Client is asking to buy frames directly from supplier

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by fred_monsone, Oct 22, 2011.

  1. Hi there,
    one of my clients is asking for the contact details of the frame supplier I use but I'm reluctant because I obviously make a profit from frames. How would you suggest I handle this one? Thanks!
  2. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Are you providing any service beyond sticking the photos in frames? For example, matting and/or mounting photos? If not, it will be hard to hang on, frames are basically easy enough to find and drawing a line over something where your only value is passing it through isn't a good long-term business proposition.
  3. david_henderson


    I agree with Jeff. If where you make money doesn't gel with where you're adding value you're bound to have issues like this emerging. Maybe you need to increase the prices you charge for photography rather than rely on marking up bought -in items
  4. Here is the full story. The client purchased a multiframe with four of the images I shot for her. She would now like additional frames like the one my images came in which I'm guessing she would like to other images she already has. Thoughts?
  5. Personally, I'd tell her the supplier name and contact info and let it go. If she is looking for frames for photos she already has - you don't add value to the transaction for her. If you wanted you could say that you could order them for her and give them to her at cost.
  6. If you are buying from a legit wholesaler, they shouldn't sell to your client anyways. Just order the frames, add a 20-100% or whatever your markup is to your cost inc shipping and sell them, just like any other retailer.
  7. If the supplier sells retail, I would provide full contact information.
    If the supplier sells wholesale only, I would again provide full contact information and offer to purchase frames and sell them with enough markup to cover my costs and hassle of dealing with any returns.
  8. I wouldn't divulge your supplier. It is part of your business' intellectual property. I would be inclined to provide another frame retailer with compatible prices to your own.
    Let me give you an example: Let's say I wanted to launch a competitive website to, but to save time (I know there will be issues with the volume of hits, image management, etc.), I ask Josh for the name of the host, or better yet, his best programmers. Why should he release intellectual property to me? There is no upside.
  9. Michael, I'm with you all the way. But I have no idea who sells the same frame as it's an acrylic one that comes in particular shapes and sizes. Do you think I could provide her with a list of 'my' prices and details on the sizes? Thanks!
  10. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    If I were your client and you took that approach, I a) wouldn't buy them from you, b) wouldn't use you again for anything, and c) would not refer anyone to you. You're a photographer, not a frame retailer.
  11. Jeff, would you ask a furniture restorer to tell you where they buy their pieces so you could restore them yourself? That's my dilemma...
  12. Federica:
    Your customers has other images. She wants them in a matching frame. Are you in the framing business? If so, offer to frame them for her. If anything happens to her photos while they're in your possession, be prepared to lose money.
    If you're not in the framing business, I see it as good customer service. I'm with Jeff. If I were the customer, and you refused to help me match frames with what I bought from you with existing photos, then I'd spend my money elsewhere next time.
  13. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    would you ask a furniture restorer to tell you where they buy their pieces so you could restore them yourself?​
    I've never met anyone that held back on this information. Sometimes, the vendors wouldn't deal with the general public, but I have asked where and what to get from a variety of professionals. They always assume that their skills (such as furniture restoration) were what made their business successful, not where they bought their materials.
    As Eric says, unless you're in the framing business and good at it, I don't see what you are getting from this other than some short term profit that probably will work against your business, if your business is photography.
    It also appears that you are looking for a specific response, and only care if you get that one.
  14. I wouldn't tell her, and think it a cheek of her to ask. You are acting as a shop/retailer when you are selling the frames, and there's nothing at all wrong with adding a mark up to your product like any shop would do. When you are selling prints, you are probably also adding a mark up to the cost of producing the prints, but if she asked for prints at 'cost' you would think that a cheek too. Do you charge a mark up on albums? Of course you do, it's how photographers make a living.
    I would just direct her to a website that specialises in selling frames, and suggest she choose one from there. You can try to be helpful eg. "this website has cheap frames if you don't want to spend much, this one is more expensive but better quality. If you can't find anything there that you like I'd be happy to supply you with another like the one I supplied, for $x". You don't have to get into an explanation of why you don't divulge your suppliers, just don't do it.
    When someone asks me where I source an item that I don't want to divulge, my usual answer would be something rather general like "in England/USA/France". Nobody has ever tried to push it beyond that. If anyone ever did have the effrontery to do so, I would have to explain that we don't divulge as a matter of policy, and wouldn't have a problem telling them that. I also wouldn't have a problem mentioning that we charge a mark up on products - because that's what businesses/shops do. There's nothing to stop them buying a frame from elsewhere - and whoever they buy from will also charge a mark up.
  15. One of two approaches. Tell them and move on. Personally, I find this unpalatable as considerable time and effort on your part has been spent locating something unique (presumably), and just as presumably-this client has already spent a fair amount of time "Googling" various suppliers/retailers in an effort to locate the same item, to no avail.
    My approach would be to offer her a discount on the frame(s) item if they are to purchase just the frames. You still make something and the customer feels you met them somewhere in the middle. MOST of the time, this is all that repeat customers are asking for. For those that arn't, they have zero interest in whether or not you are able to continue earning a living and continue providing them with other related products and services.
    I know this won't sit well with many, but we do what we do to provide both a service/services AND generate income.
  16. There is no such business as photography. There is only the business of selling photography.

    If you want future business, satisfy the customers needs. If that is financially beneficial to you, you have a viable business. Never lose
    sight of that.

    But, know the difference between needs and wants. This is crucial.
  17. I am completely on the side of intellectual property. You have done "all" the leg work and the client likes your work. If you give up the supplier information now, you are more inclined to do it again and again losing one of your profit centers. If you feel you need to accommodate this client w/ respect to price you could offer a discount.
    My answer regardless of whether it is so or not, is that I use wholesale suppliers only and do not sell to the public. In this one case I will offer a x percent discount b/c I value your business. This does give your client the feeling that you care about her yet you have a company policy that you enforce.

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