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I've searched the forums here, and am a little surprised I didn't find much info on good places to buy framing supplies wholesale.  I'm just starting out in this business and have set up an account with a local wholesale framing supply (Jayness Molding in Seattle).  But, I'm finding that some of their pricing is actually not very good and was wondering what other sources people have found that work well for them.

I was really hoping to find great prices locally.  I plan to purchase glass, and probably also matting and foam core from Jayness Molding since they seem to have good prices on those items, and I won't have to pay shipping on heavy/oversized items.

For items that are easier to ship, I'd prefer to go with a place that has better prices.  I was just looking at framingsupplies.com, and their prices beat my local wholesaler, and shipping isn't bad on the smaller items I need.  Has anyone dealt with them before?  Any other suggestions for a wholesaler with good prices and decent shipping to the NW?

For frames, I'm planning on buying them joined since I don't have the equipment to do that myself.  I'm hoping someday to buy a V-nailer and buy chop, or maybe lengths and use my miter saw.  Not sure if it will be accurate enough, but that's down the road.  I've purchased frames from Frame Destination in the past and been really happy with them.  If I buy glass locally, I've found I can get the frames cheaper from Frame Destination then I can buy locally wholesale as long as I buy ~5 or more at a time to spread out the shipping.  I expected to be able to buy cheaper wholesale then I could get from Frame Destination.  Anyone have a good wholesale source for joined frames (no glazing)?

Chris

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A wholesale account usually requires a large order of the same style of frame, usually much larger than someone just starting out needs. It can take years to build up to knowing how much of what style of frame you really need. I still have a quantity of two styles of frames in my garage that I'll never sell. What price you pay is second to the service a resource provides. Getting frames cheaper doesn't mean much if you can't get them in time for your next show.

Another thing is that you haven't decided if you want to be a framer or a photographer. When I was doing shows full time, I did not want to spend my time between shows making frames. I recommend standardizing your image size, buying mats pre cut and aluminum frames in sections. That way even if you get into more shows, you'll still have a life between them.

I get my aluminum frames from Frame Fit in Philadelphia. The fact that they always ship the same day and I get them the next day is more important than the price. I think Frame Destination offers that same service and being in Texas is closer to you than Philadelphia.

Larry Berman
http://BermanGraphics.com
412-401-8100

Thanks for the info, Larry. I don't really know much about the wholesale business, so this is a learning experience for me.

I definitely understand your point about deciding where best to spend my time/money. Right now my volume is certainly low enough to be able to cut mat and do the framing myself. I enjoy it for now. But I see as volume increases I can better spend my time taking pictures rather than framing.

I prefer wood frames myself. Do you find customers prefer aluminum?

Thanks for the tip on Frame Fit. I like checking out all my options. But like yousay, they are farther away from me than Frame Destination.

Chris

The term wholesaler is like the term archival...mostly used for marketing purposes. Frame Destination is basically a wholesaler, however we only require a sales tax ID from Texas based resellers so we do not have to charge them sales tax. We do not restrict our sales to businesses only and have volume discounts built into our website so that businesses who buy in volume get lower prices than individuals buying singles.

How to lower cost:

  • Skip the middle man when you can - buy from a distributor/wholesaler instead of retailer, or buy from a manufacturer
  • Buy in higher volume - most places offer volume discounts
  • Buy closer to home to save on shipping costs
  • Sacrifice service
  • Buy raw material
  • Sacrifice quality

Your local custom frame shop usually will not be able to offer you much better prices than us because they mostly buy from picture frame distributors. We purchase directly from the manufacturer. Keep in mind that even if you buy from the manufacture or distributor, you don’t always get better pricing. For example, you can buy Lineco and Clearbags direct, but if purchasing in small volumes you will get better pricing from us or a company like ours. You can look for frame distributors in your area and try to setup an account with them. Different companies have different requirements. For example, Larson Juhl requires their framing customers to have a retail store front. We have no requirements.

Purchasing in volume is a great way to save money and it also helps you save on order processing overhead and shipping costs. FedEx charges us a few dollars for every box we ship, even if they are part of the same order, but they only charge us a few cents for an extra pound.

Buy local, or at least within your part of the country. If you are buying clearbags and live in California, you might be able to pay less for shipping buying direct instead of buying from us, since Clearbags has a warehouse in California and we ship from Dallas. However, if you add some bags into a frame order from us, then your shipping cost may be only a $1 or two more,  so you have to consider volume also. Frame materials are large and the shipping companies (FedEx and UPS) charge based on whichever is higher, actual weight of the shipment, or dimensional weight. Dimensional weight is a formula that converts volume of the box into pounds. This means  it will cost more to ship an empty 3 cubic ft box than it will to ship a couple of bricks in a small box. Some places may offer lower shipping cost than us, however, if the corners of the mats are always damaged you may not be saving money in the long run.

One of the reasons (most) custom frame shops are more expensive is because of the great service they offer. The good ones will have certified picture framers on staff that understand how to identify artwork, how to safely frame it so it will last for generations, and how to frame it so that it will be aesthetically pleasing to the artwork and the decor it will complement. They will take the time to walk you through your options. They also do all the final assembly including getting rid of that last piece of dust before sealing up the frame package. An easy way to save money of course is to do all of this yourself, but this requires time and education.

To a lesser degree, distributors and wholesalers will offer different levels of service. For example, our company will notify you if part of your order is out of stock. Other companies may just ship the order incomplete, so you don't find out about the stock issue until you get the order. Different companies have different error rates, quality rates, accuracy rates, order fulfillment rates and packaging quality. Offering better customer service, quicker order turn around, less back-orders, and less shipping damage means higher quality employees (not min wage), more expensive equipment, more expensive supplies, and higher inventory costs.

You can also save money on materials by purchasing raw material, such as full sheets of mat board, and then cutting them yourself. This requires equipment and time. If you want to save more time you have to buy more expensive equipment. You can cut mat board more efficiently and with better quality on $1200 mat cutter than a $250 one. The same is true even for the computerized mat cutters. We have been upgrading our computerized mat cutters to help increase our quality and efficiency.

You must be careful when doing it yourself because time is money. Do you get a better return on your time for taking and marketing pictures, or for cutting mats? Let’s say that you are buying 16x20 Bainbridge Alphamats with a window of 11x14 from my company at qty 25. Your cost is $4.70 each. If you buy an entire box of uncut mat board from us then your cost per 16x20 if you cut them yourself will be $2.31, for savings of $2.39. If it takes you an hour to cut 4 then you are saving $9.56/hr. If your time is worth more than $9.56/hr then you are losing money by cutting your own mats. Me personally, even though I own a picture frame company...I have never hand cut a mat and never will...I would rather be out taking pictures.

 

The last way to save money is to sacrifice quality. One of the mat boards we sell is Bainbridge Alpharag. It is the best and it has the most archival features built in. If you do not care about the Artcare technology in that mat board you can buy Crescent Museum Rag, which does not contain Artcare protection, but has all of the other features. However, in the case of the 8-ply, the Crescent mat board is not quite as thick and sturdy as the Bainbridge so you also sacrifice a little depth. If you are not concerned about Museum quality archival mat board but still want to carry rag mat board, you can get the regular Crescent rag board. You can continue to sacrifice features, quality and density all the way down to the lowest end paper mat board.

Cheers, Mark

President Frame Destination, Inc.

Mark, thanks for all the good info. Lots to think about. I'll have to look more into the pre cut mats. So far I've been buying full sheets and cutting myself. That's been working for me as my volume is low, and I like doing it. But at some point I'm sure it'll make more sense to buy pre cut for standard sizes in bulk. I'll likely still cut odd sizes myself from full sheets.

Chris

I understand Chris. Time and money are just two of the main variables. You have to look at cash flow and your skills and preferences. Standardization can save money but custom can help you stand out from the competition. You will have to figure out works for you and your market. If business were easy, there would we be a lot less people working for others. We can't be everything for everyone, but we are happy to help where we can.

Cheers, Mark

President Frame Destination, Inc.

Very true, Mark.  I've always liked panoramics, which is one reason why I will likely noty limit myself to standardizing on the "typical" frame sizes.  I should really try to standardize on one or two pano aspect ratios, but I often find that I'm not happy with a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio, and end up somewhere in between.  So I guess I'll see where I go from here.  Thanks again for all your good insight.

Here's a question for you.  I've been very happy with the frames I've ordered from your company.  They've all been large panoramic ratios around 40-45" on the long side with acrylic.  They come with the hanging wire and hardware necessary for attaching it to the frames.  If I order just the frames without the acrylic, do they still come with the same hanging hardware package? 

Chris

Chris, I am afraid the free hanging kits are sort of a volume discount when customers order more than just the frame. You dont have to order a complete picture frame kit, but at least one other thing such as glass, acrylic, mat or mount board. To include the hanging kit with just a frame we would have to raise our frame prices.

Ok, thanks for the info, Mark.  I was assuming that would be the answer.  I just wanted to know so I could work out hte costs for my various options for frame purchases.

Chris

Chris, 

Metropolitan Picture Framing is a manufacturer who sells direct. We have designed a line of frames for fine art. We sell primarily to museums, galleries, picture framers, and artists and photographers responsible for framing their own work.  If you are looking for less expensive wood frames you might consider purchasing unfinished wood frames cut to size with wedges.  With the wedge system you will be able to join them yourself and put on a simple wax finish which will be easy to touchup. We also sell joined frames but the shipping will be higher. I'm sending you a link to our selection of frames for works on paper and photographs http://www.metroframe.com/wood-frames-for-photographs-and-works-on-...  You can follow the links to get online pricing. I'm also sending you a link to joining with wedges http://www.metroframe.com/framing-advice-framing/ Feel free to call me at our 800-626-3139 if you have any questions. All the best!

Karen Desnick

Karen,

Thanks for the info on your company. I'll take a look and let you know if I have any questions.

Chris
I will vouch for Metroframing! Great products, timely, helpful staff and accurate orders. I use them more than any other company!

Where I work, at a medium size arts center, we occasionally use http://www.americanframe.com/ for a basic black metal frame for prints and photographs.  I am not certain if they sell wholesale or not... 

 

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