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What’s happened to all the picture framing and picture frames stores?

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We've been framing for 40-odd years and have seen both good and bad times. Of lately, the economy has slowed downpicture-frames-store-closing-down and customers worry about their jobs. They spend less at picture frames stores, 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 exepected to worsen.

The Australian Government's own data reinforce this gloomy outlook by showing the industry's lowest employment prospects 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! Thank you for reading this post "What's happened to all the picture framing and picture frames stores?".

11 thoughts on “What’s happened to all the picture framing and picture frames stores?

  1. Ha! Of course not many people are going to picture framers to buy picture frames or even photo frames any more. I wanted to frame a holiday poster about A2 size and my picture framer nearby quoted me $118!! But the poster only cost me about $6. So I went online and found a ready made A2 fro $9.99 plus shipping for $6.98 in Melbourne!! How good is that? Ok maybe the cheapie ready made doesn’t look quite as as good but who cares, black is black anyway and when I hang it one the wall I can’t even tell the difference!! So no more expensive custom picture frames or even photo frames for me!! I will buy everything online !!!

  2. Some picture framers deserve to be going broke because of the crazy picture framing prices they charge. I went to get picture frames for 2 small cross stitches I made in Glen Waverly and I got quoted $440 for average size brown picture frames. I then went to a factory picture framer I found in Mooorabbin and got a price of $210, or less than half! And the frames I got weren’t cheap photo frames or anything! They were actually better! At the factory they told me that shop front framers often need to charge high prices because they now get little work!

  3. People here whinge how expensive picture framers are but they’re not really. Their picture frames and photo frames may be relatively expensive but that’s only because we choose to make Australia what is, one of the most liveable countries in the world. I’ve lived and worked in South East Asia where manufacturing and labour are much cheaper ( up to 90%) because of lower work conditions and lesser standards of living. Asian governments by and large don’t have socialist traditions, or the revenue base, or the taxation receipts, or the money or popular mandates to raise workers’ wages, conditions or living standards. I run a marketing business and we send tens of thousands of subscribers newsletters everyday to Australian recipients. We notice that as much as 40% of all our emails to government and large businesses is undelivered because so many of recipients or workers aren’t at work to receive their emails. And why aren’t they there? Because they’re home or away on some sort of employer-paid furlough, illness or leave. Do the people who are complaining here about high prices think that if they worked in Asia they would find employers obliged by law to pay them personal leave, carer’s leave, sickness leave, compassionate leave, annual leave, community leave, public holidays leave, parental leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, long service leave, loading leave, sabbatical leave, stress leave, worker’s compensation leave, recuperation leave, rostered day off leave, and God knows what else? No, no and no, they wouldn’t, and don’t anyone argue with me, I lived in China and Vietnam for 8 years !!!! Over there if you won’t or can’t work employers won’t care about your reasons or medical certificates, they’ll just sack you and get someone else who is fitter, younger and cheaper

  4. I don’t care about employers’ problems, employment issues or labour hassles! I just want the cheapest products like we all do for everything else! Why buy Italian-style picture frames at $300 a pop when the cheaper Chinese photo frames or pre-made frames sell at 10% of that? Once you put photos on walls it doesn’t matter and you can’t tell if the photo frames where the picture frames were made anyway. A black photo frame looks black doesn’t matter where it came from. Granted the European ones may look better but are you going to pay 10 times the prices for them!! May you can but I can’t and won’t!

  5. Most Australian don’t buy big, heavy, inefficient, expensive cars so the car factories are shutting down and the car workers are getting laid off. That’s life, no one owes anyone a living, subsidized or otherwise. So if car factories are shutting down, why shouldn’t picture framing stores close down also? Most picture framers are older males who got used to charging an arm and a leg for picture frames when there was no overseas competition. now a lot of importers are marketing really cheap photo frames. poster frames, certificate frames, etc. Why should I pay $200 to get my holiday poster framed just to get the local, overpaid, underworked picture framer in business? I get paid $20 an hour as a home care support worker and I’m damned if I’m going to work for 10 hours just to pay for 4 sticks of wood and a bit of glass! I go online, Google ‘cheap picture frames’ and I’m buying the poster frame I need for less than half I got quoted !

  6. OMG – so that’s why my son hasn’t been able to get a picture framing job! He’s always been on the woodworking, arty, side and he’s made several picture frames by hand for us. He’s really good and keen, he’s done TAFE courses, has a Cert. III in Picture Framing but can’t get a job as a framer anywhere! He’ll even move interstate if he has to, he wants to make picture frames so much! Can anyone help? ( The Blog Editor has the contact email )

  7. We’re picture framers from north Queensland. It’s no secret that custom picture framing work has been declining for the last few years now. This trend seems set and isn’t going away anytime soon. Lots of reasons for this. People are scared about their jobs so they cut back on discretionary spending. The internet got here, people visit one another less, they don’t buy, note, admire or compare wall art as much they used to. If people decorate walls it’s no longer with works on paper, limited editions, etchings or oil paintings but with cheap, ready-made, fully imported, mass-produced art. This is an ongoing disaster for local art and artists. We fear for future generation who will henceforth note and buy art unfocussed, with lesser appreciation, narrower horizon and far poorer diversity.

  8. So picture framers are going broke because people are buying cheaper and more accessible picture frames than more expensive, less accessible custom picture frames. Welcome to market changes, evolution and progress! Nobody owes picture framers a living and all they have to do is adapt to survive. They had it too good for too long, charging rip-off prices. Instead of whingeing Why don’t they invent or re-invent themselves with new products, new ideas, new techniques or new strategies?

  9. Custom picture framing is highly discretionary. Picture framers keep raising their prices to ludicrous levels. Recently I went to one to custom picture frame an A3 degree certificate. The quote? $138 for a basic black frame. The framer kept going on about conservation needs but failed to see my pale, ashen face. I just walked out and that’s what’s been happening, customers are just refusing to buy, the American call this ‘Customer pushback’. This means lower and lower work volumes for the picture framing industry which accelerates a downward spiral like an aircraft falling out of the sky. And here’s the irony, any loss in consumer numbers and work volume is made up by ever-increasing price increases thus driving more and more potantial customer away. A self-defeating strategy!

  10. One of the problems with the picture framing industry is the problem of its materials and supplies distribution. Small stores and shops have no room to keep all the different mouldings, matboards and glazings and so they rely on outside vendors, known as picture framing supplies wholesalers. A wholesaler is really the middleman between the materials manufacturer and the picture framer. This vendor buys in bulk and re-sells to picture framers in smaller units or lots. Such vendors incur large costs as they have staff, warehouses delivery vans, etc. This is why the materials costs to picture framers is so high, and they in turn put on their mark-up. In many other industries wholesaling and wholesalers has ceased to exist but not in this industry. This is a contributing factor to the decreasing size of the picture framing industry as a whole.

  11. I remember in my street in suburban Victoria there used to be 3 custom framers. Now there are none. People who want framing in the suburb now have to go a few suburbs away to get it done, if they can find a store still trading. This seems to be a trend though for modern times however. There used to be a plumber, shoe repairs, picture framer, electrician. hardware store, milk bar etc., on every main street. Now to find any of them you may have to go a few suburbs away or go online and look them up. Another problem may be foot traffic, all the busy picture framers seem to be situated on main streets with lots of foot traffic. Not sure if this is concrete but it seems to help as they also look busier.

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