What is going to happen when the BB's get better

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Forum Donor
Jun 16, 2000
Roz was gleefully celebrating snagging a J's customer and several others joined her

But, suppose these guys get better, just a little bit better? What are the consequences?

Let's suppose that you just got hired to become th eDirector of Operations for one of these outfits.

Whatare the first three things you would change/improve/institute?

And, if done, how much more would they beat us up?
I'm not sure we should post any suggestions on an open forum. I'm sure the BBs troll bulletin boards like this just to see what is in the air about them - not that they need our help, but still. They don't post things that would help us, so it turns out to be kinda one-sided.
I thought something similar when reading that thread ... and how many went the other way?

Anyway, if I had that position there would be some changes and they obviously would improve things! ;)

But, I have a somewhat heretical question based on purely anecdotal information ... Have they really hurt?

What's my anecdotal evidence? first, I must preface by saying I've only "been around" for about 4 years, so wasn't around to analyze data during their "emergence." But, ...

Here in Worcester, MA and it's environs, there are more independent frame shops than before the arrival of our first BB. Some have come and some have gone. The couple that have been around for 15 or more years are larger in units and $$ than they were, and the (currently I'd say 2) BBs seem to be doing VERY well.

So, here at least I would venture a hypothesis that they have actually grown the market for custom framing.

Pre-framed art and photo frames are pretty clearly a different story, but my current guess is that is mroe a consumer trend based on generational differences related to technology than a cause and effect of BBs. May produce a similar effect, but our reaction should be consumer centric not competition reactive!
Employee retention is key.

While they may have / acquire the skills and talents we tout as our speciality. If they can keep the same face behind the counter, and adequately trainthe floor staff, then we will be in trouble.

Went into a Ms. the floor staff knew not what they were doing, and there was noone at the frame counter the whole time I was there. Customers were hittting the bell and walking back to check, but frame help was a no show. If that keeps up then I won't worry. If they address that then I will worry!

BUT having said that framing is a sideline there and a priority here
Originally posted by Bob Carter:
...But, suppose these guys get better, just a little bit better? What are the consequences?

Let's suppose that you just got hired to become th eDirector of Operations for one of these outfits.

What are the first three things you would change/improve/institute?

And, if done, how much more would they beat us up?
At a WCAf panel discussion a few years ago, one panelist (Suanne Derr, perhaps?), trying to make nice, commented to the effect that there's plenty of business for all of us. Another panelist, an upper-level manager of a craft store chain (Michael's, as I recall) responded to the effect that they intend to take all of the framing business. He was quite matter-of-fact about it, not malicious.

The most memorable moment was when the room fell absolutely silent after that exchange. It completely changed the tone of the discussion.

As a lowly peasant shopkeeper, I would not presume to guess how the giants of our industry will perpetrate their plan to wipe out small independent framers. They seem to have a plan that's working in most markets, but not all markets, and perhaps their business could be better.

I can't help thinking that their talented business planners occasionally ask in board meetings, "Suppose these independent framers get better, just a little bit better? What are the consequences?"
Originally posted by Jim Miller:
I can't help thinking that their talented business planners occasionally ask in board meetings, "Suppose these independent framers get better, just a little bit better? What are the consequences?"
Or perhaps:
"Suppose these independent framers get smarter about business, just a little smarter? What are the consequences?"
I agree with the consumer centric thought and feel that it is vital that we identify what consumers we target as our customers. Each shop will have to define that for themselves.

I struggle a bit with the concept that we have to be everything to every level of framing customer. It's said often here that we should strive to satisfy every strata of customer and at all price points.

Do the BB's try to hit all levels? Of course not. If they did, they could easily destroy this often misconceived notion that they are the best deal on the block. They very well could be the cheapest, but that does not constitute the best value.

I think the BB's have gotten better. I've said on this forum before that their use of conservation materials is uniform and more consistent than many independent framing operations.

If we (meaning the framing industry in general, including the BB's)are to grow the market, we'll ALL have to get better and more efficient in our operations.

Dave Makielski
Bob - who are you working for now!?

Just kidding ;)

Be the best to your market segment - I'm with you Dave - works well for me.
They need less turnover (happier employees), better designers, and better selection (theirs is somewhat limited; a better selection may inspire better design).

In an effort to be competitive, I don't know if they can do this.

less turnover and happier employees....more money.

better designers....training and.......more money.

better selection......more space, etc..more money.

guess what.....more money invested....higher cost of product.

I could be less expensive too if I cut my samples down to about 150 and hired partimers at close to min wage.

There are many reasons their business model works for them and to change it would alter the reason they are successful at what they do.

Dave Makielski
Jim-I am quite certain that these larger players don't give much consideration what we do. It's not arrogance, but simply too scattered a target

One of the things that all Business leaders do when planning is to see what meaningful competition does well and to what they can do to improve to meet that advantage

So far, all we seem to be able to do is suggest why it is we that is better

I understand the hesistancy to discuss such things, although I think is misfounded. These people that lurk can deduce all they wish and we freely offer suggestions all the time. All one needs to do is to ask for help (surreptiously)and the floodgates will open. Keeping information secretive probably hurts the average framer more.

I have had some major retailers send people to take my classes and most identify themselves. I'm sure it's true for other educators, also

If I ran one of these concerns I sure would take one of Jim Miller's classes or Marc Bluestone's or several others

The real purpose of offering this thread is to identify what we can exploit as an advantage.

Trust me, these people know more about the industry than we wish to give them credit
One of their challenges is the same as ours:

Their employees should be better and more extensively trained, perhaps an insistence on managers (at the very least) being CPF's. To be a part of the PPFA in all ways would lend them sorely needed credibility.

If I were them, I would want to get so good at capturing the market, that I would not have to advertise, screaming 50%!!!, 60%!!! OFF sales. I would aspire to offer common sense, no BS, everyday pricing. Think Warren Tucker. The screaming sales have got to wreak havoc with work (and cash) flow. They could look at Warren also when it came to turn-around time. They need to improve in that realm quite desperately.

If I were a big box, I would also work very hard to be able to offer CONSISTENCY to my customers. At best, they collectively have a varying reputation. This does not inspire customer confidence. Think McDonald's.

While they're at it, they could ditch the fluorescant lighting and discount store atmosphere.

If they were to do all that tonight, my shop would be extinct tommorrow.

edie the ifihadamilliondollars goddess
You made some great points. The BB's sorely lack giving their clients a "personal" experience.
The 50% off gimic is to me a "bait and switch" tactic, perhaps not literally but my experience with them was an unsmiling and unfriendly person who told me to come back next week when they had their 50% off.
As a consumer, I'm thinking, "Now what the heck is up with that?, come back next week??, isn't the price, the price?"
To appeal to only the price conscious consumer is why they are in business. Their business does not survive on "repeat" customers but constantly aquiring, "new" ones. In this regard I do not see them as a threat to me.
A lot of my customers "were" their customers but not anymore.

Consumers are savoy today and a lot don't want to support a Wal-mart mentality business.

I believe there is plenty of business for all of us. The trick is how do we get them in the door?
Full page ads in the Sunday paper would suit me fine but who has that kind of $ to spend on advertising?
After December 24th, I will comment more on this one. I wouldn't be too concerned about the BB's getting much "better", citing the employee situation. I did come on board as framing mgr, made some suggestions, implemented changes within my department concerning quality control, work flow, etc, and it helped my department, but as a corporation, it's all about sales, sales, sales. Those 50-60-70% sales definately impede production, turn-around time and definately employee morale, and the customers are getting wise to them. The more we do, the more they want. Framers are exhausted and frustrated and in a business where employee morale is imperative, it is bound to affect the overall nature of the beast, as in BB. More later.
"The more we do, the more they want". I meant corporate, not customers. But I know my "regular" customers come in because of what I offer them personally, which is service, my experience and expertise and consistancy, and that is not the norm for these stores. I know many will follow me when I go next week. I'm certainly hoping! The frame shop I worked at previous to M's was not affected by them, in fact it helped. Our customers slithered back to us after trying it there, and said they prefered our small-business atmosphere and expertise, personal attention and... prices! Our every day prices were better than "their" half-off specials. Keep doing what you're doing and I believe we will all be okay as the Little Guys.
I have been thinking about this because of the answers I still owe you. Stay tuned...

The big boxes could also do nicely with a big dose of hipness. Right now they have a fussy, chintzy, junky, styrofoam ball type atmosphere. If they reworked their image to be exciting and 'hip,' they would nab those newbie framing customers as soon as they get their first credit card! Right now, to say you just shopped at the 'craft store' is a bit embarrassing. If they were transform themselves into an Urban Outfitters/Anthropologie type place there is no limit to their success.

I think if they were consistently competent and 'cool' on top of that, the personal experience element would matter very little.

edie the takingawellearnedbreak goddess
I like this topic because I think we can ALL learn from it.

I used to be an Ops Manager for one of BBs, as it were, and we were always trying to figure out how to be just a "little bit better" and were limited in doing so by our size and the complexity of our operations, oh and the people, from the Sr Management right down to the PT/Seasonal employees. The other limiting factor was technology. It just aint up to snuff yet.

I think if the BBs ever get their hands around three things, they will clean-up. They need the same things we all do; consistant quality, the ability to consistantly deliver a pleasant shopping experience, and the ability to adapt to a specific market. As small one unit opereations we can overcome these problems much easier than even a small or medium size chain can. I beleive the BBs can't do any of these things without the people and the technology. In my expereince, these were the two largest obsticles that kept us from really knocking the cover off the ball.

Now that I am on my own and can look back at that experience I have a much better understanding of what needs to be done. I still don't know how you do it, but I can see it.

Just some rambling thoughts from an tired framer.

Is Christmas over yet? OYE!
The inherent limitations in running an operation that size, prominently including staffing issues, will make sure they don't fix too much.

But keep bettering yourself anyway.
By the way, these BB guys don't even think they are in the same business as you. Believe me, I talk to them.

They aren't going to improve along lines that Edie points out, as good as they are, because it doesn't even occur to them that you are competition. Why else do they joyfully send you overflow customers this time of year?

They have a product, they turn it over. They do it in the same way as they sell other products. They do lots and lots of simple work. They aren't going to put the time, effort, and care into truly custom projects. They aren't going to change their atmosphere. They don't want to be you. And you don't want them to be you either...
Whoa! Their business does not survive on "repeats", but constantly acquiring new ones? The most important trick to staying in business is keeping the repeats coming in, AND constantly acquiring new ones. Customers move, die, run out of wall space, lose their jobs, etc. If a BB is constantly adding new customers, and you have to ask how to do this, you are the one doing something wrong, not them.
The big boxes could also do nicely with a big dose of hipness. Right now they have a fussy, chintzy, junky, styrofoam ball type atmosphere.
Edie, the closest attempt I've seen was the Great Indoors stores that Sears opened, selling everything from appliances to lighting to cabinet hardware to linens to wall decor in a semblance of an "upscale bigbox" atmosphere. They had a framing department up front, which I believe was run by B.A.Framer. Experiencewise it was somewhat of a step above M's, but still no great shakes. The mouldings looked fair-to-okay in quality. Their "back room" was about the size of a walk-in closet. Guess what- the stores are GONE.
As Director of Operations of a large craft store:

First, creat and manufactur an exclusive line of molding and ready-made mirrors.

Second, sponsor a television show on TLC about art and framing and plug the **** out of the exclusive line. Some sort of home make-over with a fresh paint job and $2000 dollars in art and framing. Cute hostess and PPFA ceritified designers, the works.

Third, offer a store credit card with delayed payments offers for larger purchases.

Fourth, offer a delivery and mirror hanging service in larger markets.

Last but not least, make sure every frame shop manager is PPFA certified.

They would have us on the ropes.

I really don't worry about the BB's anymore, I realize that I a huge advantage over them. Speed.
Speed in changing and growing. Large companies are always behind in the curve due to the logistics of something large moving. I can change, re-implement and or completely re-invent myself anytime I choose. That is our power and we all need to realize the advantages we have. No director of operations has taken a client out to lunch or watched some customer's child play Little leage baseball. BB's workers arn't going to speed hours on end looking for a movie poster on-line for a client. BB's are not going to hand write greeting cards to thier entire client list every Christmas.

We are all taylor made business' and the extra mile has to be the constant. Once we start to resemble the BB's in apperence and actions, they will eat us alive.

I got a great fortune cookie last week, most of the time it is somethig really stupid. This one very well could have changed my life for ever. After I read it, I was half tempted to have in tatooed on forehead.

"Let your dreams be greater than your fears...."

I framed it and put it on the inside of my front door and read it before I leave the house every day.
I hate it when people say "There is enough business for everyone"

If you believe that then you are saying that you do not want to grow. We are in a business where the BB have and are entering the markets and taking market share away from smaller shops. Those shops are going out of business because they did't fight or didn't fight hard enough to keep their market share. They probably thought that there was enough business for everyone.

Sure you can have a good relationship with your competitors but when push comes to shove there really is not enough business for everyone, if there were we all would be doing well and never closing up shop. You have to look out for #1 at all times and do what it takes to keep your business.

What would make the BB better? More of what they do already, advertise. Use more mediums than they currently do already. Get more market share, because there really is not enough business for everyone.
Let's pretend it is 1960 and we are a group of independent gas stations/tailors/meat markets/camera stores/corner grocery/muffler shops/travel agencies/drive in movie/name any other operation.

How many of the same comments were probably made exactly as some of our own?

How many of them felt they weren't worried and they were masters of their own destiny? How many felt they had customer service down solid?

Which pile of non-existent businessesdo you think is greater?

The pile of those businesses that just couldn't compete or the pile of those that rationalized their way to the top of their pile?
I managed a frame shop for a BB and I can say that there are several misconceptions here. One is the wage. I was recently offered $17.50/hour to come back and manage one of their frame shops. Many of the full time employees get $12 - $14/ hour if they know framing.

Also, in some stores there are very talented framers. I had 2 guys working for me that had been framing for many years and REALLY knew the business. I agree that this is inconsistent. I worked in 2 different stores. The 2nd store was a total disaster!
Me and my people received 2 weeks of corporate training. The 2nd store received some(not much) local training. The trainer walked out and noone bothered to bring another one in!

My biggest problem as a dept. manager was management pulling my people out of my department to run the register or cut fabric. Made it tough to get jobs out. Also, they never gave me enough hours to properly staff my department. Thus, the ringing bell and noone showing up. Phone calls very rarely made it to our department before people hung up.

Balancing "floor" management and custom framing. There was constant rearranging of department floor plans to get done. Almost every month I' d get HUGE shipments of "Value Art" that had to go somewhere - we're talking hundreds of 20 x 24 framed pieces that sold for $29.99 - $39.99. Again, everything had to be moved.

Every store is different, every district is different. Michael's is different from JoAnn's. I was at JoAnn's. My store managers were clueless about custom framing. At the time JoAnn's also did custom furniture and custom drapes. There were the same problems in that department.

I think that they ARE getting better and will continue to get better. I also think that they are the Chevrolets and the smaller shops are the Mercedes. It's important that we keep that straight and market accordingly. Most of the industry experts are saying the same thing.

I am in a high end community and most of my customers wouldn't know where to find a Michael's or JoAnn's. While we carry everything in our store, the emphasis is on bigger, expensive moldings that the BB's around here don't carry. We also have a much larger selection.

There were many times during the year when I had to cut hours for my employees. This was rough on them, they could not count on their income. So, I agree that employee retention is one of the biggest problems.

I agree with Tim that we need to fight and never stop fighting. I think that good, consistent customer service is the key.

In a recent article I read on the "Top Ten Rules for Small Business Success" # 7 is SMILE. Throw out the reasons you think people buy from you, like price, product quality or your warranty. They buy because they like you. # 2 is BE DIFFERENT- If your competition is doing it, don;'t. Stand out from an overcrowded marketplace where so much of the advertising and products look the same and # 1 is TARGET - you are not all things to all people. Decide on your niche - narrow your focus and broaden your appeal.

This pretty much agrees with what most of our industry experts have been telling us.

Getting off my soap box...
Hey all you wonderful people,
Thanks so much for your posts. I have been framing for over 20 years, but just litmited to my own work or frinds and family. I am currently setting up the framing department for a close friend who is opening a small home store (3 or 4 empoyees mostly family). The comments and suggestions here as well as elsewhere on the grumble will help as I have no formal training, guidence, etc.

Come to think of it, ---> I never got no formal training for nuttin hunny! But hey I'm having fun and making some money. (wait a minute, my wife says my expenses double the income! :( )

Oh well... Thanks again and keep the ideas, comments, and suggestions comming!

AC Mach
Thanks for the reference, Jim, it was me on that panel in Las Vegas....and my comment included that I did not consider Michael's competition, but rather a peer.

I agree with the thread that if you take care of your business, it will thrive.

Michael's recently moved about 2 blocks from us and our business is doing just fine. I think the big box does bring an awareness to the public and that has helped us, not hurt us little independents.

Since we opened almost 12 years ago, we have had several chains or franchises open near us. I believe in cooperation and have worked with them. As in the post about calling to see if they need help during this busy time, or just going in to introduce yourself as the "fellow framer" down the road. You catch more flies with honey.....
There are still independant merchants around in the businesses Bob mentions. Just not as many. Which is what could happen to the framing industry.
"independent gas stations/tailors/meat markets/camera stores/corner grocery/muffler shops/travel agencies"

Funny, as I look out my front window (at a slight angle in some cases) I see two full service stations, an independent auto repair/muffler shop, a tailor, a small meat market, a small fish market, a camera/photo store, and a travel agency.

I guess location is important, huh?

And, among other things, two florists, a custom window treatment shop, and a ready-made window treatment/home furnishing shop. All seem to be flourishing.

Florists, now the independents seem to be thriving even with all the grocery stores and BBs carrying bouquets and plants. Why is that?
I believe this was the subject of a Marc Bluestone talk at the local PPFA meeting out here. One good point he made was that while an independent may offer something better (quality, service, etc.) there is still the issue of how much a customer is willing to pay extra for it.
I am still trying to figure out a business model for this stuff, but my feeling is that for me, at least, I need a niche market, and finding the customers.
And an issue that I am even more worried about than BB, is the increasing number of "ready to go" products available and coming. I am in a gallery intensive area, and notice that virtually all the working artists are working in standard sizes so they can buy ready mades (including the ubiquitous "plein air/American impressionist), or egads, even pushing these "gallery wrapped" paintings - no frame required. The quality of these ready mades provides real competition, and I am sure home-customizable shadow boxes, etc. will make inroads as well.
Yaknow, common business sense tell me to never say "I don't want their customers." And I really do want their customers, except for when I get their customers like I do this week. There is a guy out there arguing with a salesperson now. He wants 12 3x5 openings in a double mat, pics mounted in it, and a mahogany frame by tomorrow. Too expensive. I don't know what she quoted him yet, but he's kinda pissed. Yesterday a customer brings in a Sports Illustrated mag. She picks one of the wider metal mouldings, single rag mat, conservation glass, needs it in 4 hours, keeps going on about a discount. We give her a discount and charge her $95.00, she freaks. She ends up taking a cheap plastic Prinz photo frame off the shelf, rips the easelback off, gets the rag mat cut to fit, get conservation glass inserted, we mount and mat and fir wire on the back, still ends up being $68.00. She gets it done because she HAS to and still leaves pissed because we are so expensive.

Ok, now the guy left - she quoted him $200. He won't ever be back. He actually got sent here from Pottery Barn instead of one of our favorites.

All year long I say "I want those customers!" Now when I'm loaded with work and have a different perspective and I actually get them, well, I still can't bring myself to actually say it. I just don't know how I could meet their expectations and stay in business. It really doesn't do me much good to have someone out there upset and saying "You are so expensive!" while other customers are picking up their finished work. But, ****, I think I'll open up a beer.
"I hate it when people say "There is enough business for everyone"

If you believe that then you are saying that you do not want to grow. We are in a business where the BB have and are entering the markets and taking market share away from smaller shops."

Well, that comment struck a nerve….

BTW, thanks Jim, for the reference to my participation on the panel at WCAF. That was indeed me, and I still don’t think Michael’s is my competition, specifically…they opened a store just a couple blocks from me about a year ago, and I am still doing fine…why?? Because my head is not in the sand, we are always checking the pulse of the community, are very involved in community activities, belong to the Chambers of Commerce, participate in local charity programs, and initiated a wonderful Art in the Schools program that has continued to be the cornerstone of our marketing philosophy. There is business for anyone who continues to look for it and we do.

I think the suggestion to call the BB’s to offer assistance is a great idea, we have done similar things whenever a new shop opens. Either myself or Michael will stop by, introduce ourselves, leave a card, etc..As a result, we pick up the occasional emergency, something ordered wrong, oversize projects, and the like.

I firmly believe the new stores that have opened have taken market share, so my job is to look for new markets, new customers. Being in business isn’t just opening a door, it’s actively participating in making sure someone comes through the door.
I still do not understand your line of questioning Bob, either your out to open a used framing equipment business or pictching a seminar in Vegas we should all take. Hmmmm?
Every small business in America is under the same pressure as we are. I personally as a consumer us both large and small business' based on my needs and budget for each purchase. I buy my music equipment at SamAsh music's Superstore because the smaller music stores in town have pushy owners and thier workers are no more knowledgeble as the super stores. I choose to save money at that point. I always give the small business in my commuinity a chance to compete for my money but I refuse to just offer up extra money to keep a tradition alive. Think about that. I get my hair cut by the same lady every two weeks. My hair is simple to cut and takes about 3 minutes to complete but I choose her because she is from Mexico and I get a free Spanish lesson everytime I go. My knowlege of proper Spanish is scattered but twice a month I get to pratice for free. Thats why I go to her. I go to the same bar every time I want to relax and have a few, I can find a cheaper place to have pint or two but I go there because they know what I want when I break the doorway and even had me frame some of thier art for them.

We are in a client by client industry and we can not forget that. The sense of community is what seperates us from large companies and is what will keep us alive. I agree we need to fight hard to stay above water but we also need to know which direction to shoot to win the battle. I'm strictly commerical and referral right now and things are picking up. I'd rather stay small right now than open a shop too early and have to mark down prices and stare out the windows hoping someone comes in. Tried that, didn't work.
Maybe we should be looking at different ways to sell more to the client base we have and not so much at what the big stores are blowing out.

Large companies have high turn arounds and that is one of thier weakness'. Their client base is based on people that mostly don't care who does thier framing and who are out to save a buck. We all have read the rants on the grumble of these people who come in to our shops.
Don't get too caught up in corparate thinking, we don't have the resources to compete. We compete on the exclusieve and taylor made side of framing and once we start to resemble the BB's, they will out buy and sell you.
Fine dining restuarants run at a %50 food cost where as chain restuarants run at about %25 food cost. Both would go under if they tried it the other way around. There is no such thing is high-end services with discount prices, you just have to decided on what side of the line you want to be. They both serve a perpose and both will always be here to offer thier services.

"We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender"

Winston Churchill
Noble words Michael. I fear however that, as an industry, our outlook is more like Winston Churchill's predecessor:

“We should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analyzing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will. I cannot believe that such a program would be rejected by the people of this country, even if it does mean the establishment of personal contact with the dictators.”

Neville Chamberlain

Bob's original question is telling - the BBs have gotten a lot better over the last ten years in terms of technique and design and I think many of us greatly overestimate the dollar value that the general public puts on our "personal service" Price and convenient hours may well trump our homey craftsman with an apron charm and render we independent shops simply irrelevant.

Peter Bowe
Saline Picture Frame Co.
Originally posted by Peter Bowe:

Bob's original question is telling - the BBs have gotten a lot better over the last ten years in terms of technique and design and I think many of us greatly overestimate the dollar value that the general public puts on our "personal service" Price and convenient hours may well trump our homey craftsman with an apron charm and render we independent shops simply irrelevant.
Personal service is one thing, but BETTER service, better designs, better craftsmanship, better materials, quicker delivery, HOME delivery, installation, and free coffee and smile are things too. Also, the look on their faces when they realize for themselves that they aren't paying much more is priceless when you've got someone who values the things listed above. Some don't! Sadly, as evidenced this week, they won't be my customers.
With regards to salespeople knowing their stuff it doesn't matter if it was at Michaels or Corners or Garden Ridge or Prints plus. The staff is unique to each storefront. One Michaels' could have a couple dynamite framers in a great neighborhood and one could have a bunch of nitwits wandering around carelessly taking customers artwork and tossing it in a pile in back, never to be seen again. I know because I have worked in several BB chains and they all rely on predominantly NEW customers and very few have any solid training programs or are even very selective in hiring. I have witnessed several incompetent managers hiring one warm body after another and have spent more time than we want to even admit is possible fixing these poor fools' mistakes while biding my time waiting for that perfect chance to move up into that golden position of "manager" so I could finally hire someone with at least the capacity of learnig a bit of the trade. I finally had to let go of the idea of fixing the problem and leave. I am finally getting over the guilt that I abandoned all of those poor customers who are unknowingly walking into the worst framing disaster of their lives. some will hve that terrible experience and never go back. The only time customers go back to the BB is if that particular one in their neighborhood has a good staff (or at least a good framer).

Keep in mind that BB's arent just born one day. They begin as small businesses and grow. Now who has the drive and vision to turn their small shop into part of a newer and better generation of BB's? A wiser and honest BB who pays their employees what they deserve and offer quality work at a great price- that's who I'm on board with.

I don't really know what my point is, I am overtired from **** week and just needed to vent
Perhaps there are a few of us that have been around long enough to remember this industry before BB's

Even then, there were the "framing disasters" stories, but they came from that "guy down the street".

I guess we always feel better when we have someone to "blame".

How come that, since we have these to "die for" designs and since we have legendary customer service and since we have only the finest of product and since we understand our customer's needs to a tee, we don't all make home "Bill Gates" paychecks

Where is the disconnect
Cliff says, and I did, too, that there are still independants around. However, I know quite a few that aren't around anymore, either. Some framer's will do fine. Other's, who haven't found a niche, try to compete with the BB's on a level they cannot, or are unwilling to adapt, may find themselves in trouble.

There is no doubt in my mind the BB's have taken business away from the independants. If they haven't, or weren't in a position to, there wouldn't be so many threads and so much discussion about them here. Bob makes a valid point, if they get better at what they do, won't the independant be in even more trouble? I say yes.
"How come that, since we have these to "die for" designs and since we have legendary customer service and since we have only the finest of product and since we understand our customer's needs to a tee, we don't all make home "Bill Gates" paychecks"

Where is the disconnect [/QB][/QUOTE]

The disconnect is that we have chosen, perhaps foolishly, to not sell a product that the entire world depends on.

I understand your point and often wonder how the local pharmacist felt while his world changed. Did he expect to be fine by offereing the best service, giving his customers dog's treats when they came in, etc...? I'll bet he did. Boy, was he wrong. Will this be our fate as well? For many of us, perhaps.

However, we have one distinct advantage that the pharmacists did not. We have the luxury of his expereince. We can learn from what happened to him. We must learn that we cannot just hang on to these quaint ideals and expect to be fine. Now, I in no way mean that those things are not important because they are critical. But by themselves, these quaint little gestures will not ensure your survival.

The BBs will undoubtedly get much better at what they do. They all have many brilliant people working for them. And you can bet that as soon as one of them begins to head down the right road, the others will take off in the same direction running an all out race. Leaving many of the independants standing at the starting line waiting for the gun to go off.

We need to be in that race if we want to survive. This is one race that slow and staedy may not win.

OOOooooo! gotta go, got a live one coming through the door......

....and to all, a Good Night!
Harry-You win the prize; you got the point, exactly.

While doing Market Research for PPFA, I was able to do some in-depth research in the Photo Marketers arena (since we have precious little on framers). the parallels were incredibly (scarily) similar.

Sure, there are still some independent Camera Retailers doing well. But, nowhere as many as used to be. Those that are strong are so because they were/are pretty good operators and they had a major force call Technology that forced them to adapt

We don't have any such "motivator" and as such, it's pretty much up to us to learn to change and adapt

Yet, we still have many, many framers (frequent posters) that just don't get it-That somehow they will be just fine doing what they did 5-10 years ago. In truth, most of us would be smarter to just let them alone and allow the market to do what markets do best.

It would simply mean more market share for those survivors that do learn to adapt

There will always be a place for those truly gifted framers like Jim Miller and Pamela.

The problem is too many think they are as gifted and it just ain't so
I'm going to prudently step away from the keyboard for a while.

Merry Christmas!
Well, I guess some of you guys are so successfull that you have all the work done by others. How else would you have time for all these posts at this time of year.

Hope this thread is still going when I resurface. Would love to contribute.
Originally posted by Jaci:
I managed a frame shop for a BB and I can say that there are several misconceptions here. One is the wage. I was recently offered $17.50/hour to come back and manage one of their frame shops. Many of the full time employees get $12 - $14/ hour if they know framing.

Also, in some stores there are very talented framers. I had 2 guys working for me that had been framing for many years and REALLY knew the business. I agree that this is inconsistent. I worked in 2 different stores. The 2nd store was a total disaster!

1. I am moving to Michigan

2. I agree with you. I was trained in a craft store much like HL or Michaels and I was trained more thoroughly than many of the people I work with now, however I have seen it both ways.

To the OP:
If the BBs get better, they will get better. I think they reel many people in with the prices but lose them on the customer service (from what I have seen, but I know that's not always the case)

We have had several BB stores refer business to us, and we have heard tales of good and bad customer service, but not the attention to detail and care that you get from doing this as a career rather than a part time afterschool job.
Bob your are right, brutal, but right. I learned in college that a recesion is good from time too time as long as it doesn't last to long. That tripped me out, it didn't make sense to me. I does if you think about it from Bob's point of view.

A recession is economics way of cutting all the loose ends. During a boom in the economy, people get motivated to venture into the world of small business. Not just framing but every industry have tons of people that have money in thier pockets and like the rest of the world, want to be the boss. The problem is that the industries are so poluted with business', the Price Wars begin and a recession is reached because now nobody is making money. Business' start pricing to keep the lights on and not skill, quality and or craftsmenship. Business start to price not to make money but to keep thier competitors from making money. The recession begins and what you are left with in the end are the business' that had the business sense to survive and that is what pulls the economy out of the recession. The cycle repeats.

This is not an anomoly or a fluke, it is the human nature of bussiness. Now Bob, granted you have a tendency of speaking like a booming voice for the sky but, I admire your knowledge and feel I can learn alot from you. I always picture the amount of framers around the world stomping thier feet and kicking things after reading your posts. It's funny to me. You remind me of my father.

I made myself a victim of a booming economy in 97 and lost about $20,000 in the process and have no intention of doing it again. I'm back on my feet and very cautious these days. I read everything and trying my best to get a grasp of this business from a sterile business angle. We are all passionate about what we do but sometimes passion can get you in trouble. We are all almost contridictions to ourselves, we are artists trying to run a business. Talk about left and right brain issues. We all have to wear all kinds of hats as business owners and not just the ones that match our outfits. I hate paper work and spreadsheets but they are the keys to Longevity. The biggest advantage the BB's have is that there are groups of people working on acounting, purchasing, cost to profit ratios, etc and none of them could give a rat's *** about art, where as all we have ourselves and each other on the Grumble. This is a magical bulletin board and I would have walked away from the whole thing if it was not for all of you. I just wish we could be more honest with each other about the issues we all are dealing with. Like in Jerry McGwyrie, "You think we are fighting and I think we are finally commincating!", "Show me the money!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My old college baseball coach used to say, " Be arrogant until someone humbles you, at that point, be humble, learn, overcome and be arrogant again." The older I get the more sense it makes. It was hot out there, maybe the sun just cooked my brain.
It has long been a contention of mine that changes in the market, recession, competition(BB's), etc., squeeze out the people hanging by a thread. I know of three frame shops locally that have gone out of business in the last year or so.

I was thinking about cycles just yesterday. Knitting is making a big comeback after a twenty year lull, and scrapbooking is hot (for how long, though?). Bob was asking what has happened to all the independants. I think some are making a comeback. Maybe framing is going through a cycle of it's own. There was a time when customers were easy to obtain and maintain. That is not so simple these days. Framer's have to work a little harder at their business than they once did. Twenty-twenty five years ago the do-it-yourself shop was hot. Now they are all but dead, but that was one concept the independant had to weather. I'm thinking the BB concept is part of the cycle. The ones who are able to weather the storm created by the BB's will be around to see the next cyle, whatever it might be.