What say ye?

KL Smith

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Jun 18, 2005
Jordan Village, ON, Canada
I had a local artist call me today and identify himself as a custom framer. He works out of his basement and while I was for the most part, unaware of his presence as a framer, he is technically in direct competition with me in our very small town. I have a full retail art and frame gallery and all the expenses that go with it. He has a basement. He wants me to order him a certain LJ frame for a job he has to do. When I asked why he didn't just call LJ himself, he said he doesn't do enough business with them to qualify (no storefront is LJ's the rule here.

What would you do?

A: Sell him the frame at a bit (10 - 25% +/-) above my cost?

B: Sell him the frame at full retail?

C: Tell him to go whistle?

Sell above your cost, but less than retail.

He/She may start using you more and you really don't have any labor involved.
Why not treat him as any other commercial customer and give him 20% off retail. Either he likes it or goes down the road. Don't cut your own throat to do a favor for somebody who is trying to compete in the same small market with you.
Why does he need that particular L-J? Can't he substitute something from one of his own suppliers? I wouldn't sell it to him. I would tell him to send the customer to us. If this guy wants to be a framer, he can compete with me on the same level. I'm not about to get into a situation where I am supplying my competition who is probably undercutting me. That would be cutting my own throat.
Keep your friends close and your enemies closre

That's overstating. What I'm really hoping to convey is that it wouldn't be good to be the cause of an adversarial relationship between you and this other framer, but there's no need for you to go overboard to help him out. 20% off retail seems fair to me as well.

I'm a big proponent of friendly competition. I have cut intricate mats for neighboring framers without CMC and gone to them with mounting I can't do in my shop. They pay me and I pay them. It's friendly and businesslike at the same time.
You're in the business to make money, not break even. Charge him retail minus a small discount.

If he brings you more business, discount accordingly.

PS: Would LJ be upset if they found out?? Or they just don't mind?? Would be interesting to find out.
I'd sell him the frame at a bit above cost. It never hurts to have a bit extra in the bank of good will.

edie the itsprobablyforhismother goddess
I wouldn't make the charge so close to cost that he could end up underselling you on the same product at the retail level. The distance between being fair and shooting yourself in the foot ain't all that big.
I too have mutual back-scratching arrangements with several of the framers in this area. We borrow products from time to time, and either pay for them or replace them. It works as long as it is mutually beneficial.
Without sounding too mercenary, you need to think about the chances of reciprocity, cause if you don't cover your tail, no one else will.
Be very careful. I had a basement framer ask me to accept a delivery for him. I did - it sat here in my way for two days. The next week here comes another delivery! Found out from the delivery guy that the distributor refused to leave his stuff w/o someone to accept delivery and since he was working at his real job, he must have decided to take advantage of me! His stuff wasn't delivered that week! Anyway, I'd nicely tell him that I would help him out this time at cost + 25%. After all, you can be careful and be nice, too!
I think 25% off retail is fair. But only once to be nice. I would explain the reason behind why Larson won't sell to him. When he is ready to make the same kind of investment you heve then he too can sell the good stuff.

But, the whole idea of Larson Juhl not selling to non-store front businesses is so that we can have what they can't. It makes us a cut above (At least in merchadise).

I really appreciate Larson for that. We can't go and buy at "Market" without a business Licenese and a business phone. They make sure you have a legitiment business. Or else "everybody" would go and buy at cost.

It's no different.
I know there are alot of basement framers out here, and I don't want to offend any of them. I just think there should be a difference.
The Basement framers have the advantage of the "no overhead" thing, so we should have the advantage of having the nicer name brand mouldings.

Just my opinion


25% off retail + shipping. They join the chop.

works for us.

I doubt that LJ would care. They don't seem to care that they have alienated 75% of their independent framer base.

They just don't want to try and send reps to houses, and suffer the UPS problems of collecting COD from home owners..etc..
A small amount over cost, which is what we sell to all artists.
Ordinarily, I would agree with Jack, but this framer is apparently not doing framing just for his own use. He is a competitor potentially taking away customers from you.

I do agree with Wally; this guy has much less overhead than you and can severely undercut your prices.

If he were another framer with a storefront, I would suggest a reciprocal 20% above cost for both of you just as a convenience to each other. But it sounds like it’s going to be a one way street.

Faced with this situation, I would offer and stand firm at cost plus 50%.
A view from the sidelines here...

I find it funny/ironic that it's ok for Larson-Juhl to shut out "non store-front businesses", but it's a big deal when Larson-Juhl sells at a discount to Joann's. Why is volume a criterion that's only acceptable when it's to your benefit?

I would sell the stuff to the guy at a price that is above my cost but still at a discount from retail. It never hurts to generate goodwill, or good karma. To me, telling the artist to go elsewhere or to send his customer to me is the wrong way to go about things. It's a good way of never getting any good "word of mouth" from the artist. On the other hand, helping the guy out at least preserves the possibility of getting something positive out of the experience. And there's no need to give the guy the moulding at cost; you can address your own overhead requirements by assessing a modest markup, which has the additional benefit of reducing the utility of the artist undercutting your pricing. (Your pricing IS reasonable, isn't it?)

In my dad's business, we used to borrow from and lend to our biggest competitor all the time. They'd simply replace what was borrowed, or vice versa. Since you can't work that sort of arrangement with this guy, a simple cost plus charge works. And I'd also have the expectation of being able to get a discount from the artist if he had something I wanted. Mutual cooperation is not harmful. Framing is not a zero sum game.
Excellent advice, all. Thank you!

I have called the artist/custom framer and quoted him retail less 20%. I also insisted that he actually come into the gallery before I order this.

We'll see if he does.

Again, thank you all!

I based my earlier comments on the fact that I'm questioning whether this person is operating as a legitimate business. KL Smith had never heard of them before, despite the fact that they are both in the same small town. Does this artist have the required licensing? Are they paying sales tax? Or are they under the radar. And what is the quality of the work they produce?

If you are the only one in an area that sells a certain style of frames, people tend associate that style with your work. If it starts showing up on work of inferior quality, people might think that work is yours and it could damage your reputation. Your reputation is worth more than any small amount of money you might make selling to someone who's business and framing practices you know nothing about.

I'm also in a small town. I have a competitor and friend in the next town over who is semiretired and works out of his house. He can't get LJ any more but if George called me up and me to order an LJ frame for him, I would. I know his work is good and would have no problem providing the frame to him at cost+. However, I would have serious reservations about some unknown person calling claiming to be a framer who wanted me to order something at cost for them.
I was telling Gary about this and he brought up an important point. Check your sales tax laws before you sell anything to this artist. At least in Wisconsin, we would need to get a sales tax number from them if they are reselling it otherwise we would be liable for paying sales tax on it.
I do this for a local photograpgher at 25% of LJ Catalog retail for items I can buy lenth. If I buy chop it is at 20% off.

Works well for me. Creates good will and I make enough to make it worth it.
Originally posted by Jerry Ervin:
Maybe all of this was just a test.

To see if you would actually do it.

It could be I suppose. We'll see if he comes in to the shop.

Also, someone mentioned tax laws. He does have valid tax exempt status here.
I would do retail minus 20% and get it in full up front.

If he is competition treat him as such.

What could he do for you?

Make money in this case, not friends.
At least in Wisconsin, we would need to get a sales tax number from them if they are reselling it otherwise we would be liable for paying sales tax on it.
In Wisconsin, we would charge the customer sales tax unless he/she had a seller's permit.
If he was a nice guy and friendly I would order it for him for a cost less than retail but still make money and be sure you order it only when you are placing one of your orders.

I am a home based framer and I have on rare occasion had to depend on local established framers (for CMC work and for cut pieces of museum glass). I have NO PROBLEM at all paying a little more than wholesale for those services. Heck I would pay retail if I had to. Loosing the profit yes, but still get the job done and make a little.

If the guy is nice and does not pester, or takes your time, seems competent etc..make you a few bucks on it.
Oddly enough, I got a call a few hours ago from an amateur photographer who was looking to buy length moulding. He stated in vague terms what he was after, and since he couldn’t be any more specific, I said that the median retail price for that kind of moulding was somewhere around $12.00 / foot. After determining that he was, indeed, willing to miter and join the moulding himself, I mentioned that, although I wasn’t at the computer at the moment, I could sell him length at wholesale cost plus 25%.

“Whoa!”, said he.

Sensing that this was a disapproving “whoa”, and sensing that this conversation was not going to end well, just for giggles, I asked him what he thought a reasonable price would be. He said that he was hoping to purchase this moulding at standard wholesale prices.

I then asked him if he thought that I should absorb the shipping cost. He stated very sincerely that if this moulding were to be added to an order that I was going to place anyway, there shouldn’t be any additional cost to him.

The deal fell through.
That was shockingly presumptious of him to think that as well as to give you the alwaysdelightful "whoa." I guess 'amateur' is the key word.

Did you offer to maybe throw in delivery to his doorstep and a mocha latte? But hey, Bill, he'll probably bring you LOTS of business and you can make up for it with volume...
I categorically decline to give any born-again-designers, "amateur" photographers, Whoa-people and such any meaningful discount till they bring in some volume.

Once they prove their worth, I will consider it; but till then, it is a small discount, provided I am having a jolly day...

PS: That "whoa"-guy should be 77-sprayed.
Originally posted by Meghan MacMillan:
Keep your friends close and your enemies closre
There are several framers in the area that do not have CMC's or dry mount presses and we do work for them. In turn sometimes they send work our way, not to mention we get thier business for the outside work we do.

I wouldn't burn bridges with competing framers but I wouldn't necessarily help him more than necessary either.
re: the "whoa" is me amateur photographer

It's hard not to laugh. Now I'm an amateur photographer, and while it seems to me that there ought to be a way to find a mutually beneficial relationship, the key to me is "mutually beneficial". Expecting to get something for nothing is unreasonable, IMO.

Speaking of amateur photography, Bill, take a look at the calendar insert in the Nashua Telegraph today (if you get it.) Yep, I'm Mr January (and the cover, too). :D

Personally speaking, I'm not sure why the guy didn't use his internet connection. You can get mouldings at much more reasonable than retail prices. And you don't even have to waste framers' time to do it.