Without a sign, a store may as well be an empty building.
That means a convenience store without a sign is more or less invisible. That does not mean, however, that any sign at all will do.
Unfortunately, a store with signs that are poorly lit, damaged or out-of-date is still only partly visible. The wrong sign won’t be welcoming to customers, nor will it set their expectations for a great customer experience, losing an opportunity to effectively position your c-store brand.
For convenience stores with many locations across a state or region, a good signage program can be especially complex and add to the burden of overall store management. Besides the sheer numbers involved, the demands of installing and maintaining signs with a consistent appearance and quality, in front of every store, will challenge many organizations.
For businesses large and small, here is a sign and lighting checklist that will make it easier to keep customers looking your way:
1. Preventive Maintenance
Signs make it possible for customers to find your store and understand, at a glance, what they’ll find inside. What could be more important? To protect not only the investment in your signs, but also the investment in the rest of the business, preventive maintenance should include:
Inspection, at least annually, for any warning signs that the elements, age or vandalism have damaged a sign;
Cleaning of the outside of the sign to assure the message remains easy to read and the colors are compliant with your brand standards;
Cleaning of the inside of the sign to remove dirt, debris and insects that can compromise the operation of the sign;
Careful attention to avoid damaging a sign if it’s power washed;
Electrical repairs or replacement of worn or faulty components, including time clocks, photocells and lighting elements;
Protection of the sign, as appropriate, with an awning or application of a protective coating;
Confirmation that the foundation of a freestanding sign is properly drained; and
Parking lot lighting repairs, replacements and LED retrofits for energy savings
2. Inventory & Tagging of Sign and Lighting Assets
If convenience stores don’t have visibility into the status of their sign and lighting assets, it’s all but impossible to stake a strategic approach to their management.
If your signs are already part of a larger inventory system, be certain that you have a way to assess them in a view that’s separate from the rest of the business’s assets. If not:
Establish a database to house an inventory of all of your sign and lighting assets.
During preventive maintenance or repairs, update the inventory with detailed notes describing the before and after condition of an asset.
Include an ongoing series of photographs of every asset and its components in the inventory.
During installation of a new sign, create the new inventory record and document the sign’s condition with notes and photographs.
Track the original cost of each asset, and its components, and then update inventory records with complete financial documentation of every parts and labor charge.
Tag each sign and component by affixing a durable inventory number and barcode. (This allows technicians to be certain they’re reading and updating the correct inventory record.)
3. Regularly Assess the Performance of Your Inventory
Once you have your customers’ eyes on your convenience stores and your signs, be sure to keep your own eyes on the performance of your signage. Ask yourself, on a regular basis, how it compares to the signs of other businesses, especially competitors.
Based on the traffic counts at your locations, analyze how the return on investment (ROI) of a new sign compares to other investments in advertising you might be considering.
Should you decide to go to market for a sign and lighting partner, consider the following:
Can they show you data that backs up their claims of increased revenue?
What is their experience with national signage rebrands?
Do they have the manufacturing capacity to provide quality products in a reasonable timeframe?
Will they handle your project on a turnkey basis, from design through installation?
Do they provide ongoing warranty and service?
The right signs, plus a clean and well-lit parking lot, represent much more than just aesthetics. To your customers, they say you care about your establishment, their shopping experience and safety.
Good signage and lighting should drive business outcomes and branding. If they don’t, this checklist may be just what you’re looking for.
Tim O’Donnell is general manager, Sign and Lighting, at Vixxo. From conception to installation and beyond, Vixxo is a provider of full-service sign and lighting programs.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.