and SEP with.

Framing has only been around for 600 years, and has only captured 8% of the possible market.. that leaves at least 20% of the market untouched... head out and touch that market.
 

stud d

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Bob is right, what business person would go into a business thinking I could do OK? Well that is not the thought process of a business person. So they would go in another direction.

The bigger shops will grow, or add more locations. The smaller will find it hard to compete. That scares me to say it, but look at the vendors. The larger grow...smaller vanish.


And the fix and forget it people, well there is no use trying to change them. If they are not awake let them sleep.

PL
 

Mike LeCompte CPF

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Betty: 'cause I'm too lazy to learn how to cane

Baer: agree to which statement? The tatoo/massage parlor, or the McDonald's/Subway?

Honestly, I WAS being sarcastic. Just trying to raise a little "cane" (no pun intended) on a hot summer Tuesday.

Y'all have fun
 

J Phipps TN

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OK, Let me ask this of you smallretailers....

Are you still growing or have you seen a decline?

I, myself, am about $3000. behind last year. That is not a significant difference. I seem to be chugging right along.

I have just been seeing alot more of framimg in the bigger shops. I mean good ready mades and larger photo frames, and those signature frames everywhere. What concerns me, is the fact that you never saw those in such abuntance in years past. And with the decline of LE prints and the flooding of the market with preframed poster frames, It just makes me wonder, what our future is.

I miss counted cross-stitch. There has been nothing to replace it! Scrapbooking seems to have taken it's place but with no need for framing!

I'm not trying to sound doom and gloom, I just have a decision to make and I am struggling. (It's not my lease renewal)
 

Baer Charlton

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Jennifer, is there a Counted Crossstitch or needlework shop with in an hours drive of you?

How many talks have you given on the proper way to frame needle art?

Have you framed every last piece of needleart in the county.... they sure aren't going to the BBs... Michael's and JoAnns both refer them to us.

If word was truly out there about how much you love framing needleart and what a wonderful job you do because of you love for it... this thread probably wouldn't exsist because you would be wielding an attach E-Z gun and trying to catch up.

As we talk to some of our older needleworkers, they are amazed at how many young 20 & 30 somethings are taking up X-stitch and Tatting. We're just not sure we want that business.... but it is coming in.
 

J Phipps TN

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There is no cross-stitch shop in town except for one that also is a frame shop and he only has a little of the stuff left.

I wish it would come back, young people would fall in love with it all over again.

I would add it to my inventory. It's just that nobody around here is into it!!

I started out in a cross-stitch shop in 1986! we had 3 full time stretchers(we all had to fit up too), one mat cutter and a frame builder. We also had a full-time manager and a part time fit-up person! It was a larger business, that did very well. but when cross-stitch went out of style it went belly up!

Oh to have a new framing freindly trent come back around!!!!!!

Right now the bulk of my framing is Diplomas, prints, childrens art and shadowboxes.

I did do 4 crosstitches last month but it was from a family visiting from South Africa and they brought it with them. They won't be back for another 10 years! HA
 

JbNormandog

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Jen,

If it isn't to prying, what is your big decision?

I'm sure there probably are others here who may have faced it also.

And besides you have my curiosity up.
 

Dave

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I think much of what we are discussing here is somewhat moot because we are speaking in generalities. We are not defining a "small frame shop" or what a "modest financial reward" is. To some a six person shop is small. Some may consider a $ 100,000.00 a year profits "modest" while others would view it as a fortune. Bob, you say you know "several" small (whatever size shop that is) who would disagree about modest returns...is that two or 200?...and what are we considering modest?

Until we define some of the terms, we cannot intelligently discuss the issues except to answer as best we can with more generalities...which we may all define differently.

Dave Makielski
 

BrianInOmaha

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For us, we purchased a frame shop almost 3 years ago. The location was perfect, but not for "just" a custom frame shop. So we adapted and start building quite an inventory of accessories and other unique items for the home. Started off slow but has really picked up. Now, our area is changing again with many folks moving downtown into "loft" style condos. Our custom framing has really picked up again and the other stuff is still flying. It is always been my opinion that a one dimensional shop will always have bigger problems than a diversified shop. Custom framing will always have its peeks and valleys....find something that compliments your shop and business plan.
 

stud d

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Brian I think you are right. There are too many shops that you can only buy two things in, art and framing. You need to have some type of gifts or jewelery to sell. Something else.

I could not bean owner of a frame shop and make
$30, 000 a year. I would have to be around $50,000 my salary in order to make it work-starting out. I wonder how people exist on that $30,000 and make it work. I worked in a two person shops bout 5ive years ago, we did about $207,000 in one of the years I was there. If the costs were a third=69,000. So now we are down to $138,000. I worked three days a week on average. I was paid $14.oo an hour times eight hour days=$336 a week times 50 weeks (took off for christmas and summer)$16,800. So no we are down to $121,200.

Ok I am at a blank, what else do we pay for...? I am guessing he was making somewhere around $60,000 a year? Someone disagree and tell me what I am forgetting-tell me why he is not making $121,000 a year.

PL

There are numbers, been a few years, so I forget complete details, sorry
 

J Phipps TN

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Dave,

The size I mean is $80,000 to $250,000 gross sales a year.

That is what I call small business.

Brian,

What kind of inventory do you carry?


JBNormandog,
It's not that big a deal, I just may have an oportunity to sale and I have put so much into this shop, I'm not sure if I should! If I thought the industry would turn around in the near future, I would like to keep it and reep the reward. I've only been in business for 6 years and I started it myself, I didn't buy it from anyone and it's hard to think about giving it up!
 

josephforthill

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I ask myself the same questions as Jennifer. I am trying to develop more custom framing business to build on my current gilding, restoration and antique business. As I continue to dig myself deeper into framing bit by bit, I wish I was an MBA with the analytical and business skills to evaluate the prospects on a purely factual basis, rather than relying on my gut feelings about the future of the framing business.

I do think that one key is to be realistic about your core strengths and assets, and try to work with, rather than against them.

As for Jennifer (or anyone else, for that matter), if Marc Bluestone is the speaker at a meeting, make sure you attend. Much of what he says will strike a chord, not just with framers, but with most businesses.

Joseph
 

J Phipps TN

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PL,

That 1/3 cost is for framing supplys. That doesn't include over head, like lights, phone, rent etc.

That would be my guess. And don't for get employee taxes! He has to match what you paid!
 

Ray

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Patrick you are forgetting about such things as rent,utilities, insurance ,employee insurance , social security, telephones, advertising and the myrid of other expenses that come up equipment purchase and maint., Maint on the building( even when you rent you are responsible for things like plumbing elec. repairs and A.C, repairs. It is not cheap being in business,it costs me about $107 per day in expenses for the building 7 days a week 365 days a year and my rent isn't that high here like in a lot of places I have checked!!!!!!
 

Cliff Wilson

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Patrick,

There was a thread here some time ago in which a VERY few of us claimed to "get" about 1/3 of gross as compensation. Most believed that was an over statement. So, as a REALLY gross guestimate, figure somewhere between 25 and 30 percent as "owner compensation" of one kind or another. It depends on many factors and is ony a very rough estimate on my part.
 

Cliff Wilson

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Jennifer, would you be getting a good positive return on your investment if you sold? Is your "return" in excess of your salary a good return over time?

I believe there is a solid future potential in this business, but for the right offer, I'd sell. Of course, the question is what is "right."
 

Mecianne

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We are in our 2nd year (1 yr 8 months) storefront. I do framing/ hubby does photography. As of today, we have far surpassed this year what we grossed last year. Is there a future? I hope so, but like Dave said, this is much like discussing global warming. Throw out some hard core specifics, numbers, etc.

If you want answers from the collective "us" that is the Grumble, I think you are looking in the wrong place. I know you would like to hear words of encouragement (what real good would that do?)make ya feel better, make ya stick it out a few more years? If you hear someone say "Sell, now!" will you really sell your business. I wish I could say something informative to help you, but honestly, I have panic attacks some weeks and highs of happiness other weeks. Usually that is called bipolar, but it is also called owning your own business.


In whatever you decide, I wish you luck and happiness, Jennifer.
 

BrianInOmaha

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Jennifer,

We of course carry your standard best selling unframed posters. We first start carrying manufactured necklaces sets just to make sure there was a market for the items. As soon as that start coming around we searched out 3-4 local artisians for handmade necklaces, bracelets, etc... We have also found several woodworkers for our shop. One company you have to check out is Barnstorm LLC out of Georgia. Their products are made from recycled barn metal. Really cool, unique stuff with great price points. Our area has turned somewhat touristy in the last 2 years with the addition of the Qwest Center (13,000 seat auditorium and 2 Convention Centers). Those folks are not walking around with something to be framed, so the key was finding product I can sell them without losing touch with my business. Bringing in and Showcasing local art has really been the difference. The tourist love picking up items specific from the city and the locals are really starting to love the local flair. I would have to say, I don't open up the floodgates and sell all local art, I still am very particular as to what we display, but a nice mix keeps the gallery looking fresh. Oh yeah, I forgot......signed sports memorabilia......unframed 8x10's...guess who does the framing?
 

HarryGMCPF

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Is there a future? HHMMMMMM, let's think about that for a minute.

Hmmmmmmmmmm

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

There better be. There has to be.

Therefore there will be. One way or another.

It is really a question of what the future will look like. I beleive that because of the nature of our business and our craft/art there will always be a need for our services.

Can you make a decent and even proserous living making frames and providing related services? Sure! But, as with every profession. There are those that rise to the top and those that struggle/limp along eaking out a living everyday. Me, I am after the former. If I don't get there it won't be for lack of trying.

I had a great mentor one time who taught me that you should never be afraid to stop doing those things that you have always done if they stop being effective. In other words, embrace change. Don't fear it.

We have a future. And it is bright. If you want it to be and are willing to work smartly toward it.

Work smarter. Plan and execute.
 

Dave

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I agree with all that has been said about embracing change. A small business has much more opportunity to turn on a dime and experiment with new products, services, marketing, etc. than a BB chain.

Each of us survives to one degree or another in our own microcosm. Our communities, talents and opportunities are all different. Being able to identify those opportunities and act intelligently on them will make the difference between success and failure.

We can sift through what others do or have done and glean what may work for us. No one can tell you what WILL work...there is no one set formula or mold for a successful small business, It is both an opportunity and a challenge...it's what makes being a small business owner exciting and, at times, a roller coaster ride.

Dave Makielski
 

Jerry Ervin

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Originally posted by Dave:
...there is no one set formula or mold for a successful small business,
I not disagreeing with you. I feel the same way.

However, isn't that exactly what buying a franchise is all about? Not just in our industry, but others as well.
 

Jay H

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The only way I know to eliminate the abstraction from this discussion is for you, as an individual, to decide what you want out of your shop. THEN go find other shops that are already doing what you hope to do. Call em, visit, or drop and email and ask THEM what they think the future of framing is.

Then the answer will be more specific. Heck you never know they might end up feeding you exotic beers and take you to the beach (thanks Warren). If they are bailing out, scaling back, or curling up in the fetal position, then you will have your answer!

When you ask a really abstract question like this here, the answers you receive will be equally abstract.

See like this answer. “Yes”. I hope my take on this topic helps.

I would like to add this as a note to myself as much as anybody. Seeing into the future is the easy part. Positioning your shop to succeed by changing the things you know need to is the really hard part. I have a really strong opinion in what I believe framing in the future will be like, yet I am still holding back on the changes that I know I need to make! Don't ask me why?

Carry on.
 

Dave

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Remember though Jerry, not all franchise stores or franchises succeed either.

Dave Makielski
 

Jim Miller

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Well, yes, Jerry. Franchises generally provide a successful business formula. However, some franchise companies are not doing as well as they once did -- and not only in the framing industry. Restaurant and other kinds of franchises have troubles here, as well. Perhaps it is because some markets are evolving differently than others, and what works 'here' might not work so well 'there' anymore.

In Columbus we have seen at least half a dozen frame shops affiliated with national and regional franchises come and go in the past five years. I don't think any are still open here. We've lost a significant number of small independents, too, but the mortality rate of franshise shops has certainly been higher.
 

DTWDSM

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To put it very simply, the success of a franchise store (no matter what industry) always depends on the individual franchisee. Someone who buys a franchise thinking that it will be easy or somewhat easy money, will always fail.

The problem is that not every average Joe can run a business and there are many franchises that want to sell a franchise.

It is kind of like the late night commercials about the people who order the DVD on how to make a fortune buying and selling real estate, there are a few who do make good money but the ones who are making the loot are the ones who sell the DVD.

****Disclaimer*****
By no means does the above comments reflect my opinions on any particular franchise in our industry. I have always said that there are pros and cons to franchises in our industry.
 

Cliff Wilson

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A franchisor is supplying a business system that has been proved to work in some locations, by some operators.

There is no guarantee that that system will work in any particular location or for any particular operator.

However, because it HAS worked for some in some location, the odds are better that it will work again. But, the individual operator still must OPERATE the business in a positive way for their local!
 

J Phipps TN

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Jay,
Could money be you factor on making those changes?

There is alot I would like to do here in my shop , but money is my hold back!! The big risk factor!

Thanks for all of your response. It does give me something to think about!
 
P

pcascio

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Framing is like most businesses - operator dependant. There are too many "artistes" and too few business people our industry. A moron in a hurry can learn how to put four sticks together and cut a hole in a piece of colored paper.

Framers who apply their creativity to building and marketing their business and who recognize that custom framing is "sales" business, tend to succeed. Those who focus on, "How do I make Fren ch mats," are generally doomed to failure.

Our industry in general lacks sales and marketing skills, and more so the recognition of need for them.
 

Bob Carter

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Agree with Paul, 100%

Asking a question like this is like asking what is the future of the airline business

People will fly and the need is greater than ever

But, if you operate like an Eastern Airlines, your results will be similar

But, if you look at the most successful airlines (and you are in that industry) than you might learn what it takes to be successful, too.

If you think you know what your customers want because of the way you "learned", then results might be predictable

A better question might be is "What is YOUR future in this industry"?

The loudest voices are often not the most successful
 

J Phipps TN

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Bob,
I don't think the airline industry is quite like ours. People "have" to fly, they don't have to use custom framing. especially with all the prefab stuff that is out there. That is why I was asking.

I mean think about it,
"Quilting" is something that has been around for 1000's of years and was even a needed item and I'm sure at one time or another there where alot of quilt supply shops, but with the mass production of blankets all over the world, what is the real need? It is a great form of art work too!

We have one Quilt shop in our whole region, and she struggles. That is what I am reffering to when I ask where you think the future of custome framing is headed.

Is it just going to go down to a few little shops for speciality items or do you think we will grow into a thriving industry again like in the 80's?
I'm hoping and praying for the latter!
 

Jay H

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Originally posted by J Phipps TN:
Jay,
Could money be you factor on making those changes?

There is alot I would like to do here in my shop , but money is my hold back!! The big risk factor!

Thanks for all of your response. It does give me something to think about!
To be 100% honest, its all self inflicted. There is nothing but me holding me back. I keep second guessing myself.
 

Bob Carter

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Jennifer-People will fly and people will frame

How you can pick your slice of that market really is the key

Just as there are lousy operators in the airline biz, there are lousy operators in the framing biz

Maybe a even more direct question might be "Are you a lousy operator?"

There will be framing done forever; it just may not be done by you. But, somebody will do it

Look beyond your borders
 

CAframer

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"There will be framing done forever"
But not necessarily the same way!

As sure as eggs are eggs this industry is going to see one heck of a lot more change in the next few decades than it has in the past few centuries.
 

B. Newman

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When quilts were a needed commodity, there were no such things as quilt shops. You used old clothes and other worn out clothing items.

When quilt shops were popular - quilting was a hobby or a passtime - not done strictly out of need. Just like any needlework shop, they were/are a passing fancy. (Always passing "in" and then "out" and then "in" again...)

And framing, though not a "necessity" is different from quilting or any other "hobby." Framing, at its core, is a service industry. When you add a print or whatever IN the frame, then it becomes "wall decor."

I think it's all a matter of where you position yourself in the marketplace.

Me? I want to make people think "What would we do without Betty?"
 

J Phipps TN

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That's so true Betty. Thanks for the perspective.

I would feel alot better about the industry as a whole if something like cross-stitch would come back. Or if LE prints would take thier place again.

I was hoping scrap booking would be the next cross-stitching for framing but no-one saw the need to get them framed.

I guess too, to be perfectly honest, I probably just miss the "easy" stuff. Now to get business, you have to convince your potential customers that they needframing. Use to, they knew it and came in on thier own.

But I guess there is no easy way, At least now, with all of the responses, I so feel better about the industry as a whole.

Framing is still kicking!
 
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