Why is custom framing so expensive?


There are a lot of reasons framing costs as much as it does.  I have a few other blogs that talk about this a little, but I'll use this to be more specific.

Cost of Labor:  Frame shops charge between $50-100 an hour for labor.  I have a bottom line I need to make to keep my doors open.  Think about how long it would take you to frame a project.  And then double it.  That's what you are paying a custom framer for.  I'm not sure our industry has ever really decided on the best way to monetize everything we do.  Most frame shops charge a mark up on materials that covers their labor.  The average is a 4-5 times markup on the cost of goods sold.  In regular retail, this would be a huge mark up, but in our business that markup has to cover the labor cost to create each piece.  As a small business owner, we wear many hats.  We do all the business side stuff: pay taxes, bills, purchase inventory, advertise, and a million other things.  I also help you, the customer, design the framing for your art and frame everything myself.  There are a lot of hats to wear.  I could also just charge my customers my cost of materials with my labor rate stacked on top.  I'm not sure which would be better, but I'm happy to price it out either way.  I'll be honest in that I usually don't always charge a fair rate for my labor.  I charge a smaller markup than most frame shops, I won't specifically say what it is, but it's somewhere between 2.5-4 times on most stuff.  Come in, ask questions, I'll tell you exactlly what you are paying for, and how I am creating value for you as well.  If you don't buy anything and bring me your own materials, I charge $50 an hour.  That pays for my expertise, tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, and my 12+ years of experience.

Cost of materials. There is a huge range of prices to the materials that go into framing.  I'll start with what I do.  I purchase the majority of my inventory from Larson Juhl.  They have been around forever as a supplier for the framing industry, and are now owned by Berkshire Hathaway.  They offer the best materials and selection possible, and deliver direct to my door once a week.  I don't have a single frame from them that was made in China.  Everything comes from places where workers are generally fairly compensated for their work, including a ton of stuff made in America.  I also use some local and regional companies that are really good at what they do.  If you buy quality products that are made by people treated fairly, it will cost a little more.  There are a lot of big box stores and online operations that get containers straight from China.  They can offer you better prices than I can.  If all you care about is spending as little money as possible, then they may be your best option.  And I try to say that in a way that is not condescending, because I truly understand that bottom line price sometimes is one's biggest consideration.  

I just ask that you consider all of the things important to you when considering custom picture framing.  You are paying a premium.  That premium gets you a great designer, quality materials from quality places, and and expert craftsperson to complete your project.  That may or may not be worth paying a premium for depending on your project.

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