Framed art and framing materials for Irving

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Richard Varga, buyer of frames, framed art and framing materials for Irving, Tex.-based Michael’s, reports his frame business is up over last year by a “healthy amount.” Varga explains that, in the past year and a half, the 380-store crafts chain has gone to a more value-driven program in photo frames, offering them as a “true value” at 50 percent off regular retail. In addition, Michael’s has eliminated deadwood from the assortment, Varga says.


Rich Lento, senior housewares buyer for Jamesway Corp., says that highlighting the promotional assortment has helped the Secaucus, N.J.-based mass merchant achieve 11-to-12-percent sales growth in frames this year. (Jamesway’s frame business had been flat in 1993 – a year in which the chain filed for chapter 11 protection – after four or five years of steady growth.)

Jamesway highlights its assortment of two-for-$5, two-for-$6 and two-for-$7 frames in a mini gondola in the middle of the traffic aisle. This approach has been so successful, according to Lento, that the ratio of promotional to basic frame business at Jamesway has reversed itself since last year – from 44/56 to 56/44. “As long as we impulse the area, the business will continue to grow.”

Special purchases have also helped Jamesway’s frame business grow in 1994, Lento adds. One such purchase enabled the mass merchant to retail solid oak frames, formerly part of its basic business, between $3 (for a 3.5-x5-inch frame) and $7 (for a 16 x 20) and to “basically quadruple our sales of these frames.” Bonus packs have also become a major part of Jamesway’s frame business.

“Customers are very much demanding value, although they still want quality,” echoes the stationery buyer for a Midwest department store who says his frame sales are running about 4 percent ahead of last year on a comparable-store basis. Unit sales are up more than dollars, the buyer adds, because the average retail price has come down. And “$9.99 is a real heavy price point. Most of our ads emphasize price point, although they also mention that the balance of the frame assortment is available at 20 percent off.”

The $9.99 price point is also the heart of the frame business for the Moto Photo photoprocessing chain, which continues to post double-digit increases in the category. At the same time, the Dayton, Ohio-based retailer/franchisor has added some $14.99 frames that are doing nicely, merchandise manager Debbie Roe reports. These frames do not represent a huge business, but Roe says the fact that she can sell them bodes well for the future.

She also notes that consumer interest in frames and photo storage remains high and that Moto Photo franchisees are excited about these products and “stock more of them everyday.”

Also continuing to show double-digit increases, and with strong sales at slightly higher prices, is the Kohl’s department store chain. “We are doing price promoting, but layered on top of our existing basic business,” notes Gary Lewandowski, stationery buyer for the Menomee, Wis.-based retailer.

“Price promoting is not the biggest part of our business,” Lewandowski adds. “The customer is willing to spend more if the frame is right. For me, $11 to $16 is the strongest price range in frames.”

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