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Retail Signage

With business owners vying for attention on a crowded high street, Genevieve Lewis explores how exciting retail signage can entice the consumer back into stores

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Beautifully presented retail signage could make the difference in bringing those all important customers instore

A window to a new world

The saying is ‘don’t always judge a book by its cover’ but when it comes to advertising your store, having stylish and well-made signage does not go amiss.

Retail signage has come a long way since simple hand-painted logos on shop fronts, with built-up letters, use of LED modules that can offer halo illumination or a general glow and large signs that pick out the bigger supermarket stores. While sign writing is also an effective way – if maintained – of identifying your business, there a number of ways in which signage can be invested in to look appetising to customers.

Nettl’s Cousins highlights how retail signage can encompass all formats inside and outside of the business

Neil Cousins, Nettl’s head of sign and display, explains: “As we all know, the retail landscape in the UK has changed beyond all recognition over the past decade, with the main threat and competition coming from online and buy-on-demand products and services.

“Casualties have included banks, travel agents, clothing giants and some of the most dearly loved names on the high street such as Woolworths, BHS and Toys R Us. However, with every new challenge comes an equally determined response, and that has been the case with some of the UK’s smartest retailers where high quality, well-maintained retail signage is considered key to bringing more customers in store.”

Against this changing backdrop, the critical importance of high quality, well-designed retail signage to support brand experience and customer loyalty cannot be understated

Cousins continues: “Against this changing backdrop, the critical importance of high quality, well-designed retail signage to support brand experience and customer loyalty cannot be understated. It’s a crucial response to combat difficult trading conditions.”

Enlighten me

There are obviously a number of ways in which retail signage can attract new customers into stores – be it through built-up letters, the use of LEDs in aiding illumination or even, as managing director of Fastsigns UK, John Davies mentions, digital. This is not something that is often associated with the retail environment, but Davies explains: “Signage within retail environments has traditionally been a multifunctional vehicle for communicating promotional messages to shoppers, wayfinding and ensuring the shop floor looks aesthetically inviting. However, over the years as new technologies and techniques enter the signage and visual communications sector, new possibilities that go beyond traditional printed signage are now allowing retailers to create a more dynamic, engaging experience for shoppers through digital signage solutions.

“Digital signage is one approach that increasing numbers of our customers, operating in retail sectors, are choosing to breathe new life into the delivery of their in-store marketing and communication campaigns.”

But as Cousins highlights, the best way to entice customers into the store, is perhaps using a mixture. This could be linking your retail signage on the front of your store with indoor signage, window displays and wall graphics. He says: “The high street has its fair share of heroes and villains in the retail signage department – no pun intended. Whilst we cannot name the villains, we can easily praise the heroes. Take some of the major UK coffee brands for example. These guys have invested in everything from illuminated roadside signs, colourful point-of-sale stands, window and wall graphics right through to merchandising displays that catch the eye and ultimately influence customers to purchase their high-quality products.”

What defines retail signage? Is it just the sign above the door? Or the whole outfit?

Cousins discusses the phenomenon of the coffee shop and fast food restaurants, which have instantly recognisable signage and often large illuminated structures. He continues: “Imagine a modern-day coffee shop that was unbranded. It’s unthinkable. The reason for this is that retail signage is the portal that brings consumers directly into the brand experience in a way that an online offering could never do. Innovative and interesting design that’s translated in to high quality retail signage, be it static of digital, actually signposts the stat of the brand journey for the consumer.

“For example, when we pull into the drive through of the UK’s leading fast food provider, we instinctively know what to expect as we pass those familiar illuminated letters and mouth-watering full colour banners showing the latest monthly special. They give us the sense of security and expectation. They build and maintain our loyalty. Customer experience would falter into a state of confusion and uncertainty without this vital retail signage connection.”


Tim Egerton, sales manager at Soyang Europe says that one thing that can really bolster a business’s presence and allure is through both textile and illumination. He explains: “Textile is big in retail; and whilst we’re seeing switched-on high street retail giants draping their stores almost entirely in fabric graphics, one way of attracting people into store is through illumination. Whilst the ability for a textile graphic to cover large spaces with a lightweight, easy to install and difficult damage print is unquestionable, it’s lightboxes that are really standing out as the ‘must have’ installation.”

Egerton continues: “High quality backlit fabrics, such as Soyang’s ST601 Starlight display polyester, fits into many print company setups because it is compatible with both direct sublimation printers and also UV roll-to-roll. It is used to create dazzling lightbox displays and is now available up to five-metres-wide for those grand format retail applications that need to be illuminous and alluring.”

Illuminated retail signage could also come in the form of textile light boxes, as explained by Soyang’s Tim Egerton

This sort of application may not be in the budget of a smaller shopkeeper, but Egerton says that there are other options that could suit the situation. He adds: “We’re also starting to see stretch frame systems that do not require specialist fitting or keder tape. These frame systems are ideal for smaller retail outlets that more limited marketing budget as they can easily install printed display fabrics themselves, using a simple tool, without the need to invest in sewing and finishing lines.”

Another area that can also be taken advantage of, is the window space. Egerton discusses how Soyang’s window graphics could prove enticing for customers. He explains: “Window displays are very popular in the UK and a creative shop front can make a big impact. Window graphics and films can create a frame for a physical display set behind the glass, adding colour and depth to the scene. Frosted films have also grown in popularity over recent years, being used for branding or decoration while still allowing light into the store.

“In smaller, traditional shops, these window films can be used on glass panels in doors too, displaying opening hours and services. Soyang’s Eco-Stick window film can be printed and then applied easily to windows. The film, which is available in both clear and white, is a wet-apply product that creates a suction layer, so it’s also straightforward to remove.”

Raise your flag

It seems that the use of textiles is definitely a point of call for sign-makers in the retail sector. Very Displays’ export sales and managing director Anastassia Grigorjev, explains that LED lightboxes are also another option for retail signage. “LED is the most forward-thinking signage solution on the market and is a brand-new innovation that’s been added to our range here at Very Displays,” explains Grigorjev. “It’s bright, vibrant and interactive. This particular product is the most portable LED lightbox and can be moved around with ease due to its lightweight structure. It’s ideal for high traffic retail areas as it will brighten up the area making it more noticeable from afar, ensuring your message will not get missed.”

Very Displays offers a variety of soft signage for retail, which could be in the form of flags or banners and can be spruced up with LEDs

Grigorjev also highlights that textiles can be used for other things such as flags and soft hanging banners. She continues: “They can be freestanding on the floor, wall mounted, desktop mounted, ceiling mounted or evening hanging in the air. They’re abstract and limitless really. The message needs to meet the eyes of potential buyer everywhere it is possible. Outside of the shop, on the high street of a busy town, in the shop window or shopping centre, on the beach or at a festival, the opportunities are endless.

“Flags are really the most purchased type of signage solution today because they’re fit for purpose for all business types where you need a small format such as A4 or as mega format like a 6m tall flag, there’s something to suit everyone.”

Factoid: An effective window display can increase sales by up to 42% (theretailmutual.com). O

As retail signage has progressed, it is now an opportunity for a sign-maker to offer a complete package. This could include the signage for the store front, banners that can be changed regularly promoting new products, and of course signs within the store itself. These in-store signs do not just incorporate point-of-sale but also brand signs, decorative signs and wayfinding signage. Offering the complete retail package could keep you busy for a while.

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