The Value of Leasing a Sign

Mukilteo Speedway Café

The decision to open a business is very exciting, and brings with it, many new challenges. Choices made in a short time span will have long term impact. It is not unusual for a business owner to budget a small amount of money for signage. A short sighted approach to purchasing signage can be disastrous. A new business owner needs compelling signage for a fast start out of the blocks.

Advertising Value

Advertising is one of the largest investments that you can make in your business, and your sign is your best advertising value. Your sign advertises your business and your products and services to potential customers, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Leasing Advantages

Options for buying a sign include a cash purchase, proceeds from a comprehensive business loan or a lease. Advantages of leasing a sign are as follows:
1. Allows you to allocate more money to working capital
2. Matches the cash flow of the purchase to the revenue being created
3. One hundred percent financing (no down payment as compared to a loan)
4. Off-balance sheet financing
5. You can have a high impact and compelling sign at the critical starting point of your new business
6. Currently, many banks are not in the “loaning money” mode. Leasing companies are more flexible and they are offering competitive rates.

Most potential customers are from your immediate geographic area. There is no better way to reach the customers who walk and drive by your establishment every day than displaying a sign that catches their attention and at the same time, conveys your image of your business.

There are other reasons to budget an appropriate amount of money for signage. When you buy a sign from a quality, full service sign company, you are buying a sign that will have a low cost to operate and, it will be built to withstand the elements. If you are successful in your business endeavor, your sign will be a key element to your success for many years.

Sign Buying Tips – First Time Buyers

Sign Buying Tips - Jimmy John'sThe average person will never buy a sign for a business. Most people who do buy a sign will only buy a sign once in their lifetime. If you are buying a sign for the first time, you will not know much about the process and typically, a person starting a new business will not have a lot of time to educate themselves and make an optimum decision.

Some useful sign buying tips that will help you rise up on the learning curve follows:

Regulatory Requirements

Signage is usually regulated by a county or a city and you must obtain a sign permit and potentially an electrical permit. Your sign permit application may require a review by an “Architectural Design Review Board” that represents the governing municipality or occasionally the landlord.  Generally, a new sign buyer leases space and their landlord has incorporated “sign criteria” into the lease. Sign criteria restricts signage as to the type of sign, height of sign, width of sign and how the sign will be attached to the building.  The design of your new sign must incorporate the requirements of the governing municipality and the landlord.  Most of the time, the design will be horizontally oriented.  The process of purchasing a sign should be started right away, as sign design, landlord approval, permit submittal and approval, fabrication and installation can easily take 4 to 6 weeks.  Fabrication of the sign does not normally begin until the sign permit has been approved.

Sign Design

Within the parameters established by your landlord and your governing municipality, the design of your new sign should incorporate two key components – impact and readability. Impact will cause potential customers to turn their head to view your sign.  Readability ensures that when the sign is viewed, it can quickly and easily convey the identity of your business and relay the scope of available products and services.  The distance for optimum viewing of your sign can play a significant role in the size of your sign, the colors and the font style.  Some colors such as red can be seen more easily at a distance compared to other colors such as blue. Block letters are much easier to read compared to cursive writing. 

Electrical Signs

If you plan to purchase an electrical sign, you need to make sure there is “dedicated power (from the electrical panel directly to the sign)” at the sign location. The architecture of the building will be a factor if you must bring power to the sign location.  If you are leasing a space that had an electrical sign, you may not need to provide electrical power. If you plan to place neon or other electrical signs in the windows (subject to municipal and landlord approval), you will want to provide power above or below the windows.

Sign Operation

If your new sign is electrical, controlling the on and off times of the sign may be a requirement or at least a consideration. A sign can be controlled by a timer (power is interrupted at the electrical panel) or a photo cell (usually attached to the sign). A timer provides more value to the sign owner because when using a timer, the sign can be turned on in the afternoon during the darker winter season. A photo cell will turn a sign on and off at dusk and dawn. An astronomic timer offers the most flexible operation, and it is easy to program.  Another approach is to leave your sign on 24/7 which amounts to fairly inexpensive advertising of your business. 

Sign Types

The majority of electrical signs are attached to walls, rather than freestanding. Within the category of wall signs, channel letter signs and cabinet signs are the most common. Channel letter signs are individual letters with translucent faces that are internally illuminated with either neon or LED’s. LED’s are the dominate lighting system.  The benefits of an LED lighting system are longevity, efficient use of electrical power and low cost of operation over the life of the sign.  Cabinet signs are metal boxes with plastic faces and vinyl graphics. They may be illuminated with high-output fluorescent lamps or LED’s. Cabinet signs are significantly lower in cost than channel letter signs, but most landlords require channel letter signs. If your landlord provides a freestanding tenant directory sign that is perpendicular to pedestrians and motorists, you should secure space on that sign as well.

There are a many more details concerning the purchase of a sign. If you purchase your sign from a reputable, full service sign company, the important details will be taken into account during the process of design, permitting, fabrication and installation of your sign. A good source of finding a reputable sign company is to ask your landlord for a referral. 

In addition to purchasing a sign, all of your advertising (web page, vehicle graphics, business cards, etc) should be consistent. A logo design can look stunning on paper, but it may not be possible to identically fabricate it due to limitations of lighting systems and other fabrication considerations. So, if you utilize a graphic designer to create your logo, be sure to consult your sign company during the design process. For more information about signs, check out the International Sign Association (ISA) web site as follows: