Framing for the ‘Just-Married’ market: the sound of wedding bells can bring a new crop of young buyers and a bevy of mementos down the aisles of frame shops

Framing for the ‘Just-Married’ market: the sound of wedding bells can bring a new crop of young buyers and a bevy of mementos down the aisles of frame shops – custom framers

Tricia Bisoux

It’s June, a month for walking down the aisle, standing under the chupah or jumping over the broom. It’s the wedding season, which not only heralds the unions of happy couples everywhere but also represents an important market for custom picture framers. For where there are weddings, there are also photographs, documents, fabrics, flowers and other precious keepsakes requiring creative display and conservation framing.

It makes sense for framers to target soon-to-be-newlyweds, said Judi Meade of Art-en-Ciel in Montreal. After all, this is a time when most newlyweds are melding their decorating tastes, buying their first pieces of furniture and purchasing their first houses. “They’re generally young couples in the process of decorating their first homes–they’ve set it as a high priority,” said Meade. “They frame frequently and can become customers for life.”

Many framers, however, may not be reaching this market to the fullest, framing only the occasional wedding photo or invitation. But by promoting their services to brides- and grooms-to-be–not to mention to their gift-buying cadre of family and friends–framers can turn that trickle of occasional orders into a steady flow of customers seeking wedding-related frame design and gifts.

Moreover, the time before, during and after the wedding can be an important window of opportunity when framers can educate newlyweds about the benefits of custom framing and, in the process, cultivate a new generation of long-term customers.

Woo the Wedding Set

According to Bride’s magazine, the average wedding costs $19,000. On average, newlyweds spend 40 percent of that budget on the caterer, 14 percent on clothing, 10 percent on entertainment, eight percent on flowers, seven percent on the photographer, four percent on invitations and other stationery, four percent on gifts, three percent on the reception hall and two percent on transportation. That leaves eight percent–or an average of $1,520–for “miscellaneous.”

Framers can and should set their sights on at least part of that “miscellaneous” spending budget and even a smidgen of the gift budget. They can do so in a variety of ways, from targeting advertising to creating displays of photo albums and small gifts to offering special gift certificates to throwing an all-out, in-store bridal blitz. But it takes time and planning to pinpoint customer preferences, create promotions and coordinate them with the annual wedding seasons.

It’s important to note, for example, that the most popular months for weddings are May, June, August and September, with July and October close behind, according to www.WeddingGlobe.com. That means that early spring to late summer is prime time for framers to take some or all of the following steps:

Create sample displays. Targeted, in-store displays, placed in a highly visible part of the store during the wedding season, are great ways to heighten a frame shop’s profile in the bridal market. Donna Dickeson of D&J’s Custom Framing & Art in Lewiston, Idaho, finds that a gorgeous sample display of wedding memorabilia inspires much interest in her shop.

“We just used a picture of a bride and groom from a bridal magazine, the invitation from my niece’s wedding and other objects,” said Dickeson. “The sample has worked very well for me. I won a blue ribbon for it in a PPFA competition, and I’ve done a couple more just like it for customers.”

Advertise in bridal-themed issues of local publications. Most major newspapers print a wedding-themed supplement during the wedding season, while many areas have at least one bridal magazine or newsletter. These resources can be the perfect places for a frame shop to reach brides-to-be, said Leann Pelvit, owner of the Silk Rose Gallery in Sidney, Mont. Framers should consider not only advertising in these issues, but also providing wedding-related framing articles, educational information and press releases for potential editorial coverage free of charge.

“Our local paper does a bridal issue every year,” she said. “I’ve even supplied them with copy for articles. I offer a discount on wedding framing in my ad. If we advertise, they also include our coupon in a coupon packet they give to brides who stop by the paper to advertise their engagements or weddings.”

Pelvit’s shop is in a small town with a population of 2,000, yet she still redeems about 10 to 15 coupons a year, mostly from people who have never been in her store before. “So for my investment of $55, I think I get my money’s worth,” she said.

Seek co-op advertising opportunities, In most areas, a variety of businesses offer services for weddings–from tuxedo rental to catering to custom framing. Banding together with a group of such businesses can be an affordable way to advertise to the bridal market, advised Beverly Tiger of Tiger Lily, a floral preservation and frame shop in Gladstone, N.J.

“I have joined the Association for Bridal Consultants as a way to get co-op advertising targeted to bridal magazines,” she said.

Have stuff brides want. A good inventory mix is important to this market. Some shops may do well with high-end photo albums and picture frames; others might find that do-it-yourself shadow boxes and specialized framing displays go gangbusters; while still others may find gift cards and full-fledged bridal registries for art, framing and gifts are just what their customers were looking for.

Try Something New

Choosing a good product mix that pleases wedding customers takes some trial and error. As a result, framers may want to take a “walk down the aisle” in their shops to examine their current inventory and think about what kind of product mixes might be a hit in the wedding market. Then, they can test market a variety of different products and services among customers.

Sometimes offering just a few affordable items can offer young newlyweds a great entry point into custom framing. For example, Meade of Art-en-Ciel has found that adding albums to her inventory has been a great success. As the spring wedding season begins in April, she moves her photo album display to a prominent place at the front of the store.

“Over the years, I have experimented with adding retail merchandise to my store. I’ve found that such merchandise brings more people into the store and makes it far more interesting and attractive to buyers,” said Meade. “In the process of refining my product mix to suit demand, I’ve discovered a niche for high-end photo frames and albums.”

There generally are three categories of customers who regularly purchase albums, explained Meade: Brides and grooms, new parents and travelers. Meade finds that the first two categories are her primary customers. After working with the wedding market for several years, Meade has found that the wedding album market itself is also generally divided into two segments: The all-out extravaganza weddings served primarily by high-end photographers and smaller, less formal weddings that call for the more affordable, handmade product that Meade offers in her store.

In addition to albums, promoting wedding-themed framing products keeps your services on customers’ minds as their big day approaches. For example, Carolyn Canon of MCR Framing in DeKalb, Ill., has found that offering “signature mats” to brides for their receptions has been a popular option.

“We have done a number of ‘autograph mats.’ For example, we’ll cut a standard size mat with a very wide border, such as a 16- by 20-inch mat for a 5- by 7-inch photo,” she said. “The couple takes the mat to display with a photo at their reception for the guests to sign and then brings it back to us with a photo for us to frame. We’ve run radio ads for this service.”

To offer yet another entry point to custom framing, framers might consider adding a line of ready-made shadow boxes to their inventory. A new line of ready-mades is newly available from GraphiStudio, a company with U.S. offices in Minneapolis. Available in two sizes, 10 by 12 and 14 by 19 inches, they are the perfect option for newlyweds whose budgets can’t accommodate a custom design, said company representative Maureen Neises.

“Customers can utilize these shadow boxes for their big events,” said Neises. “They’re affordable yet very elegant and ornate and are available in four different styles of moulding.”

For brides with grander budgets, framer-photographers may also want to look into the “Wedding Book,” a commercially published, art-quality, four-color coffee-table-style book, also available through GraphiStudio. Through the photographer, newlyweds can choose among several layouts and then send in photos to the company that chronicle their engagement and wedding. The book is then professionally designed, printed and bound with a picture cover or in embossed Italian leather. It can be printed in full size as well as in a number of smaller sizes for gifts for parents and members of the bridal party.

Costing $3,000 to $5,000 for design and printing, the Wedding Book isn’t for the budget-conscious. But it could be an impressive option for high-end framers and framer-photographers who work with the wedding market on a regular basis.

Something Borrowed, Blue

Indeed, brides are looking for things old, new, borrowed, blue and especially fun and functional for their wedding days. As a result, some framers have added wedding registries to their services, registering brides not only for art and framing, but also for gifts and decor items.

Many framers may see a bridal registry as superfluous to their framing services. However, a registry might prove to be a successful way to please present customers and attract new ones, especially for frame shops in areas that are underserved by other retail establishments.

For example, a bridal registry made perfect sense for Janet Berry of Frame Masters Gallery in Shelby, N.C., a town of 25,000. Eight years ago, as other gift shops in her area began to close, her customers turned to her for help. Berry, who already offered some home accessories, jumped on the opportunity.

“We have always carried photo frames, albums, little photo boxes and some home accessories,” said Berry. “When we started doing bridal, we began to integrate more modern pieces to appeal to younger women and men. I started going beyond the traditional, bringing in more wrought iron pieces and a line of recycled aluminum vases and bowls. The younger generation doesn’t seem to want anything made of a material that requires constant care, such as silver.”

Berry expanded her inventory to include more lamps, pillows, artwork, knickknacks, vases and decorative bowls. Brides- and grooms-to-be walk around the shop, filling out a form to indicate the items they want. Berry has a bridal brochure to highlight her services; she also gives each bride a folder that includes information about local photographers, caterers, florists, dress shops and tuxedo rentals. Any wedding-related business owner who wants to do so can simply bring in an advertisement to be included in Berry’s folder, free of charge.

Although Berry is careful not to endorse any one business included in the folder, she does work closely with a local florist. Once a couple registers with Frame Masters Gallery, Berry calls the florist who then delivers flowers to the bride-to-be.

“We split the cost,” Berry explained. “It’s been great advertising for the florist and my business.”

For Sonja Dagon, a bridal registry is a simple add-on service. Dagon and her husband Leon own Magniframe, a framing operation with five locations in Ontario, Canada, as well as the Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto.

“Primarily, the registry attracts couples who have lived together for many years and have everything except a nice piece of art,” said Dagon. The registry doesn’t require much administration, she explained, and can provide a means to introduce her business to new clientele. “Sometimes couples register, but nothing comes of it immediately,” Dagon said. “But then they get money as gifts and return to spend it in our shop.”

Make the Announcement

No matter what strategies work best for your business, it’s important to let your customers know you offer wedding-specific products and services. Otherwise, your shop may remain under-utilized by this market. “If you want to target this market, you must make people aware of the fact that you’re offering these services,” advised Dagon. “Write about it in your newsletter, post it on your Web site, and include it in direct mail that you send out.”

In addition, added Berry of Frame Masters Gallery, the extent to which your shop is able to attract this market depends on your areas local demographic, mix of businesses and customer taste. “You need to do your homework,” she said. “Just ask your customers what they think of your adding certain inventory or a bridal registry.”

Your customers can give you an idea of what bridal services would have the greatest success for your shop. More important, attracting the wedding market through promotions, displays and advertising offers framers a way to continually attract a new generation of custom framing customers.

‘Telling a Story’

the Trend for Weddings

The latest trend in wedding photography bodes well for businesses that specialize in the creation and display of wedding memorabilia, including custom framing. Photographer Rich Newell, of Eicher’s Photography Studio in Centerville, Ohio, noted that the heyday of formal, posed wedding photos has passed. Instead, couples want a greater number of candid shots, which require more dynamic, detailed and creative framing treatments.

“Wedding photography has probably changed 180 degrees in the past five years,” said Newell. “We used to pose everything, putting them in front of a back ground as if we were in the studio. Now we do maybe 20 posed images, and everything else is candid.” Black-and-white candid photos are especially popular, he added.

The popularity of candid shots also has inspired a new generation of wedding albums. Rather than accommodate only four to six images on a spread, many new wedding albums will accommodate as many as 24 images, offering a more interesting, collage-inspired, “story-telling” style.

Framers can take their cue from this trend. A framed sample of a single “bride-and-groom-in-front-of-a-fountain”-type image may not go as far to inspire today’s newly-weds, Displays that incorporate multi-opening mats and photo montages, as well as shadow box displays with objects that are a record of the entire event, are more likely to capture their attention.

Framer and photographer LeeAnn Samsel of Beveled Edge Framing & Photography in Sandy, Utah, agreed that treatments that accommodate several candid shots are extremely popular. “One of the things brides love is a three-opening double mat in neutrals or black and white, I cut them to hold 5- by 5-inch images, since that’s the size I use for proofs, like many professional photographers do. They can be hung horizontally or vertically, and you can cut quite a few out of one piece of matboard, I then use a frame that matches the feel of the photos–fun or elegant.”

Likewise, a popular option in Eicher’s Photography is to frame three 10- by 10-inch images in a slim frame, using a 2-inch-wide mat with a deckle edge.

“Instead of doing formal portraits of the brides in their big dresses, we’re taking more close-up, expressive photographs. It’s fewer posed images and more photojournalism,” said Newell. “We’re telling more stories rather than creating them.”

SOURCES

Fitzcarraldo, (514) 871-3812

GraphiStudio, www.graphistudio.com

World Paper, 800-385-5911

COPYRIGHT 2003 Advanstar Communications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group