It’s showtime in Las Vegas

I’m off to Las Vegas this morning to spend a few days at the West Coast Art & Frame Show at the Las Vegas Hilton.

The picture framing industry is supposedly taking a beating from the entry of big box
retailers into the field and from the slump in the
housing market so it will be very informative to get some firsthand
information from new and established framing shops which are still
doing well.

I’ve signed up for six seminars given by experts in the picture framing and art publishing fields, but I will make time to visit a few of the 600 exhibitor booths at the show.

The attendees at WCAF include retail frame shops, galleries, wholesalers, and production framing companies.

An industry in flux presents enormous challenges and interesting opportunities. It is not always an advantage to have your livelihood tied to processes and practices that have been historically successful.

Processes and materials are continually evolving and computers are appearing in many shops for the first time.  Used wisely, these can enable a small outfit to outperform a much larger and older shop that is wedded to manual processes.

In the same way, a small shop which is fully aware of the importance of maintaining excellent customer relationships can operate successfully even in the presence of big box retailers. It’s all a matter of choosing a market niche where you have an advantage. Big Box retailers have an enormous price advantage, but in most cases, they offer minimal customer support because they sell commodities.

As a new framer, I am one of the smaller firms that will be attending the show, but I have been following industry forums and it appears that this field, challenging as it seems right now, is being infiltrated by people retiring from corporate roles and taking on the challenge of a custom framing shop.

Many of these new shops are independent and do not operate as conventional retail shops. The availability of computerized equipment and internet exposure is changing the ground rules so that a small framing operation can provide a professional service without all of the trappings of a conventional storefront.

Control of costs and reaching new customers effectively is critical to surviving in a tight market. I hope to find some useful information on this as well as new designs to bring back with me from this show.

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