The International Sign Association Employer Survey shows that the economy is looking positive. Just over half of CEOs surveyed (51.4%) expected business to grow by double digits in 2015. While this growth is exciting, it is paired with an increasingly turbulent and competitive marketplace. For sign companies to succeed in 2015 they need to not just look at top line growth in the economy, they need to focus on competitive trends and look for new business opportunities.
Digital Printing Services is a Hot Growth Area
It is without doubt the biggest revolution in the sign industries. New printing technologies including large flatbed printers, super durable printing methodologies, and printable materials have transformed the sign industry. “It is the key issue on every sign fabricators mind. How do we learn more about the universe of printing options and opportunities?” asserts David Hickey of the International Sign Association.
The ascendency of large format digital printing has changed the picture of the sign industry considerably. Franchise companies like FastSigns with the ability to invest and manage large scale printing equipment have grown tremendously and are now penetrating wayfinding and rebrand markets.
Specialty printing companies in non-sign markets like exhibition and retail have also begun to move into sign markets. On the other hand traditional sign companies have been using large format printing to move into wider areas including exhibition and placemaking.
Rebranding is Becoming a Central Industry Strategy
Mcdonalds is doing it right now. Walmart just finished. Many office complexes are going through the process as we speak. That process is rebranding and the industry just gets bigger and bigger.
Wendy’s alone is spending up to $750,000 per restaurants or over a half billion dollars to renovate its company owned restaurants with a large part of that going to signs and graphics. Competitive pressures have made rebranding a necessity and constant corporate mergers have forced airlines and banks to change frequently.
The nature of these changes greatly benefits the sign industry. Many of these design firms behind these changes including Landor, Fitch and Lippincott have focused on signs, graphics, surface materials and lighting in these renovations both to save money and promote speed. Sign companies have reaped this windfall and have adapted to the speed of the industry with new modular products and durable printable materials.
International Growth is Slowing
China is slowing down its rapid growth as well as Europe. This slowdown in international growth will have far reaching ramifications for sign companies. Large sign companies will have even more difficulty penetrating international markets with greater competition overseas, but that will be made up for with a strengthening of the dollar allowing the purchase of high quality fixtures and materials.
Chinese and other Asian companies will be even more aggressive with pricing which along with lower energy prices from slow growth, will reduce the cost of materials and lighting technologies.
Wayfinding and Sign Planning is Becoming Essential to Business Expertise
Wayfinding services including planning, scheduling and implementation support is now seen as more of a necessity of doing business with more highly trained in-house staff.
Charles Kelly of Clarke Systems has seen this need for greater services first hand. “We are being expected to support solutions at higher levels of sophistication then the past and must provide levels of documentation and process to meet that demand.”
Expect in the coming years for wayfinding and support services to be seen as a standard offering for even smaller sign shops, and books like Chris Calori’s Signage and Wayfinding Design to be on the bookshelf in most companies.
Sustainable Design Services are Maturing
There is not doubt that in the last five years sustainable materials and services has been on a tear. Existing companies like 3M and Hewlett Packard along with new companies like 3Form have been seen massive growth in sustainable products.
Lately though there has been a bit of a backlash identified by sign fabricators. Mark Andreasson of DCL states, “Customers want to see products that are durable and work long term, and not just be a momentary fad. This includes durable paint and materials.”
This skepticism on the benefits of sustainable products and services could benefit companies that take a more holistic view. Sustainability though will remain an important feature of sign companies with approaches like lifecycle management where sustainability is part of the entire fabrication process, becomes part of the maturing of the field.