What makes a #sign expensive? Signs as an investment.

What makes a sign ‘expensive’?

Expensive is a VERY subjective word, so lets look at the input costs and how that could, would or should influence one’s purchasing decision.

#SignForce, as all sign suppliers, work in a very competitive market. There are generally many sign businesses in a relatively small area, especially as #signage is a low entry cost business. Because of the high level of competition, each sign business needs to have ‘something’ that makes our business ‘stand out’. For the person making the purchase, the high level of competition means one SHOULD be able to compare various options and get the best solution to fit your requirements, although COST, OUTLAY or INITIAL INVESTMENT is often the deciding factor, very often at the sacrifice of long term investment or long term LIFE of the sign.

Because COST or INITIAL OUTLAY is such a HUGE determining factor for many buyers, one of the easiest ways to stand out  is on ‘price’. It is easy for clients to choose the lowest cost supplier, as, generally, all suppliers will quote to supply the same LOOKING sign.

Often how this works is the potential client (or buyer) will send out a ‘tender’, which consists of a picture of how the sign should look. Sophisticated buyers will also supply detailed specifications – which they understand and can check – but this is less common than only supplying a picture and sizes. Also too often the person supplying the specifications does not gave a great understanding of what they are specifying so their ability to ensure that they receive what was quoted could be limited.

Because EVERYONE is quoting on the same OUTCOME (read that as picture), when the buyer gets their three or more competing quotes, they naturally assume they are comparing ‘APPLES’ with ‘APPLES’, but because #signs are not standard, off the shelf items, the design, makeup and materials can (and generally will) differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. As such, although all the signs may (initially) LOOK the same when installed, they could, in reality, be EXTREMELY different.

In order to explain I am going to use the example of a modular, internally illuminated light box sign with an acrylic face that is illuminated using energy efficient LED lights. I am using a modular frame as we can then assume that everyone that is quoting is using the same external frame, so all the quotes would have the same (or similar) input costs for the frame.

Now lets look at the make up of the sign, starting with ILLUMINATION. There are a number of LED’s that can be used on a light box sign. The difference can be anything from in how much light the LED emits (lumens) to the size of the individual LED units (or modules) to the angle of the light emitted from the LED module (especially if the module has a LENS), the expected life of the units and the COST. Because there are so many variables, for the purpose of this article I will compare cost that can vary from about R35 (US$ 13) per meter to about R500 (US$ 186) per meter. It would seem obvious there are a number of variables that affect the cost, but for #SignForce the important differences are (a) the LED’s are the correct LED’s for the job (meaning they will give equal and sufficient light), (b) the expected life of the LED and (c) the LED’s are sure to do the job (preferably guaranteed) so that the business will not have any unnecessary call backs which can be substantially more costly than the cost of the LED’s.

Other factors that can have a GREAT  impact on the cost include, but are not limited to, (a) the size of the sign (this has way too many variables to reference in this article), (b) the cost of the decoration (print versus cut vinyl versus ink versus paint) (we will only refer to PRINT where costs have a range difference that can easily exceed 500%, with the quality and life span of the print varying greatly), (c) the thickness of the acrylic face (this is influenced by the size of the sign and possibly the location of the sign, and will in turn influence the cost of both the acrylic (the thicker the higher the cost) and the beading that holds (supports) the acrylic face). (d) If the frame is to be painted the make up and application method of the paint can also have a great impact on costs, both due to the large difference in cost of the base paint as well the time and process differences between the various application methods which range from ‘dipping’ to using a paint brush to spray painting and powder coating.

At #SignForce we take our guarantee VERY SERIOUSLY, and as such we use materials which, while generally more costly, will have a higher likelihood of lasting and not creating negative comebacks from clients. This does tend to make the initial outlay slightly higher, (historically this is generally no more than 20%), but #SignForce’s logic is that having to redo a sign after three to five years could be substantially more costly than having a sign that does it’s job well for it’s intended life, which is generally seven years, even if the decoration needs to be replaced more regurarly.

For more information on why SignForce views #signs as an investment or on purchasing  quality signs that will consistently keep you in your prospective clients eyes for many years to come, please contact #SignForce at info@signforce.co.za

What makes up the cost of a sign?

What makes up a sign’s cost?

This comment could be viewed as a follow up to the article ‘Are All Signs the Same’, because it stems from a similar thought.

Not only are all signs not the same, even when they look the same, the materials used to manufacture the signs can vary extensively.

A client asked me to replace a fallen letter on a sign consisting of a number of cut out letters. He sent me a blurry photo (taken while he was driving past the sign) so I thought it would be best for me to go see exactly what needed to be replaced. I went to the site to take measurements and photo’s, and when on site I touched one of the remaining letters of the sign and it fell off the wall. I subsequently removed the sign to repaint and re-secure it. When I returned it to the factory the first thing that was pointed out to me was that the paint was pealing BECAUSE the Aluminium had not been primed. A simple oversight?

In general the cost of a sign consists of the cost of material plus the cost of labor plus a margin for profit plus a contribution to overheads and such.

While there are a number of factors that contribute to the material cost – one tends to pay more for longer lasting material, material cost is generally 30 – 40% of the final cost of a sign. That said, if the cost of material can be kept down – either by getting larger discounts from suppliers OR by using cheaper material OR by leaving out steps in the process (regardless of the long term consequences), the business can make larger profits.

Sadly the thinking of many (sign) businesses is that they need to sell one level of quality but deliver a lesser quality, and although the material costs are not the largest single contributor to costs, they are the first and possibly easiest to be cut back on, as the sign maker knows that generally, by the time the ‘omission’ has been discovered the guarantee (assuming there is one) would have expired.

While it is possible for oversights to happen in any business – the reasons for oversights varying from lack of supervision to lack of training to lack of time and many more – if the oversight is that, an oversight, then it can and should be chalked up to an avoidable error.

The difficulty for new clients is to determine how often ‘oversights’ happen, and if any necessary re-do’s have been costed into the original quote – if it is not in the original costing the chances are the supplier will never come back.

While oversights can and do happen, even with the best of manufacturers and processes, from the buyers side, while it is almost always tempting to choose the ‘cheapest’ supplier, the buyer should always be aware that when a sign seems like a bargain, as with almost everything in life, there could well be hidden costs that you will only become aware of later, possibly too late.

It can thus be seen that not all signs are necessarily created equal, not all costing methods are the same and not all material inputs are of the same quality. Here are an additional three reasons why sign buyers are encouraged to improve their understanding about the signs they require, and also to stick with sign companies that have a reputation, or at least one with references that can be checked, and one who is known to honour their guarantees. If a sign company is not prepared to offer any guarantee why are you even considering using them?

If you are in the market for professional looking signs that are made using the material that has been quoted, or simply require advice on what signs may best market your business, email arnold@signforce.co.zaor david@signforce.co.za using the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE