If you’re interested in signage and the role it plays in the retail environment, you may want to consider joining a sign-making franchise. But first, let’s take a look at the role signage plays in the retail market. It’s a sector that’s often overlooked, yet it plays a huge part in almost every business and its road to success.
We’ll also find out how signs are used in the retail environment, what makes a good sign and what emerging trends are having an impact on sign design. Finally, we’ll let you know which franchises give you the best chance of owning a successful sign-making business.
The signage sector
While the signage sector used to simply refer to physical signs outside stores. It encompassed pavement signs, window notices and menus, for example. But today the sector has expanded in line with advances in technology and marketing techniques. Signage now includes digital notices, vehicle wraps and point-of-sale materials.
There are so many different aspects to the signage sector, so business owners are faced with countless options when it comes to promoting their companies. This is just as well, as the majority of business owners agree that signage has a huge impact on a business’ profitability. In fact, 83 percent of UK businesses say that signs are their most cost-effective marketing tool, particularly if they’re outside the store.
This is because many customers subconsciously link a business’ signage to the quality of its products or services. If a sign is deemed to be cheaply made, confusing or gaudy, people are far less likely to step inside the store.
As well as being attractive, effective signage should give passers-by an idea of the business. A classy wedding dress boutique might have a white sign with elegant lettering, for example, while a mid-range pizza restaurant aimed at young consumers might use 3D neon signage to emphasise their fun brand identity.
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How big is the signage industry?
Brett Newman of Hybrid Services estimates that there are around 4,000 signage businesses in the UK. However, this number increases to roughly 13,000 if you take into account the print companies that sell signage or graphics too. It’s a huge industry; in the UK, the signage sector is thought to be worth £500 million. Worldwide, it’s valued at over £36 billion.
Retail store signs
Store signs are a vital feature of the modern retail environment. They provide consumers with a means of moving through the commercial landscape by identifying different shops and the goods and services they offer. Without well-designed store signs, the retail environment would be far more difficult to navigate. Store signs are a huge part of businesses’ brand identities and help us to identify them instantly. Without signage, many businesses would suffer. In fact, it’s unlikely they would even be identified among a host of other businesses.
What makes a good store sign?
A good signage business will typically consider five key factors when they create a sign. They are:
- Colours – Colours play a vital role in communicating character. You might be surprised to learn that they can even affect your mood. Consequently, they should be used to convey information about a business’ brand. You might also attempt to give passers-by an idea of the atmosphere inside the store. They should ensure the business stands out in its local environment. Also, contrasting colours can also be used within a design to accentuate aspects of the design.
- Simplicity – Consumers don't look at signs for long. In fact, signs are usually taken in at a glance. This means they need to be relatively simple, ensuring all the essential information can be consumed in one go from a distance. Although it can be tempting to build up a sign to incorporate a huge amount of information and images, it’s better to keep it simple and clean by paring it back to the essentials.
- Typography – A business name or other information can be given emphasis by using specific typographical techniques. Sizing, bold type, italics and arrangement all have a huge impact on how individuals read and interpret text. As a result, sign-makers pay careful attention to the weighting attributed to different parts of the text to convey information in a particular order. Use this to your advantage and make sure consumers know what you really want to tell them.
- The surrounding environment – A good sign-maker will always take the local environment into account. They will find out where it's going to be placed, what angle it will be read at, what colours are visible in the surroundings and what type of consumer it’s aimed at. For instance, a sign that needs to be seen from the road is going to be designed differently to one that's aimed at pedestrians. A sign situated in a predominately green environment is unlikely to use much green in its design.
- Space – In sign-making, what you don't say is almost as important as what you do say. By this, we mean that the attributes of the sign's blank space are just as vital as those of its text or images. A sign with no empty space is likely to be cluttered and confusing to read. A sign with too much space may be too basic. Instead, a carefully considered balance between content and space needs to be established.
Trends in store sign design
Like any industry, store signage is always changing and adapting to new technologies and consumer demands. As a result, it’s subject to trends, just as any other form of business is. Currently, the industry is focused on several key trends. They include:
- Wall graphics, decals and signage – A growing number of businesses are choosing to liven up their office and reception spaces with impressive wall decorations. This trend has taken off, thanks to the vast array of new technologies available to sign-makers. Printing, fixing or cutting a design is quicker, easier and cheaper than ever before, allowing businesses to brighten up their office space without breaking the bank.
- Interactive signs – The impact of digital technology on sign-making cannot be underestimated. Firstly, it has provided manufacturers with an impressive armoury of tools. However, it has also drawn attention away from the surrounding environment and refocused it on devices. It may be a cliché that consumers spend a significant amount of time glued to a screen, but it’s true – even when they're in a retail environment.
One way this is influencing signage design is by increasing the demand for interactive signs. From touchscreen signs to integrated QR codes, digital technology is having a big impact on signage. And with the advent of augmented reality tech, this is only set to grow.
- LED lighting – If you ask a traditional sign-writer what the most important industry development in recent years has been, they’re likely to say that it was LED lighting. By offering a low-cost, energy-efficient alternative, they’ve become the sign-maker’s weapon of choice, replacing fluorescent tubing as the number one signage light source.
- In keeping with the environment – Finally, sign-makers are also having to work with a growing trend amongst businesses for signs that blend in with the architectural style and period of the surrounding buildings and area. This is a challenge, as sign-makers typically want their signs to stand out from their immediate surroundings.
Store sign franchises
Choosing to enter the world of franchising can be an excellent entry point into the signage sector. There are a range of established signage franchises with profitable business models and a good level of brand awareness just waiting for suitable franchisees to join their network.
So what signage franchises are out there?
- Signarama – This franchise has been in operation since 1986 and has created a network of more than 900 franchise units spread across 65 countries. It requires a total investment of roughly £85,000.
- FASTSIGNS – This company also specialises in the production, sale and installation of signs. It has developed a large pool of loyal clients over more than 30 years in the business. To become a Fastsigns franchisee, you’ll need to be prepared to make an investment of around £120,000.
- Minuteman Press – As the UK’s premier printing, marketing and design franchise, this business has helped businesses grow for more than 40 years. To get involved, you’ll need to invest around £50,000.
These franchises offer investors the opportunity to become their own boss while helping businesses promote their brands effectively. They all provide training, support and ongoing guidance as to ensure you have the tools to succeed. What’s more, they’re experienced franchisors with a considerable amount to offer any franchisee hoping to make it big in the signage industry.
If you’re after something a little different, why not consider becoming a franchisee with Agency Express or Countrywide Signs? These franchises specialise in managing estate agency boards – the ‘For Sale’ and ‘To Let’ signs we see every single day across the country. They’re both van-based businesses, which means the start-up fees are low, enabling you to make a return on your investment in no time.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©