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Wizard Brings New Technology to Framing – Wizard International

Wizard Brings New Technology to Framing – Wizard International – Company Profile

Vanessa Silberman

Meet the company that brought innovation, convenience and productivity to frame shops

“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” could explain the sentiment framers felt back in 1994 when they used Wizard International’s computerized mat cutter for the first time. Anyone who was in the framing industry knew how time-consuming and labor-intensive cutting mats by hand could be. And here was a company whose product saved time, offered precision, inspired creativity and saved money in the long run. Was it magic? No. But it certainly felt like the framing industry had landed somewhere over the rainbow.

While Mukilteo, Wash., the home office of Wizard International, is a far cry from the merry ‘ole land of Oz, the impact Wizard has had on the framing industry is no less powerful. Thousands of Wizard mat cutters have been purchased or rented, and according to the company, there are more Wizard mat cutters in use worldwide than all of their competitors’ machines combined. No doubt Wizard prides itself on its user-friendly, innovative, cost-effective and reliable products. As such, Wizard is ready to serve the custom picture framing industry and related markets in new and innovative ways.

Founded in 1994 by Bill Wridge and Lloyd Everard, who at the time was president and owner of U.S. Mat, the company began as a one-room operation that today has grown into a billion-dollar business. Today Wizard’s home office in Mukilteo is located in a 23,000 square-foot building and boasts state-of-the-art manufacturing, as well as engineering, training and software development facilities. Company officials cite its commitment to bringing new technology to the framing industry as the main reason for its success. Indeed, its motto claims it is “The perfect blend of art and technology.”

In addition to the computerized mat cutter, last spring Wizard introduced the da Vinci System to the framing industry. The da Vinci System consists of custom software and a high quality custom printer that allows customers to print a design or pattern on the mat board or color the entire surface. It can print on canvas, fine art papers, photo paper or fabric. The da Vinci System is software specially designed by Wizard coupled with an Epson 9000 printer and custom UV inks. “We have experienced a phenomenal response from the industry … Customers and picture framers can design decorative mat finishes in ways never imagined before, and then print them onto matboard,” said Ed Pratt, Wizard’s marketing director. “From French lines and panels to clip art and custom text, anything is possible.”

In September, Wizard purchased Art Information Inc., which allows Wizard to now offer a Virtual Gallery to frame shops and customers. With a DVD-ROM, frame shops can offer their customers a selection of more than 36,000 prints, with the ability to show them these prints matted and framed before they actually purchase the piece. “It made sense to merge the two companies because both are focused on advancing the picture framing industry through computer technology,” Pratt said. “There has been a very positive response to the merger of Art Information Inc. and Wizard International. Art Information Systems has gained 210 subscribers since the merger took place … and we expect the total number of accounts to double within three months,” he continued.

One of the unique aspects of Wizard is that it offers a rental plan, which has become one of its most popular products. “All it takes is $500 to get a Wizard CMC into your shop, and then it’s only $370 (Standard Rental) or $225 (Jr. Rental) a month. The reason most shops choose to rent is the lifetime warranty the rental program provides (CPU is covered for 30 months). Wizard’s CMC rental programs are perfect for any frame shop because they grow with your business. When you are first starting out the initial cost is very low, and by having the Wizard you are ready for the increased production when your business increases,” said Pratt.

Wizard’s customer service encourages excellence by focusing on the needs of the client. According to Pratt, “Wizard’s greatest strength is its enormous customer base. With more than 2,800 CMCs in operation around the world, feedback from the customers is what keeps Wizard ahead of our competition.”

Wizard currently uses its Web site (www.wizardint.com) to promote products and company activities, to offer software updates and custom design downloads, and to have an interactive area where customers and potential customers can post and read messages. The site is capable of conducting secure transactions to protect against fraud, and the company is in the process of building up its e-commerce product offerings.

Despite these advances, Pratt admitted that “For the most part, the Web has had only minor impact on our business. However, we believe that in time the Web will have a significant effect on our overall business operations.”

As for the future, Pratt is optimistic about Wizard and the framing industry in general. “We believe this is a very exciting time for the framing industry. New technological advances in several facets of custom framing make it imperative that companies like Wizard help custom frame shops understand how new technology can improve their bottom line. Additionally, the emerging work force is comprised of young people who embrace new technology and use computers for many of their routine activities. They will be the ones demanding computerization and new innovative technology products,” said Pratt.

“We are constantly striving tO bring the right mix of advanced concepts with economy in mind. After all, our customers are still very cost-conscious–new technology or not. Wizard maintains its commitment to bringing innovation, convenience, and productivity to the frame shops of the future.”

Wizard at a Glance

FACETS & FIGURES

* Wizard International, based in Mukilteo Wash., was founded in 1994 by Bill Wridge and Lloyd Everard. Today the company has grown to fill a 23,000-square-foot building which boasts state-of-the-art manufacturing, engineering, training and software.

* The company recently purchased Art Information Inc., which allows Wizard to offer a Virtual Gallery to frame shops and customers.

* Wizard’s Web site (www.wizardint.com) is used to promote products and company activities, offer software updates and custom-designed download and offer customers and interactive area where they can post and read messages.

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