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Why is picture framing so expensive?

Picture framing is generally expensive.


There are two parts that need to be considered. One is the actual costs and the other is of perception. A lot of things these days are expensive, but are generally in line with what consumers expect it to cost. Often consumers are shocked at the cost of picture framing. It is even more difficult for the framer who needs to deal with ongoing price increases from suppliers.


So what has happened? The cost of raw materials like wood and paper have been steadily increasing over time. But many industries have been able to deal with these price increases in raw materials without provoking push back from consumers. The picture framing industry problems are more than just this.


Holding Inventory


To be in the business of picture framing, you have to hold a large amount of inventory. Usually, the stores are small shops that offer quite a few moulding styles and mat board colours. If the business does not have its own manufacturing or warehousing space, it must rely on a third party to hold all the stock and ship quickly when needed. This third party would be a wholesaler.


The wholesaler would be a middle-man between the manufacturer and the framing shop. They would need to add on their costs for space, financing inventory and paper and enough profit. Most industries have cut out the cost of this middle-man in order to provide a more direct to consumer model at a lower cost. Unfortunately, not so much for picture framing.


The Problem of Distribution


For years, framing shops asked the wholesalers to sell exclusively to them and not directly to the consumer. The concern was that is a consumer bought the equipment and supplies that they would stop buying from the framing shops.


As other industries began removing the need for wholesalers, manufacturers then needed to change their pricing to be based on volume instead of who they were selling to. Manufacturers used to price based on if you were a retailer or wholesaler. When the supply chain was shortened and it wasn’t clear which position someone was, the only choice was to price based on volumes sold. Whoever buys more pays less, simple.


But in the framing industry, that would not normally sell to certain customers, this can be a disaster. If lower costs are based on higher volume, no one benefits from a policy that deliberately turns customers away. The prices at the source, the manufacturer, remain high and these are passed down the supply chain through the wholesaler and retailer to the consumer, which creates another problem – decreased demand.


The Snowball Effect


For ‘luxury’ or non-essential goods like picture frames, consumers will stop buying this when the price reaches a certain level. This drop in demand has a snowball effect. The costs (rent) of the retailer stays the same regardless of sales volumes. To keep the business going, the drop in sales must be made up for by an increasing prices to consumers that are still buying.


This would then cause further decreased demand, which then means prices need to increase again! Ultimately, picture framing becomes expensive for many consumers.



This creates an opportunity to provide picture framing at a valuable price. The business needs to aim to buy materials at the lowest price possible and control costs.

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