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Picture Framing Consumers: Baby-Boomers vs Millennials

It was around the time of the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) , or a few years after this millennium began, that picture framers throughout the world began noticing that the spending patterns and behaviour of their customer had changed. For those frames who entered the framing industry in the golden years of breaching whales and leaping dolphins posters this was a cultural and financial shock. Kodak, Borders, One.Tel, and other corporate, lost customers by their tens of thousands and soon fell by the wayside. And yet, at much the same time, those same customers began queuing for hours, foolishly grateful for the opportunity to buy iPads and iPhones at full prices. And, before queuing for the privilege, many of those customers would have consumed expensive organic mashed avocado breakfasts washed down by hand-made macchiatos and served by hipster baristas.  So what ...   was happening? Why were customers changing their spending habits?  And what could this have meant for the average picture frames and his picture framing shop?  Broadly speaking, what was happening, is that the customers were now beginning to herd and aggregate towards two distinct, demographic spending cohorts, one being the Baby-Boomers (BBs) and the other, the  Millennials (MNs).   And why did this happen? Sociologist theorize that all societal systems change after periods of stability. During the past millennium,  global well-being and standards slowly and gradually rose since the end of World War. However, on attaining a somewhat stable equilibrium, by the 1990’s, national economies and consumers grew increasingly unpredictable and disorderly. The collapse of Communism, the advent of the digital age and the Global Financial Crises overthrew post-modernity with neo-modernity. This, they say, begat consumer bifurcation, or splitting in two, the BBs and MNs.  These two consumer groups  behave, consume, shop and spend in markedly different ways.  Their social and behavioural traits are detailed hereafter. Baby-Boomers (BBs) Demographically, they make up a little more than half of the Australia population. Generally they prefer established shopping centres malls with traditional discount shop such as Reject Shop and allied.  BBs also prefer established brands such as Myer or Woolworths because, rightly or wrongly, to them, these name transpire trust and value. They have conservative ways, values, attitude, are careful spenders, risk-averse investors and do not fritter their discretionary spending. “Sales” and “Deal” are like a flame to the moths for them, they are irresistibly drawn to those events.  When buying electronics for instance, they place pricing, features and functionality above social trends or must-have brands. When it comes to picture framing, they gravitate towards inexpensive Ready-Made picture frames and shun the more expensive custome picture framing.  They are always looking for more ‘bang’ to their precious and scarce bucks. To them, an iPhone is more or less just a tarted up, over-priced, portable telephone handset. They can be easily identified, they respond readily to coupons, vouchers and discounts. BBs are born thus and rarely , if ever,  change their ways to evolve, or morph into an MN. Prior to the GFC BBs were the main and dominant consumer cohort. And after this financial catastrophe they became even more drive obsessed in their value-for-money metric that they often bought only if the deal was so good that it would have been crazy to refuse it. And when such deals were not around, BBs simply waited for stores and merchants to hit the hard times that would force them to do so. This mass opportunism did not go unnoticed. Astute marketers teamed with savvy merchants and online entrepreneurs to found online discounters such as Crazy Discounts, Cath of the Day and Groupon. They sell hundred and one things, including photo frames, picture frames an poster frames or the commercial bread and butter of picture framers. Online discounters with permanent discount policies generally work with greatly reduced margins. Typically they are able to reduce their products’ cost of sale by dramatically reducing labour costs and overheads. These twin goals are often achieved by having products wholly manufactured in Asian countries where labour costs can be 1/12th of those of Australia and by JUST ( just in time) supply shipments.  But for  most, if not all, Australian picture framers those goals are unachievable chimeras. Local framers cannot legally source the same-cost, cheap labour here in Australia and local landlords have a facile proclivity for increasing  rents unrivalled by mot other Western countries.   Ergo, any loyalty BBs proffered in time past to their local picture framers,  it has now worn threadbare or pretty much disintegrated. In plain English, of the two consumer cohorts being discussed herein, BBs come in a distant second, and last. Millennials (MNs) They also seem to make slight under half of the Australia population. Often they tend to want better and more substantial goods than  they already own. They spend, do not save and are at ease with owning luxury goods and chattels. Often they buy on impulse and  price is not as important as having the latest gadget, tool or appliance.  Politically, they dislike the establishment and lean towards the green-environmentalist movements Socially, they trust in personal connections that are worthwhile and personal. They dine often, go overseas more often and buy more books than BBs  They seek new experiences and are happy to pay for these if they believe these are personally beneficial or enriching. Distrustful of big business they seek information behind names to ascertain origins and provenance. The majority of this demographic typology belong to the High Spender consumer group which make up the top third of Australian discretionary spending. Expensive new technologies, such as 4&5G mobile phones and other communication wearables appeal to them, even if expensive. The often purchase expensive niche personal services such as personal trainers, life coaches or pet care assistants which can make their life more easily manageable. In the main, they tend to enjoy professional status and are university-trained, occupying executive medical, financial, educational or political positions. As they have the better jobs, they typically earn more than BBs. Importantly, they spend more,  and do this more frequently, than their BBs counterparts,  typically, 3 times as much. Given this profile,  picture framers have a better opportunity and a higher probability to market their relatively expensive custom picture framing services this particular group, rather then the preceding one. This is because MNs need to feel or at least, perceive, a personal and or emotional collection to the art they are considering having picture framed. A picture framer should get an MN to participate, so as to make him or her, feel actively involved, in the design process.His or her corner samples wall board and mat samples caddy should abundantly feature matte, masculine, unadorned, primal, rough-textured moulding profiles and mats of natural and earthy colours. These aesthetics are likely to appeal to committed MNs in their quest to feel more closely connected to nature and its elements. Authenticity of materials should be stressed. A genuine custom picture frame will be made from the sustainable wood of trees, and not from plastic pellets or fibreboard dust and dirt clued together. Emphasis should be placed on the green provenance of the wood for the frame. This is often plantation timber, rather than native or virgin trees. This disassociation tends to bestow on MNs an environmentally clean conscience, even if by proxy . Individual and original craftsmanship will be used in the manufacture of a custom picture frame. Any connotation of mass-produced goods, made by cheap or exploited labour from third-world countries must be avoided so as to reinforce the scruples of any self-respecting MNs.  And finally, pricing should not be discounted. This is not only to reassure MN customers that they are being charged for quality work, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to award picture framers with a truer and more proportionate reward for their time, efforts and labour.


I guess that Millennials have very different priorities from other generations. They're happy to rent for the rest of their lives, or for as long as the going is good. And as renting is half the price of paying the average mortgage, they will spend more on discretionary items, like custom picture framing and buying custom picture frames to please themselves. That's all well and good for the picture framers who are patronized by them, but what happens when Millennialls grow old and can't work to pay their rent any more? Will they take their expensive toys and furnishings with them and toodle off to cheap caravan parks, or join the government housing waiting list?
Vance Y. - 5 Mar 2017 08:42 pm

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