We've been framing for 40-odd years and have seen both good and bad times. Of lately, the economy has slowed down and customers worry about their jobs. They spend less, save more and don't buy as many picture frames as they used to. But will your local picture framer go the same way as the local Borders books-and-coffee store has gone as we might well infer from this blog post ? Well, some quick research suggests that this may indeed be the case as several sources indicate. University statistics say that employment in the Australian picture framing industry has declined at a rate of 10.1% over the past 5 years and is exepectedto worsen. The Australian Government's own data reinforce this gloomy outlook by showing the industry's lowest emplyment prospetcs in 15 years... Lastly, a quick Australian JobSearch for picture framers vacancies appears to corroborate these grim findings by displaying no available jobs anywhere listed for this occupation. So, what's a picture framer to do? Chuck it in, re-train as a statistician and go and work for the Government? Well, so far as we are concerned, we're not chucking it in, and not by a long shot! We’re convinced that picture framers can not only survive, but, if adaptable enough, prosper as well. Perhaps the single, most important , change that we made was not’t commercial, but attitudinal. First of all we had to invest in plant and equipment, such as a computerized mat cutter. Buying one meant lowering the price of mats, lowering the price of matted frames and selling more as our photo frames prices more closely matched those of imported ones. Then we decided to put our prices online, on our web site. We'd long realized that the first thing customers wanted to know was not how bold, daring or innovative our picture framing was, but how much it cost. We worked out that 75% of our custom picture framing involved simple framing and that we could get customers to do their own price estimates in a few steps. Every day up to 80, 90 visitors use our Prices Estimator to estimate picture frames prices and picture framing costs. So far as we know there are only three other picture framers in Australia who do this. We also had to greatly modify our attitude towards our customers, their artwork and our ingrained misconception of being skilled artisans purveying bespoke, hand-crafted goods. For far too long we heeded the extant, pervasive, conservative, professional guild advice. This holds that picture framers will succeed if they foster and educate customers towards fine art conservation picture framing and by default price the framing of all artwork with the very best methods and materials. Problem is, we reckon that picture framers will keep on going broke and closing down if they listen to this advice. The ugly truth is that the majority of customer rarely, if ever, regard their photos, prints and posters as priceless artwork deserving the very best museum or conservation picture framing available. They mostly seek and regard their art mostly as transient, inexpensive and replaceable. So they look for cheap picture framers, need cheap picture framing and want cheap picture frames. If their picture framer can’t or won’t help they’ll go elsewhere. They’ll get online, check out the IKEA, Officeworks or the Reject shop web sites, or anywhere, to find cheap picture frames and, guess what, they will find it! So we listened to what our customers were saying and gave them what they wanted – cheaper picture frames, cheaper custom framing prices. Sadly that meant sacking several of our skilled custom picture framers who would craft wonderful but expensive picture framers. We then replaced them with pickers and packers who pick, pack and ship cheap, imported frames for our online customers. You know what they say, if you can't beat them join them, we haven’t looked back!