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Common Challenges Among Independent Custom Framers

By Maureen O'Connor, Tru Vue Marketing Associate

During the entry process for the Tru Vue® Retail Makeover Contest, we sorted through more than 100 submissions from custom framers stating why their independent shop needed and deserved a makeover. Though each store was distinctive in some way, there were several trends we identified that were common among most businesses.


The independent custom framing market has undergone significant changes in the last decade, and it is important that as business owner’s framers adapt to these changes. The number and quality of the entries revealed to us that many business owners are aware of this and enthusiastic about the opportunities that exist in the industry. As our judges reviewed the entries, Ken Baur and Meg Glasgow, they found that independent custom framers were looking for the most help in the 5 following areas.


1. Formalized processes


One of the biggest challenges custom frame shop owners face is the need to handle so many aspects of the business. A solution to this challenge is utilizing staff in ways that free up time for the business owner to focus on financials, marketing, and planning. It is difficult to accomplish this, without a company manual, training program, and other formalized processes. Business process tools help employees become competent and proactive in their roles and enable owners to redirect their attention to running the business.


2. Financial Planning


There are a number of tools available to owners of independent custom frame shops. For example, P.O.S. systems provide a way to analyze financials, capture price increases and avoid mistakes, but many business owners do not utilize the full capabilities of their systems. Some are still using manual methods. Without a solid understanding of financials, custom frame shop owners find it difficult to create a financial plan.


3. Marketing


The custom framing market is more competitive than ever, and the entrants for the Tru Vue® Makeover Contest Entries Reveal Common Challenges Among Independent Custom Framers By: Maureen A. O’Connor, Marketing Associate Retail Makeover Contest were clear that this is an area where they could use help. Creating a consistent and professional brand, maximizing merchandising opportunities and reaching out to customers on a limited budget are things that challenge independent custom frame shop owners.


4. Solid Online Presence


Having an online presence with the right content is critical to running a successful small business in any industry. Because of the visual and made-to-order nature of custom framing, there are many opportunities to impress potential customers with a dynamic website and active social media accounts. The internet offers many free and low-cost marketing tools that custom frame shop owners could be taking more advantage of to help their digital footprint.


5. Work on the business, not for the business


Independent frame shop owners are talented custom framers and designers who came into owning a business because of their passion for framing. Often it is difficult to make the transition from framer to owner, and running a business takes more time than many people initially think. Owners need to place importance on the role of running the business, in order to maximize opportunities to keep it healthy and growing. Maybe some of these are familiar issues that you may face. If so, keep checking in at Frameworks for Success section of, as we continue our series of how-to articles that addresses each aspect of the retail makeover process for independent custom framing stores. Using the makeover from contest winner Fourth Corner Frames as an example, we’ll go in-depth on various topics that will help independent custom framers position themselves for success in today’s market.

This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.

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