2012 Sign Franchise Review

For the past two years, we’ve provided an overview of the sign and graphics franchise market, but this year—as you can see—we’ve made some changes, to give both franchised and independent shops a much better view of this segment of the overall industry. Because this is the first year we’ve begun asking for specific sales figures, the insight we can provide about market growth is limited since we do not have data from previous years. You can view this report as a benchmark to which we will compare future growth and change as we move forward. The information can be viewed in chart format on page 13.


The Numbers

In 2011, the franchise segment of the sign and graphics industry produced total sales of $558,315,609. In North America, franchise sales represent the bulk of that number, topping out at $518,370,006.

Based on conversations with industry colleagues, both franchise and independent, industry vendors, associations, and trade publications, the franchise heads acknowledge that while the industry is off to a better start than 2011, it’s still not at pre-recession performance numbers.

“2012 is off to a very strong start. FastSigns has experienced eight consecutive months of double digit same center sales growth. This is partly due to the slightly improving economy, but more so the result of the prior years’ efforts to differentiate ourselves from the competition, increase the number of outside salespeople in our outside sales program, and broaden our products and services. That effort is showing results in new customers every day,” says Catherine Monson, CEO, FastSigns.

Likewise, Signs By Tomorrow is experiencing a strong first quarter growth, according to Ray Palmer, Jr., president and CEO. “This growth is attributed to pent-up demand, warmer weather, and the expansion of our products and services due to advancements in technology and materials.”

“We saw a return to sales growth at Signs Now at the end of 2009 and have experienced steady sales growth since that point. This trend has continued into 2012 with good growth through the first quarter. We fully expect 2012 to be our best year ever,” says Steve White, COO, Allegra Network.


Location, Location, Location

There were 1,053 locations in 2011, 996 of them in North America. Out of that total, only one Signs By Tomorrow location is not franchisee-owned.

By far, FastSigns is the largest system, with 523 locations in seven countries. Four-hundred seventy-six are located in North America in 45 states. There were 14 new franchises in 2011. Twenty-two left the system and 21 were re-sold.

Sign Biz, Inc. was next in line with 189 locations in six countries. Of the 184 North American locations, they are present in 42 states. There were 11 new locations in 2011. One left the system and one was resold.

Signs Now can be found in three countries and has a total of 182 locations. In North America, the 177 locations are in 42 states. In 2011, there were two new locations. Six left the franchise and an additional five were re-sold.

Signs By Tomorrow has 159 and they are all located in the US in 36 states. During 2011, there were two new franchises. Three left the system and two were re-sold.


Show Me the Money

So how does all of this translate into dollars? The $558,315,609 of total sales for all the franchise systems break out into 18 categories, of which the largest segment is Fleet and Vehicle Graphics which accounts for 12.5 percent of total jobs and represents $69,789,451 of the total dollars. Here is the complete breakout of sales percentages and dollar values:

Agents of Change

While the franchise heads see 2012 as a year of opportunity and growth, what technologies are helping to drive it forward? The technology on their list includes everything from latex and flatbed printers to contour cutters and laser engravers. Workflow automation is also high on their lists of growth-enabling tools. Green technologies and solutions continue to be top of mind as well. Integration with other media—the internet, SMS text messaging, augmented reality, QR codes—helps to add value and broaden the reach of traditional static signage.

But where is the growth? What market niches will see the most growth? What challenges yet lay ahead in 2012 and how do they need to be addressed? There is obviously still a lot more that needs to be answered and the franchise leaders shared their thoughts with us. You can read their comments at www.myprintresource.com/10714633.