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Do you make any of these 5 Retail Signage Mistakes?

Posted by Frank Murch | Feb 7, 2017 11:00:00 AM

The role of signage is to convey a message. That message is to draw the customer in, cause an impulse buy or trigger a planned purchase. Retailers often focus much deeper. This results in a focus of product and advertising attributes that hurt their sales. Are YOU focused on the wrong things and making costly mistakes?

Customers know their needs, they have an idea of what they want. There are 3 things a sign is doing:

1.) Pull them into the store – telling your buyer “I am here” and “here is what you want”. Get too tricky and you can mess this up

2.) Navigational marker. Once the customer is near or in the store, they are looking for the product over the “noise”. Be clear and obvious.

3.) the retailer needs to trigger the purchase (“that’s it” – “that is what I want”) response.

Retailers tend to focus deeper, on these types of signs:

Getting eye popping signs that communicate: New products, new sizes, different packaging or new anything, along with value statements like “Sale” clearance items, exclusive offer, volume discounts are tried and true signs that will likely be here a hundred years from now. But focusing on the minutia causes mistakes on the basics.

5 mistakes you are probably making now


If a sign is shop worn – toss itMonument Temple Heights A.jpg

Signage needs to stand out from the product clutter, but not detract from the other signs you are using. The easiest way to do this is to have crisp, new signage. When a sign starts to show wear, it blends in and stops being noticed. It is great to recycle signs, but once they start to look tired, they stop communicating crisply and will not trigger the purchase as well. It costs you money to have old and worn signage.

It takes time to be simple

Mistakes and delays happen when things are rushed. The incorrect colors, fonts, bad artwork, misspelling and silly mistakes are normally caught and corrected when there is enough time. We often see retailers ordering signs they need “tomorrow”. Making a great sign takes scull time. Having time to look at the proof sheets, to double check and to “sleep on it” helps a lot. We live in a fast-paced world, casual , off the cuff world, BUT if each sign is a “trigger” for hundreds or thousands of people, a little more time to “get it right” pays off.  

Fonts and Sizes

Retailers tend to look at text over and over. It gets boring. There is a strong tendency to use fancy fonts, with swirls and serifs, curlicues and fancy stuff. It is much cooler to have a different typeface or more text. It also reducing communication and stunting sales. Shoppers spend a few seconds surveying all the competing messages to find the one sign that triggers the purchase. Resist the temptation to be “fancy”. Be bold, simple and clear. Boring? To you – yes, but not to the audience you are serving. Don’t “shoot over their heads” make it crisp, clean, simple and bold.

TMI (too much information)joke-bad-english-.png

Retailers want to communicate all the features on a product on a sign – don’t. Effective signs normally don’t do multiple things. They pull the customer in, identify and trigger. This is best done with simple, concise messages to help the shopper come, see and purchase. Signage that contains minimum wording required has larger text size and sells more. Clearly indicate exactly what the product is, where it is and how much it is. If there is a sale – be as obvious are you can about the sale. “Discount” or Sale signs always work better when you have a number of alternatives right there.

Too much information creates clutter and noise. Shoppers either spend more time reading, searching or scanning OR they give up. Either way, it is an impediment to sales.


The customer is using the signs to navigate. Having consistent signs, fonts, colors and a logo is extremely important. The subconscious mind recognizes these attributes and filters out everything else to navigate to the item you will sell. Having a mix of sign types confuses this subconscious navigation. The exception is having several levels of signage : Bold category signage to help find the aisle then uniform shelf signage to find the shelf then uniform pricing signs makes a lot of sense. Then have a small, bond, stand out sale sign. Slightly altered fonts, logos, text sizes, colors, location or shapes hurts sales.

No role for unique signs? Of course there is! But getting the basics done is the foundation for the unique signage you want. Get the basics down first. If the basics are solid, breaking the rules can have that “viral” result everybody is looking for (and normally failing to achieve). Fail on the basics and you reduce sales and profits.

The role of signage is to convey: draw the customer in, cause an impulse to buy or trigger a planned purchase. Do these basic things first. It will make you money. Customer know want they want, Get too tricky and you depress sales. Once the foundation is built, more is possible, but if the basics are not there your clever signage is “noise”.

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Topics: Office signs, retail signs, retail signs, Channel Letter, Retail monument sign, neon signs


Whether you need a channel letter set, a monument signs, ADA signs, wayfinding signs, lobby signs, or any other type of commercial building signage, we can help! Signs for San Diego is the best sign company for building signs.


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