Districts in distress, or being made over, can suffer from inconsistent development, zoning, and sign controls, making it difficult to attract developers and critical capital. When Lower Downtown Denver began working on its face lift, developers wanted to know that the integrity of the district’s aesthetic wouldn’t be compromised by tacky outliers. Design standards gave developers the confidence to invest; knowing that the same standards would apply to neighboring properties. The result was a high-quality development, enhanced by adhering to the historic fabric of the district and streetscape enhancements that boosted the identity, viability, and liveliness of the district.
Planning, zoning and development controls, and sign controls, can be used to communicate to a community’s sense of value. This value, the intrinsic value of signs, also has an economic context worth noting. Recognizing this context requires several things, such as abandoning a generic approach in sign design and functionality, and acknowledging the ways that signs can and do support local economies. To fully understand the economic value of signs, consider the findings of two extensive studies on the economic value of signage.
Studies on Economic Value of Signage
Currently, the lion’s share of data available is not from independent sources, but the industry (sign manufacturers, trade associations, and real estate appraisers) and focuses on the effect of sign codes on marketability and sales. This information has typically been focused on small businesses that purchase signs. Often this data is the product of customer surveys. However, the standout multipart study, "Research on Signage Performance," conducted by the University of San Diego, dives deeply into the effects of on-site signage.
Part I: Fast-Food Chain Signage
This part looked at a number of variables affecting signage on sales, specifically, the total number of signs on a site, the cumulative square footage, height, and presence of specific types of signs (e.g., directional signs, monument signs, building (e.g., wall or fascia) signs, pole signs, and drive-thru menu boards), of 162 Southern California fast-food chain locations.
Results indicated that the number of signs significantly impacted annual sales revenue and customer transactions. Moreover according to the study’s model projections, one additional sign:
- Will result in an increase of 4.75 percent (in annual sales in dollars or $23,750), based on sales revenue of $500,000.
- Will result in an increase by 3.93 percent (of annual number of transactions) or greater than 3,900 additional transactions (per stores with 100,000 annual transactions.
The actual impact of adding signs ranged from $0.06/transaction to $0.78, depending on the size of the sign added.
Part II: Pier 1 Imports
This portion of the study found similarly encouraging results. A total of 150 stores were studied to see the effects of modifying, adding, or removing on-premise signage on sales performance. Effects on sales performance of any change to building signage, pole or plaza identity signs, or the addition of new directional signage. Other examples include: adding new signage to unsigned building faces, replacing aging signage, and the replacing existing signage with larger signage. The results support a strong correlation between new signage and increased sales, specifically:
- Building signage changes created an increase of 1 to 5 percent (in weekly sales per store).
- The increases to weekly sales at the 21 sites that experienced changes to building signage ranged from 0.3 percent to 23.7 percent.
- A 4 to 12 percent increase in weekly sales was realized at stores which added pole signs and plaza identity signs.
The Pier 1 Imports signage study concludes that ‘on-premise signage is a significant constituent of the factors causing the success of a retail endeavor’”, and “that the ‘advertising effect’ of additional building, pole, or multitenant sign can be credited with a 5 to 10 percent increase in a site's revenues.”
These findings support the conclusion that by investing in signage best suited to their particular enterprise can have a positive impact on a company’s annual revenues. However many businesses are not fully aware of what that may be. These companies can benefit from working with sign companies who can advise them as to the proper amount of signage, optimal placement, and sign design for their type of business and location.
"The Economic Contest of Signs: Designing for Success", Planning.org, https://www.planning.org/research/signs/pdf/chapter4.pdf