What's more important? Foot traffic or Location


Oct 10, 2006
Suffolk, Va.
I either have to renegotiate my lease or move. They may accept my offer but there just isn't any foot traffic here. Honestly, most strip centers that are just adjacent to neighborhoods, or off the main road, never really have foot traffic. It's all destination shopping and they notice you're there when they stop for a sub or something. I'm guessing in this economy that big galleries in trendy areas are fine and older, well established shops with cheap rent may be doing fine. What works for some of you? Did you pick an odd space and it worked out great? Some of you may say try to buy the space instead of lease, but that is not an option, so any inputs on leasing will be appreciated.
Look at the top three Chinese restaurants in town . . . lease next door to the one who does the most take out.

Don't locate next to a Mortuary unless you are a Frame & Flower shop. (I know 2).

Being next to or near a Starbucks can be a blessing and a curse.

If you are good at gorilla marketing or have a big budget.... you can do without foot traffic.

Parking directly out front is worth more than "just foot traffic".... ask the 700 Prints Plus, Deck the Walls and other stores that opted to be in the center of a mall.

"Foot Traffic" isn't always "Buying Traffic".

Take a total of the cars in the parking lot..... quantify them in classes <$25K, 25-35, over $60.... your target through the day should reflect what you plan to sell.
<$25K is the mass -- you're gonna die there.
35-60 will be the nice double mats, wrapped, fillets, and better mouldings.
60k and up and you have a traffic that may or may not be Closed Corner.. but they are more likely than the college student crowd or mill worker.

I know this doesn't sound like help... but it's some of the mix to think about.

Just as some background... one of Starbucks big criteria for site selection was going out in the middle of the night and mapping the largest, densest and most oil patches in parking lots. The they would set up during the day and catalog the cars in that section.
Interesting to note about that is; new cars don't drip oil. Cars, 5-7 yrs old drip a little, 10 and up DRIP...... people who keep their cars that long, do it more because they love the experience of their car. . . same with a $1 cup of coffee for $3.50.. . the experience. Or in the case of a drive-thru.... the perceived experience.
Some of the variables are missing, so I will add them:

A great location (aka good visibility) is very good, But it MUST have good parking. Preferably a few feet away. Customers don't like to lug art , framed or to be framed, in all kinds of weather.
Also, customers do bring in large, old, heavy, frames (some with broken glass) to be fixed, re-framed, etc. They do prefer very close parking (especially the older ones). The visibility factor (good signage also) will save you a decent amount of money on advertising that tells people that you exist.

Foot traffic is good. Does it translate into sales? That's a big unknown. If combined with bad parking, then I would not even consider it.

It also depends on what you're framing / selling: Smallish frames, posters and such might do well in high traffic with mediocre parking. Large, heavy frames and mirrors require immediate parking space.

If I were to choose, I'd go with great location that has great parking. But that's the way my business works.
I will keep it simple, If you don't have a good location, you will not have good foot traffic.

If you have a location with little foot traffic then it really is not a good location, in my opinion. Your question is kinda like a chicken or egg question.
I would stress visibility over foot traffic, and yes, they can be different things. I get tons of foot traffic every day -- elderly people staggering past my store with their walkers, on the way to the pharmacy to get their meds, then staggering back to their retirement home. Typically, their eyes are riveted on the sidewalk, and they never turn their heads to look in my front windows. I could be standing right at the window in a clown costumer, and they wouldn't notice. You can be sure not a single one has come in, even to browse, in the 2+ years I've been open. I doubt they even know I'm here. There's the pharmacy, and then everything else is not-pharmacy.

I'm also right at a stop sign, so there's a lot of drive-by traffic, and everyone has to stop. Many of them look. I think that counts way more than the wrong kind of foot traffic.
Thanks for your inputs. I happen to have parking right out front and have noticed that people who just pop in to look around tend to just keep you from getting work done. I think the main problem is how far back from the street the shopping center sits. It's a big lot with space for restaurants up near the front, but those spaces have never been filled. Business is down overall in this area with 5 or 6 shops closing in the last 6 months. Why I ever stopped doing this from home I don't know!
If you are just doing custom framing then a site with visibility and great parking, IMHO, is favorable to a large foot traffic location and generally far less rent. Custom framing is generally a destination shopping excursion.

If you are a gallery/gifty shop then foot traffic is almost always a big plus.

I moved from a much higher foot traffic location to a good-visibility- virtually-no-foot-traffic location. Cut my rent in half and no longer have people coming into my door with drinks (or God forbid!) tacos in hand to "look at pretty pictures". I primarily do just custom framing and prefer that if someone is darkening my doorstep they have a reason to be here.
We have great foot traffic. We are directly across the street from the only post office in town. It at least lets people know that we are here, although I still have people come in every now and again and ask when we moved here (duh, almost eleven years ago). Framing isn't exactly an impulse item. I still consider us to be a destination business.

I would rate parking above foot traffic for importance.
In my experience, you need foot traffic if you want to sell art, as art is more of an impulse purchase. Framing on the other hand is a planned purchase, therefore a destination location is more acceptable.

Something to consider, is that while we would all love the visibility of a high traffic, Class-A retail location, much of our space is used for what is essentially a manufacturing process. It often comes down to striking a balance between cost versus location.

The visibility of your location, window and signage is more important if you don't feel that your marketing/advertising skills are one of your strengths. In esseence your prime location becomes your advertising, and the additional rent can be justified by its advertising value.

Generally in framing, you can choose to either pay it in rent, or pay it in advertising. The only problem is that rent is a fixed expense, where as advertising is a variable expense. Also, you can change bad advertising.
I have a branch with good foot traffic - one of the highest footcounts around and it costs loads, it sells waaaay more. My other location is a destination on a main street that most people know or can find very easily (at the commercial end of a very long street that passes by several well known spots such as the Lake, Race Track and Railway station) from any direction you enter the city. The destination location fares better on Custom Framing, mostly because you can get your car to it with all the goodies you need framed, it is heavily promoted at the other branch though.
In my estimation a good location has good foot traffic. It's like advertising on TV. With everyone who passes by your store, you've made an impression. Your store front is an advertising medium. You've created an impression just as you would if you were buying a newpaper or TV ad. While that person may not come into your store that particular time they passed by your store, you did make an impression that will stay with them and when they are interested in some framing, they'll remember they saw a store in a certain location.

A good location is a pretty relative term. What is good for one type of business is not good for another. I think in our business a good location is one that has good foot traffic (along with some of the other amenities, parking , ie as mention before).
The most successful framing businesses I have worked for were high visibility with good parking. Foot traffic was not an issue. One business I worked for originally was in the above mentioned situation, then moved into a renovated " Historical Old Downtown" site with lots of foot traffic. The parking was not as good and their rent doubled. They went from being a lucrative destination business to a struggling high foot traffic albeit more elegant looking place. They regretted their choice and eventually went under.

If you are established and have a good reputation, foot traffic is less needed than advertising, good parking and visibility in my experience.
Where are your existing customers coming from? (This is where a POS is really valuable).

We were in an upscale, regional mall for 10 years and across the street in a smaller mall for 15 years prior to that. When our lease was coming up, we took a look at the zip codes from our customer base. Come to find out, the majority of our customers were coming from a completely different area of town,about 4 miles away. In fact, the zip code of the mall was ranked number 5 on our list. So.....we plopped our new gallery right in the middle of our #1 & #2 ranked zip codes.

Besides the extra bennies....more space for less$$$, parking at the door, and our own hours, our customers love the fresh new look and the proximity to their neighborhoods.
Location defined....

evartpat said:
The most successful framing businesses I have worked for were high visibility with good parking...

That's it!

16 Wheeler

Home-based since 1982. The only foot traffic I've (1996?) ever had was when an 16-wheeler with a load of sand was stuck in a cane-field (field was clear - cane was just cut) about 400' away of my home/business. It took two very large bulldozers to drag it out AFTER the sand was dumped. The "foot-traffic" was my customers living in the neighborhood.... loll :beer:
Depends on your plan

I am a newbie in my location, which I absolutely did not choose because of where it is. I chose it because of the amount of space I got for the price I felt I could afford. I believe that Paul hit the nail on the head when he said that framing was a planned purchase and if people know your work and like it, they will travel to see you. The street I am on is residential, but very heavily traveled. It runs parallel with the main drag and the locals use it a lot. In my plan I considered what I really wanted to show my customers was a clean comfortable space that was not overrun with pieces of glass and moulding samples. My gallery and work space are separate and I have a good amount of both. I can handle very large pieces with another person very easily. I am not tripping over things and all customers work is kept neatly and away from the work area. I have a basement where i cut the molding.

So...to that end, I decided before I got started that I would have to develop ways of marketing that would put me in front of the types of customers that I wanted and needed. Every day I take a step closer to doing that. I am getting involved in my community and have joined numerous organizations. I serve on one board right now and plan to serve on another for the National Women's Business Association very soon. I have purchased a couple of lists from businesses around town that I do not directly compete with but that I feel would be the kind of clientel that I could serve.

I believe I am on the right track. I am bootstraping this thing but every day I pinch myself because I get to do what I love to do. Easy?, no. Challenging, invigorating?? Beyond my wildest dreams. And there you have my 2 cents.
Hey Baer

When you look at the demise of mall locations it has very little to do with the question at hand; a review of DTW and Prints Plus goe just a "tad" deeper than parking

If you look at sales at these stores they consistently did 2-4 times the average sales of most "close to the parking" frameshops. The demise of most mall locations is more accurately attributed to the same conditions that are closing most frameshops; the internet, lack of consumers coming to our side of the trade (the growth of the big boxes) and the gneral malaise of the economy

In the last month alone, 4 very established shops with right out front parking have closed with liquidation sales

Measure the distance from the framing counter in a Michael's to where that client parked vs pretty much every framer on this forum. Then compare sales

Good parking is a very good idea but is pretty meaningless if you do not have the other "necessary" factors that drive today's consumers
You're right Bob, nothing is ever black and white (except Ansel Adams).

Even "who is at the front counter" can make or break a place. Or even more so, whether there IS someone at the counter.

I made my usual run through Michael's and JoAnn's and was shocked... a woman was buying a couple of ready made frames with no help. So I looked in the back room..... as another associate came cruzing by and off handedly said "they're not there on Mondays and Tuesdays...... " and was off for their break. :eek:
So down to pick up some tulle and scope out their scene..... and the guy was asking the woman "why in the world would you want to frame a picture like that. . . it's falling apart and isn't even all there."...... I bit my tongue and kept my head down.... then slipped her my card up at the cash register...

It will be interesting to see the numbers and their relationships for this and next year.

I think it will be like like everything else... the well to do are still framing, just not frivolously, the middle is watching the pennies, and the bottom feeders are trying to just pay the rent.... and their new bus pass, so they aren't doing any framing.
So, Baer, what should this person be looking for (if we wereto answer the question)?

Personally, I would stay away from an indoor mall in this econmic climate. Overhead is excessive for the potential (one of those cost/benefit analysis things)

My honest appraisal though might be to determine what is the motivation to stay in this industry. If it is to secure a meaningful wage and build a business, I would counsel to run away quickly. Lease is up-might be a quick exit. If it were to enjoy the thrill of picture framing, go seek a great shop and work for them at employee wages

BTW, Baer, we enjoyed dining with your wife and you. So, the next tab is on you?
I absolutely would NOT be in a mall location. I would have a street front location, probably in a downtown location, with free parking in front, and located near a bank, court house, city hall, photo finisher, drug store, or some other related venture so I'd have a good amount of foot traffic as well as drive by.
My honest appraisal though might be to determine what is the motivation to stay in this industry. If it is to secure a meaningful wage and build a business, I would counsel to run away quickly. Lease is up-might be a quick exit. If it were to enjoy the thrill of picture framing, go seek a great shop and work for them at employee wages

BTW, Baer, we enjoyed dining with your wife and you. So, the next tab is on you?

Bob, I couldn't agree with you more.... and I love this business. But, do I have to agree about the next tab part?
Diane's first question after you dropped us off was "How come you never told me that they we're so fun to be around?" Guess she thought we shared a lot of dance cards.... her next question was "Do they ever get to the PNW?" :beer:

I know a great Chinese Restaurant in Vegas..... :D If you're in Vegas during the Shot Show..... I'm applying for a job with Glock or H&K or any other arms dealer.
Wherever you choose, look at the nearby businesses as well. Do they complement yours, the way that a photographic equipment store might? I get a lot of referrals from the photographic equipment store up the street. Are there upscale retail and services nearby that will help draw people to your location?

Now, this may sound nutty, but you might want a location among other galleries and framers. Move to where the competition is? No way! But if there are several galleries and framers in a pretty tight area, that means it is considered an "arts district." People will head there, expecting to find a framer and/or gallery, and lo and behold, there you will be.
I'm smack dab in the middle of an all womens work out place and a cateror......and just down from me...a Hallmark store.......
My main customer base is women in their late 50's early 60's which is pretty much the people that frequent my neighbors! :shrug:
I do think location IS everything..........most of us are destination shops! :D
I've been in both places...

1) lots of foot traffic

2) destination location around the corner with our own parking. Across the street from the only grocery store and next door to the coffee shop and bookstore.

#2 wins - we moved and the first year our framing sales were up 30%, made up for the lack of space to sell touristy carp, and dealing with tourist questions.

I will take a space with parking any day.

my 2 cents

Hey Baer

We had a good time, too. Debi said she was really surprised that you married up that far (a common query for her as well)

We always hit "ASIA" in Bally's for great Chinese. It ain't "9.99" all you can eat, but make it a must stop every year for us

Back to the question-Location is much guesswork, a little science and a lot of happenstance. If we have ver learned anything about the gazillion site selections is that the environment is ever-changing. Demos change, traffic changes, consumers change

And, whatever decision each of us has made tends to color our advice
the environment is ever-changing. Demos change, traffic changes, consumers change

I would say that is the biggest argument for staying out of malls, (the hot one today is next years yawn) which can kill you when you're in a lease with 3 years left to run . . . and 70% of the mall is empty. (ask JPaul.)

If you have established yourself as a destination with easy parking and access, when the Hot Links restaurant gets shut down for Hep C.... your base is still driving to your door.

As a side to this, as most Dentists can tell you... buy the building as soon as you can. Especially if the building has 3 or 4 tenants. 1) you have help making the mortgage 2) you can control what goes in next door 3) retirement just becomes landlord with a full income stream.