Art Business Today Column
By on 25th Jan 2011
Wessex Pictures MD ASHLEY YOUNGER who has been working in the family business for 32 years, explains why he is still passionate about supplying the framing industry.
How’s business for your customers?
It’s hard, but framers who are offering something a little bit special are doing well. You’ve got to stand out from the crowd and be creative in thinking how to do so. Examples are offering specialist glass; colour matching handfinished frames to customers’ décor; making multiple mounts; lending pictures to customers over the weekend so they can decide whether to buy (and I’m told they nearly always do). These are all services that B&Q and Tesco will never offer.
What advice would you give a struggling framer?
Looking at your opening hours might be a good start. Nine to five might work for you, but would a couple of late nights be more convenient for customers? And Sunday is becoming the new Saturday, so perhaps you should shut on Monday instead? I would also point out that framers have to be creative about selling, as well as framing. You’ve got to make the experience of shopping with you enjoyable. People want to be looked after and flattered. If someone brings in three or four pictures for framing, why not offer them a cup of coffee? You’ve got to enjoy interacting with customers, to be genuinely interested in their artwork and their framing requirements. I’m very busy, but if a new customer walks into our showroom I go and speak to them in person. My passion for this industry rubs off on them. Really caring about your business and your customers is your best sales tool. I’d emphasise that you won’t sell what customers can’t see, so you’ve got to have lots of samples available, including on your walls and in your window. We have framed sports shirts, fans, shoes and thimbles in our showroom, so framers can see what they could be doing. If you offer handfinishing , make sure that there are samples on the wall demonstrating that you can match frames to any décor. I know a framer whose mountboard corner samples are all double and triple mounts. I also know a frameshop close to a big rugby ground, which didn’t have any framed rugby memorabilia on display; the moment the owner put a framed shirt in the window people started ordering. People are
unlikely to walk in and ask if you frame weddingsouvenirs, but if you put a frame in your window which includes an order ofservice, fabric swatch, box of matchesfrom the venue, champagne cork and sand from the beach, it might just give them the idea.
Is the industry contracting?
Not any more. There were more startups 20 years ago, but less retail shops are opening now across the retail gift and homewares sector. The last few years has seen a steady decline in the number of framers, as people retire and aren’t replaced, but this has levelled off. Framers operating at the bottom end of the price range gradually shut their doors as they couldn’t compete with the multiples.
What will the bespoke framing industry look like in another 32 years?