Selling Art Prints : Framed or Unframed

Selling Art Prints : Framed or Unframed – aah the ultimate question…

Selling Art Prints : Framed or Unframed; Is it better to sell artwork framed or unframed; A discussion on whether framed or unframed prints are more cost effective to sell.

A framed print does make a lovely gift and I completely understand why people prefer to buy framed prints. However for me this was something I considered but decided against from the get go. I considered the pros and cons but honestly I didn’t think offering framed prints was a cost effective or viable option for the following reasons :

  • Ideally I would offer the customer at least a choice of 2 different colours of frames – black or white. So I would have to have enough storage space to store the 2 colour frames in at least 4 of my most popular sizes (though maybe 6). So already this made me think I would need quite a bit of storage space just to store a few of each colour and size. I would obviously need A LOT more space at busy times such as Christmas.
  • The time it takes to frame a print – to frame a print well and neatly it takes me roughly 20-45 minutes work. I would need to account for this time as well as some profit on top when charging for a framed print. When I worked out the cost it really didn’t add up – I don’t think customers would realistically be willing to pay the higher prices I would have to charge, especially when considering the following 2 points.
  • The higher cost of shipping – it very obviously costs a lot more to post a framed print than an unframed print. I think people do expect higher postage costs however the cost of packing materials is also substantially higher for framed prints because you need a lot of padding and boxes are more expensive than envelopes. I would have to account for this when pricing shipping and customers very often see the cost of shipping as the cost of postage and forget about all the packaging required.
  • The time it takes to package a framed print is substantially higher than an unframed print. I can currently cut/package an unframed print in give or take 5 minutes and if I’m doing a few the time per print decreases. However were I to frame it this time would significantly increase and doing a few doesn’t really have the associated time saving because it’s harder to set up a production line. Packaging a framed print well takes roughly 15-30 minutes per print. Again I would have to account for this time spent when pricing a framed print making the cost of shipping even higher.
  • A lot of selling platforms do not allow you to price your shipping by variation i.e. you would have to sell the framed print and unframed print as separate products and not variations of one product because you can only price shipping by the whole product. If I’m not explaining myself well here is an example :
    • Price of unframed print £9.99 shipping £2.50,
    • Price of framed print £39.99 shipping £7.50.
    • Currently on several selling platforms you can only assign one shipping cost per product so to sell a framed and unframed version in one product you would have to charge one shipping price – but which one?? Choosing the £2.50 price would mean you are losing money on shipping. Choosing the £7.50 price means you are seriously over charging on the unframed version – and this WOULD put off potential customers. Choosing a price in between still means you would be losing money or putting off customers but just a little less! And I know you can refund shipping overcharges however most customers do not read this sort of info in descriptions so would most likely just see the high cost of postage and move on…
    • This is currently the case on my shopify site (though to be fair I haven’t investigated any apps to see if there is anything that would help with this yet). It is also the case on etsy and amazon. So if I wanted to sell framed prints I would have to duplicate each of my products to sell the framed version. This in turn leads to …
  • Higher selling fees, higher listing/renewal fees (as more products), advertising costs and shipping fees associated with a higher priced item. Again these would have to be accounted for in the final price of the framed print.
  • Longer spent on photography : I would have to take time to photograph the frames and potentially with each print in them (ideally this is what the customer would like to see) – which could take a very very long time as I sell a lot of prints. However an alternative to this is for me to photograph the frame and create a ‘mockup’ shot, though I would have to create a few so that all my product photos don’t look exactly the same. Another alternative would be to outsource this to a photographer.
  • There is an increased risk of damage in the post as both the frame and glass/perspex can get damaged, scratched or broken and in turn could damage the print itself. Sadly it would most likely come down to you to replace it (and pay for the associated additional cost of shipping). Though sometimes you may be able to claim some money back from the postal service you used (though in most cases you never get the full replacement value and claiming money back is a complete pain!!)
  • Everyone has different taste in frames. I personally like plain white wooden frames and stay away from anything plastic or shiny. However peoples tastes and fashions vary so what you like may not be your customers cup of tea and this year white wood frames may be the rage but next year they may look dated. So if you have a garage full of white wood frames these may be hard to sell. So if you plan on selling framed prints you would need to spend time researching the types of frames that appeal to the masses and are neutral enough not to go out of style quickly.
  • I would have to keep a constant eye on frame stock levels and would have to either order more in (and pay for associated shipping which may be high depending on how many as frames are heavy) or physically go to the store and get some which would incur a time cost. At busy times of year this may be difficult and be an additional administrative burden.

Phew! – so after considering all the above I decided for me and my business the way forward was to sell my prints unframed. Yes I have probably lost a few sales this way however I suspect I have also saved myself more than a few headaches!!! The majority of my customers don’t have a problem framing their prints themselves ‘off the shelf’ frames are readily available for the sizes of prints are I sell. 

An alternative you may want to consider to the above process is to get a giclee printer or print on demand service to frame your prints. This is a viable alternative however is not cheap so the profit margins for you are most likely to be a lot lower. But it may be worth investiating…

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