It is interesting to reflect back and think about the biggest developments that have occurred in the custom picture framing industry over the past 25 years. I think that all of the changes can basically be boiled down to two: Technology and Globalization.
From the technological side there have been huge advancements in the areas of computers, equipment and printing. When we started in business, all of the order taking and invoicing was done manually. Now there are software programs specifically designed for the picture framing business that create the orders for all materials including frames, mats, glass ,etc. These programs generate invoices as well as maintain data bases on previous orders, personal information and inventory. To the client, this means that if you want to duplicate an order down the road, your records are easily accessible by your framer.
Equipment such as computer mat cutters have allowed for a myriad of different design options that far exceed the traditional rectangular and oval mat openings of years ago. Complex collages are easily created with hexagonal and octagonal openings and with such a wide variety of mat cut designs that almost anything is possible. The consumer has increased flexibility to frame something really uniquely.
25 years ago fine art reproductions and limited editions were photo mechanically reproduced on offset presses. Because of the huge setup costs involved the options for changing the size of prints were limited. Today because of enormous improvements with ink jet printers, most images can easily be reproduced in a variety of sizes on either paper or canvas using really high quality inks. To have the options to purchase the image that you love in 8” x 10” or 40”x 60” or any size in between is truly amazing.
With the advent of globalization the consumer has many options about where to purchase their products. With the click of a mouse, you can buy a fine art reproduction shipped from anywhere in the world directly to your home. When you are shopping, you can now purchase artwork imported from Asia at any variety of big box stores. However, caution is advised, as the quality can be questionable.
With the purchase of any product, a well educated consumer is a good consumer. Many people that buy artwork in big box stores fail to recognize that the beautiful frame that they are looking at is polystyrene even though it may have a wood appearance. Most polystyrene frames simply do not hold up. The hanging apparatus is weak and if the frame falls and the corner or the glass breaks it probably cannot be repaired. This is especially common with mirrors which is why you will find many of them leaning against a wall and not hung.
Many North American manufacturers have either closed down or moved their businesses to third world countries; this is also true in picture framing. It has become even more challenging to find high quality suppliers that are using sustainable, renewable wood resources to manufacture picture frames that are beautiful, durable, price competitive and original in design.
With increased competition, it is important to buy directly from the manufacturer when possible instead of using a distributor. By cutting out the middleman, the retailer can pass those price savings onto the consumer and offer a high quality product while staying price competitive.
Because buying on-line is so easy, it is even more crucial for retailers to really know their products and to go the extra mile to provide knowledgeable, friendly service. I think that even if a client does not make a purchase that they should leave a store knowing more than when they came in about the product or service that interests them.
As the saying goes, “The more we change, the more we stay the same.” The custom picture framing business is about creating joy for people in their home or business. The joy can be the pride that a homeowner has for her home, the love that a grandparent has in looking at the graduation photo of his grandchild, or the comfort that an employee has in working in surroundings that are carefully decorated using colourful artwork. Over 25 years, that has not changed.