Magazine Article


Making The Cut
Custom matting (as well as precut mats) and framing services and software boost retailer revenue and customer offerings

You've already got your customer in your store, making prints, buying supplies, and perhaps even taking a photography class or two. How else can you both satisfy their needs and add even more to your bottom line?

By adding custom matting and framing services, photo retailers can add immediate value to their customers' artwork while simultaneously increasing their own profitability, according to Barry Ades, service and sales representative for WIZARD INTERNATIONAL. "The margins achieved with custom mats and frames will exceed virtually any item or service currently offered by photo retailers," he explains.

After all, Ades says, the customer has already selected your store for photo services. "Why not keep them, and their dollars, under your roof by offering to turn their photo into a finished piece of art?" he says. "These days, convenience is crucially important for customers. Why send them to the frame shop across town when you can match the quality and variety of a custom framer?"

It's a great way to get a leg up on the competition as well, says Ades: "As frame shops begin to offer printing services, a smart photo retailer will avoid sending their customers to the competition. Even discounters and drugstores are offering last year's hottest product--photobooks--but framing and custom matting allow the photo specialty retailer to offer products that take advantage of their artistic capability that a discounter can't match."

Wizard offers MatDesigner software, an intuitive and user-friendly package that allows even a beginner the ability to create and cut professional designs in a matter of minutes. "Customers will immediately see the increased value of their photo once it has been professionally matted," says Ades.

Another Wizard innovation, IF Visualization, allows retailers to show their customers what their photos will look like matted and framed before they even leave the design counter. Integrated with the Wizard CMC, IF Visualization helps customers visualize their images with any of Wizard's custom mat-design templates, LetterMats, CutArt, V-grooves, and more. The retailer can even preview multiple designs side-by-side and on a wall color of the customer's choice. Visualized images can be printed or emailed to the customer if they need time to make a decision. "IF Visualization is a great upsell tool and can help you make more money in a matter of minutes," says Ades. "Showing your customer their photo with larger or more expensive mats and mouldings is a quick and easy way to increase the profit on any job. By showing your customer beforehand what their finished project will look like, you give them a sense of security, and they can walk out of your store confident that they will be 100 percent satisfied with the final product. This yields higher customer satisfaction and lower returns."

Product manager Alex Ried of LEXJET concurs that custom matting and framing is a great source of additional revenue for the photo specialty retailer. "It simply elevates the perceived value of the print," he says. "Plus, when people pick up a print, particularly a wide-format print, they're going to get it framed somewhere. Why not at the point of purchase?"

One LexJet customer even goes so far as to charge more for an unframed print than a framed print, says Ried. "Framing is the standard in his business, and this policy cements his ability to offer this value-added service," he says. "But whichever way a photo retailer decides to go with a pricing structure for this service, the ability to offer it has recently become much more viable with ready-made professional mat-and-frame systems that cut down significantly on labor and material costs."

LexJet's Framing Made Easy is one such alternative: It's a complete frame kit that includes a high-quality frame, mat, adhesive-backed mounting board, clear glass, saw-tooth hangers, and turn buttons. There are 10 combinations of frames and mats to fit any decor or setting. "The primary benefit of this system is that a photo retailer can finish a print in literally minutes with a polished, professional frame," says Ried. "The retailer can sell that framed print for as much as they would if they had their own frame shop without all the overhead, which means significantly higher profit margins and a lot less hassle."

Many of SOFTWARE BY NUTECH's customers who are doing well during these tough economic times are those who have diversified their services but kept them somewhat related, according to president Liz T. Krause. "Joining photography services along with custom framing or matting services is a good mix, because anytime a retailer offers additional services that are related to their main business of operation, there is a higher probability of generating more sales income," she says. "Our software products help retailers run the framing side of their business with better ease and accuracy."

nuTech sells two types of software, according to Krause. "The first is point-of-sale software designed specifically to help price out framing orders, keep records on customers, and print mailing labels, bar codes, invoices, and work orders," she says. "These features are all in our free version ezFramer Express. We also sell purchase ordering software for creating and sending purchase orders to wholesale vendors without any faxes or phones; it's all done electronically through the software where the purchase orders are stored. This eliminates costly ordering and communication errors, plus saves retailers time because the orders can be generated and sent 24/7 at the retailer's convenience."

nuTech's latest addition to its Avonto Direct Connect software is the Sales Rep version, which allows sales reps to send in customer orders directly to their vendor's own system, where the orders are printed and stored under the appropriate customer account.

PRIME ARTS LTD. offers precut mats to assist retailers in this revenue stream. "Mats by PAL offers a full line of standard precut mats available in the most popular frame sizes and 100 colors," says Suzie L Johnson, president. "The mats are shrink-wrapped and UPC labeled and can come with a racking program. We help the store lay out the best selection of sizes and colors based on their space and budget."

The trademark Mats by PAL program is the Gold and Silver Label mats: Gold Label mats are bottom mats or single mats, and Silver Label mats have a larger opening that can be used as the top mat. "The customer can mix and match their own custom double-mat combination," says Johnson. "Having precut mats next to a custom frame section is a great way for a D.I.Y. customer to choose a standard frame and pick a mat using Mats by PAL see-through packaging by laying the mats on their photo or artwork to get the finished idea before they purchase it. It's an easy sell for the store and does not tie up the custom framer's time."