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Millennial Purchasing Power | The Social Impact

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At 73.1 million strong, Millennials are the largest living generation. Currently, in their mid-twenties to late-thirties, Millennials have a combined consumer purchasing power of $600 billion, a number that is projected to rise to $1.4 trillion by 2020. Because of this, Millennials are radically altering the marketplace. To tap into this purchasing power, businesses must adapt their products, services, and marketing to accommodate Millennial preferences.

But what exactly do Millennials value in products and services? And what are they actually spending their money on?

Millennial = Digital Native

It seems only fitting to begin this discussion with technology as it is in many ways integral to both of the upcoming topics we will discuss. Millennials are the first generation of digital natives; they are intimately familiar with the increased rapidity of life that technology promotes. They expect that businesses will operate on the same level.

Amazon makes online shopping smooth and easy, while smartphones perform a multitude functions simultaneously. Developing technology also allows businesses to make more environmentally-conscious choices, products, and services. These are all important to Millennials (we will touch more on this later in this article). For this reason, Millennials value technologies such as the internet. They make many facets of life much more convenient and time-efficient.

Convenience: There’s an App for That!

As noted above, Millennials value convenience in all aspects of life. Not only do they want the products they use to be highly utilitarian and convenient, but they also want the process of obtaining those things to be flexible and seamless. In order to facilitate this demand, many companies are digitizing their operations.

Harking back to the previous section, technology, and the internet are major contributors to this convenience culture that Millennials prefer. Online buyers are able to quickly browse a multitude of choices, compare prices and reviews, and then make a well-informed purchase. Users can also open one of the thousands of retail apps offered on the App Store to make their purchases. While Millennials buy into it the more than other generations, the ease-of-use, and variety of options that new technology and the internet provide make the digital experience accessible and convenient for everyone.

Green Eggs and Environmental Friendliness

Millennials grew up listening to scientists, politicians, celebrities, and the media debate the merit of climate change. As a result, they are one of the most green-focused generations in history. In fact, one survey revealed that 87% of Millennials are concerned about climate change, while other research indicates that 90% of millennials prefer to buy from businesses with trustworthy social and environmental practices.

Millennials gravitate toward eco-friendly, sustainable, and fair-trade brands like Patagonia, Love Beauty and Planet, and Whole Foods. They value low-waste production and recyclable products. They also prefer companies with high social responsibility standards; companies that focus on social issues and contribute to charitable causes.

Technology, with regard to environmental responsibility, is also important to Millennials. They appreciate hybrid technologies that create cleaner, renewable energy sources. Paper waste also decreases with the use of digital file storage and sharing.

Millennials are Putting Money Where Their Mouth Is

Millennials’ focus on technology, social responsibility, and environmental sustainability is reflected not only in their purchases but also in their investment portfolios.

As digital natives, Millennials are investing in technology and internet giants like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. Companies that align with their ideals of social and environmental accountability also attract Millennial purchasing power. Research shows that they are twice as likely as other generations to invest in companies that abide by responsible environmental, sustainable, and governance-based (ESG) practices.

For manufacturing and fabrication companies, being environmentally and socially responsible is critical to ensuring that Millennials will use some of their purchasing power to invest in such companies. These businesses can appeal to Millennials by ensuring they implement these practices.

Millennial purchasing power is ever-growing, and as such Millennials are major players in the business world. They purchase products and invest in companies that they believe contribute to global development and sustainability, offer convenient products/services, and effectively utilize technology. Businesses that can align with these ideals are sure to find success with Millennial consumers and investors.

Stay tuned for our upcoming blog discussing how Millennials’ personal and corporate purchasing power is impacting B2B as they advance in the workplace.


Millennial Purchasing Power | The Big Picture

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In this three-part blog series, we will discuss the Millennial generation in regard to their consumer purchasing power and within the B2B workforce. We will first explore their discretionary income in the marketplace as consumers. Next, we will develop a better understanding of their social influence as a generation, and then conclude with a discussion of Millennial purchasing power as it pertains directly to B2B and the signage/manufacturing industry.

The topic of generational differences has captured the interest of the media in recent years, particularly within the workplace. Now that the majority of millennials have entered the workforce, they have a measurable discretionary income. When you factor in the 73.1 million Millennials currently living in the U.S., it rounds out to some pretty significant purchasing power. To account for this growing purchasing power, businesses are modifying their products, services, and marketing to fit Millennials’ preferences. However, in order to fully grasp the impact of Millennial purchasing power, we must review what has shaped them as a generation and take an in-depth look at their true financial status.

Characterizing the Millennial Generation

While there is some debate about how to categorize the Millennial generation, Pew Research Center offers a comprehensive overview of the Millennial timeline. One notable aspect of the Millennial generation is the internet/technology explosion. The first iPhone was released in 2007; with it, users could access the World Wide Web right from their own handheld device. Millennials never looked back.

Since then, developing technology and the internet have drastically impacted communication and the speed of daily life. They enable lighting fast information-gathering and near-instant communication.

Amazon Prime is one great example of the marketplace adapting to tech-savvy Millennials. With a single click, users can purchase almost any item and expect it to be on their doorstep within days. Other examples include the expectation that emails will be answered in at most 24 hours, if not within the hour. Technology has fostered a culture of instant gratification, and Millennials expect this to be a part of the buying experience.

Changing Financial Landscape

At 56 million, Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce today. In 2018, the median Millennial household income was $71,400. This is similar to the median household income of $70,700 Gen Xers made at that same age. However, the economic landscape looks a bit different for the young adults of today than it did for previous generations.

It is important to note that many Millennials entered the workforce during the 2008 Recession. This factor had the greatest impact on Millennials who don’t have a college education. Pew Research Center indicates that Millennials with no college degree made nearly $3,000 less annually than what Baby Boomers with no college degree made in 1982.

But what about Millennials who do have a college degree? Does higher education make a difference in financial status?

College Education vs. Student Debt

While Millennials are one of the most educated generations, they have a large residual financial burden—student debt. And though people with college degrees tend to earn more over a lifetime, Millennials aren’t getting quite the ROI on their education as past generations. They bear the brunt of the student loan crisis, to the tune of a combined $1.3 trillion, an amount that has more than doubled in the last decade.

On average, Millennials with a college education carry an individual $33,000 in student loan debt. This is quite the disparity compared to the less than $2,000 that Boomers owed in student debt as young adults. Accounting for inflation, $2,000 by 2019 terms is roughly $4,130. Since 1988, the price of attending college has risen over 160%. One study even noted that Millennials with a college diploma and student debt earn roughly the same amount as a Baby Boomer would have earned with no college degree at the same age.

Other Financial Burdens

In congruence with the student debt crisis and due to the 2008 Recession, many Millennials aren’t buying homes. This is unsurprising considering that housing prices have risen nearly 40% in the past decade.

There are several other indications that Millennials are missing traditional adulthood milestones. A recent report by Business Insider and Morning Consult found that more than half of Millennials don’t have a retirement account and the majority have less than $5,000 in savings. Their discretionary purchasing has also decreased, as exemplified by the fact that Millennials are spending only two-thirds of what Boomers and Gen Xers do on entertainment, and are spending 2% less on apparel.

A New Hope for Millennials

Despite the various heavy financial burdens that Millennials bear, they have a $600 billion consumer purchasing power. In 2020, they are projected to spend $1.4 trillion. This number is only anticipated to increase as Millennials’ advance in their careers. In fact, since 2005 the number of Millennials in workplace leadership positions has increased 15%. Paychex reports that the annual growth rate of hourly earnings for Millennials (5.8%) is nearly double the national average (3%).

For manufacturing companies like NAS, there is one important thing to keep in mind. In addition to their significant consumer purchasing power, Millennials will begin to control what their businesses value in the products and services they purchase as they climb the corporate ladder. They are the future, so businesses must explore how to adapt to the new wave of Millennial demands.

Stay tuned for upcoming blogs discussing what Millennials value in the marketplace, where they’re actually spending their money, and how their purchasing power is impacting B2B.

Brick-and-Mortar Retail in an E-commerce World: Why is it Still Relevant?

It’s snowing, it’s windy, it’s dark out, and your feet hurt. Why? Because you’ve been standing for hours in a Black Friday line that wraps halfway around Best Buy. You’ve been eyeing that fancy flat screen TV for weeks. You shiver in your parka and think to yourself, “I wish I had just stayed in and done my shopping online this year.” It appears that this is the attitude of many consumers. It also seems like in store retail is dying, or at least changing. So, in an age of online shopping, how can brick-and-mortar retail stores stay relevant?

Brick-and-Mortar Retail’s Funeral March…Or is it?

Let’s quickly jump back to our Black Friday example. This past year, Cyber Monday shoppers spent over $1.5 billion more than those on Black Friday. And this is merely a reflection of a larger trend. In recent years, online sales have far surpassed brick-and-mortar sales. For example, online retail giant Amazon is the epitome of ease and efficiency in online shopping. Online shopping allows consumers to access retailers at their convenience and from the comfort of their own home. But the one thing online shopping doesn’t have? A meaningful, personal customer service experience.

The Game Changer: Customer Service

Offering quality products is still a key aspect of retail, but studies show that customer service is also critical in a customer’s decision to purchase. And a truly impactful customer service experience can only occur in-person. Brick-and-mortar retail businesses trying to get ahead are upping their customer service game and improving consumers’ in-store experience. Don’t believe me? Believe the research:

  • 73% of consumers say that interacting with a friendly employee or customer service representative makes their experience memorable and increases brand loyalty.
  • 52% of consumers have made an additional purchase after having received excellent customer service.
  • Americans are willing to pay 17% more to do business with companies providing quality customer service.
  • 89% of consumers switched to a competitor after receiving poor customer service.
  • Companies with quality customer service can increase revenue by 4%-8%.
  • 54% of consumers say they have higher expectations for customer service than they did last year.

The Necessity of Quality Customer Service

Now, we’ve probably all experienced poor customer service that was slow and oozed apathy. But we’ve also all probably encountered an empathetic customer service provider who anticipated your needs, ensured you had a personal experience, and aided you with quick and efficient service. Above all, it’s these in-person interactions that make an experience memorable for a customer and set your business apart. It will also increase your customer return rate. Customer service is the most important factor in someone’s brand loyalty. In other words, it’s a big deal.

Overall, quality customer service will contribute to your brand’s image. It will get people in your store, create a strong rapport with customers, and totally differentiate you from the competition. Simply put, excellent customer service is no longer a mere suggestion—it’s a necessity.

Six Ways: Signs Can Increase Your ROI!

While 2018 may feel as if it was only a couple weeks ago, it’s no surprise that 2019 is here, and it’s moving fast. You may even find yourself feeling behind with Q1 coming to an end. The good news is there’s no need to worry, we’re here to keep you up to speed and provide insight into what branding and signage trends you need to be on top of to increase your ROI for the remainder of 2019.

1.) Attract more customers and increase foot traffic.

Seems simple, right? Grand opening day has arrived. You’ve put a sign on your storefront, and now potential customers walking or driving by will start pouring in. What about the ones who don’t make it through the doors though? Yes, it’s possible they don’t have a need for your product or service, but what are some of the other (controlled) variables that might deter a potential new customer from stopping, or walking in? Number one, the quality of your signage. 20% of consumers report being drawn into new stores based on the quality of their signage. ( In my personal experience. I have yet to meet a Director of Sales that would not want to increase new business by 20%. When purchasing a new sign make sure to go for quality. The upfront cost may be a little higher, but pennies when compared to the potential ROI increase.

What about the businesses that just don’t have the budget for new “shiny” signage? Sign repair and maintenance programs are cost-effective and practical if new signage is not in the budget this year. Not everyone can replace their signs when they start to look a bit older and depending on your region, the elements can take a toll on your exterior branding. Refreshing your existing signs with new vinyl or faces, having your awnings cleaned, or polishing exterior brass are all budget-friendly ways to ensure your stores are looking their best. A 20% boost in new sales will make that budget look much better the following year when discussing signage upgrades.

2.) Build Brand Awareness

If you’ve followed the advice in tip #1 you’re probably thinking “that’s all great and dandy”, but how do I even get people to walk/drive by my business. High-quality signage doesn’t do anything if no one sees it, right? This thought process is 100% correct.

It may seem obvious but, the more evident you are about who your brand is, and who you are trying to reach, the higher the chance for success. ( he really just tell me in need to like myself if I want others to like me”? Yes, yes I did. It all comes down to transparency. As I’m sure you’re well aware it’s 2019; there is no more B2C or B2B. It’s all B2P (Business to People). Your brand is your companies personality, and people buy from people like themselves or people they like.

Know your brand’s personality, stay consistent with your brand’s voice, and know who it is that will benefit most from your product or service. Speak to them personally, and when trying to reach them whether it’s through print or digital media be sure to do so on the platforms where they spend time. The biggest mistake business will make is trying and reach prospects, or potential clients in spaces that they do not visit frequently, or at all. Remember, we don’t buy a 1/8th drill bit because we want a drill bit. We buy it because we want a 1/8th hole.

3.) Gain Valuable Customer Feedback

Okay, so tips #1 and #2 take some time and effort to properly execute. So, for tip #3 we’ll keep it simple. Every consumer who walks in your store has a story and an opinion. Hear them out. See what you are doing right, and learn how you can improve. ( People love to share their experiences. Whether it’s through word of mouth or socially online. The downside, “Americans tell an average of 15 people about a poor service experience, versus the 11 people they’ll tell about a good experience.” (American Express 2017 Customer Service Barometer)

You can send/hand out customer feedback surveys, or hire third-party companies to provide data on what your customers care about most to get the “best” feedback. Or, you can simply ask the customers themselves. Was it easy for you to find our location? Was it easy for you to navigate through our facility/store?

In tip #2 we discussed reaching new and existing customers in “their space”. If your a brick and mortar store, great! You can have face-to-face conversations with your customers, and what better way to get to know someone than conversing with them directly. If the majority of your business is done online or through e-mail, start conversations in digital social spaces. Interact and actively participate with the customers themselves. For example, hospitals’ way-finding signage is of the utmost importance as every second counts in an emergency or emotional situation. Customer feedback on the ease of navigating the facility has been precious information over the years and has helped to continuously improve our healthcare facilities. (for more information on wayfinding signage)

4.) Set Consistent Expectations

As mentioned in tip #3 (see a pattern here) people are more likely to share a negative service experience. So how much is a good customer experience worth? “Good customer experiences lead 42 percent of consumers to purchase again (Zendesk Customer Service Study).”

While as a business we always attempt to exceed our customer’s expectations. Keeping consistency when their expectations have been met is just as important. Using signage that is congruent with your brand will help customers know what to expect each time they enter your store. ( We’ve all heard the term “creatures of habit”, and if your business is one that benefits from repeat business. Staying consistent with your interior/exterior branding is a good way to boost customer retention rates.

 5.) Increase Store Value

Pop quiz! What’s the most important factor when opening a new store? ANS: Location, location, location. So, what’s the 2nd most important factor? ANS: Proper market research to prove a direct correlation between the need for products and services your business provides, and the market you are entering. Umm… well. Yes, that’s up there (top 3 for sure), but how about the aesthetics of your store? Using brand image to establish a design language is one of the possible implementation schemes available when understanding the design thinking processDesign-oriented firms with proper signage increase in value at a much faster rate than their counterparts. (

Almost immediately the first impression someone will have of your space is the storefront sign. It does so much more than provide your companies name, or describe your products and services to the general public. It’s not only there so your store is easily located, or to draw attention to those who pass by. It’s your brand, your “team” colors, your logo, message, voice, etc… I can go on, but you get where this is going. It’s a physical representation of your business’s personality. As adolescents, you may have, or know someone who had used outlets such as clothing choice, hair color, or even tattoos and piercings to express individualism (your personal brand). Your interior and exterior sign packages do the same for your business. The design process of such packages is one more piece of the puzzle when accelerating growth and increasing ROI.

6.) Increase in Sales

One of two things has happened. You’ve made it this far, and are now ready to start using the information you have just learned to increase your ROI, or you scrolled straight down to the “Increase in Sales” heading, because let’s be honest. Increase in ROI means an increase in the bottom line and we all want tips and tricks to boost sales as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, there is no hidden formula in this section to increase sales overnight. What is available though are the tips above that all impact your business sales directly on a daily bases. Sometimes they are overlooked, and sometimes we don’t have the available time to think through every aspect of our business that lends itself to boosting sales. We’re focused so thoroughly on new business development and client retention that the small upgrades to our current processes or resources are skimmed over. Signs, whether interior or exterior, play a vital role in the success of a company’s growth. These tips will help to accelerate that growth and are all cost-effective or free (in some cases) ways to boost your ROI. According to the Sign Research Foundation, 60% of businesses see an increase in revenue by 10% or more after installing proper signage. ( Follow these tips so your business doesn’t miss out on making that 60%.

The Changing Retail Space: How Signage Can Impact the Retail Experience

The recent “death of retail’ hype may not be as accurate as many once believed. Recent reports are showing a 5.8% increase in spending from last year, and the strongest growth since 2011. As numbers from Black Friday and Cyber Monday come in, we find ourselves wondering how this will impact e-commerce sales. This raises questions of its relevance to brick and mortar sales moving forward. Its evident many brick and mortar stores are revamping their image to stay competitive, but what does that mean for the signage industry, and what opportunities lie ahead in 2019?

Store Layout

The science behind retail design is ever changing to better meet the customer’s needs. More and more retailers are now listening to what their customers are saying. Surveys and feedback once were thought of only as a way to analyze consumer behavior, and purchasing patterns.  Now, stores rely on this information to customize the retail space in a way that interacts with shoppers.

When it comes to the design of the in-store experience, there is a science of how to place products, and how merchants believe it affects consumers. According to VMSD, the layout of a store is supposed to directly reflect the essence of a brand, and how a company wants customers to feel about their product. For example, a store entering the Chinese market would display their product differently in a Chinese store than in the US.

While stores a have been using this strategy of targeted design for decades, the move towards e-commerce over brick and mortar spending has caused stores to reevaluate, analyzing their designs, branding, and the experience they want to create.

The Store Experience

As e-commerce continues to dominate the market, stores have to remain competitive or may be left behind. Some stores, have incorporated the ease of online shopping by allowing you to order online, and pick-up the same day. This creates an exterior space to bring the items and load them into cars.

Stores need to integrate their in-store and online presence, to capitalize on the needs of their consumer. For example, Target has started remodeling stores to have separate entrances for those who are picking up an online order, allowing these customers to pick up their product with ease, and without having to maneuver around other customers and products.

These stores are taking direct action to remain relevant, by offering services online platforms still cannot quite compete with. Many stores are effectively using retail space to their advantage. Whether having groceries handpicked and delivered to a customer, or a personal shopper curating the perfect outfit, stores are creating a personal experience.  Because stores have many physical locations, they offer their customers a personal touch not offered from online retailers. This creates a one of a kind experience for the consumer. This also makes the store a destination, that customers come back to again and again.

How Signage Can Play a Major Role

As the retail space is changing, the sign industry is looking to adapt in response. As many stores develop new layouts and create new experiences for customers, Shopify shares the use of digital signage is being used to create a cohesive multi-channel experience through merging in-store and online retail.

Sign companies are expanding to create high-quality digital signs that allow stores to display advertisements and information with ease. As more and more digital signage technology develops, the benefits to these new signs have grown exponentially.

Digital signs increase foot traffic into stores, due to the ability to catch the eye of potential customers passing by. Along with rotating displays, interactive digital signage provides customers with unique experiences desired in a brick and mortar setting.

Digital signage is a great way for stores to interact with customers and refresh their retail environment. Digital signs can help attract and maintain customers. This provides them with unique interactions and additional information they would not otherwise be able to access. As stores are evaluating new ways to interact with the changing retail environment, digital signage allows stores to remain competitive. This is because it brings the traditional nature of brick and mortar stores further into the digital age.

On-Site Branding: How Signage Can Impact Your Brand

On-Site Brand Strategy

When it comes to your brand strategy, are you using the correct approaches to position yourself within the most desirable market or industry? From a marketing perspective, this involves creating an image to convey to your target markets. Thereafter, you can utilize new and existing resources to resonate that brand position with the customer.

In a changing commercial environment, particularly in the retail and service industries, many companies are shifting their marketing focus to online. While that is a great way to expand your reach, there is a danger in abandoning more traditional forms of advertising. When companies fail to utilize their brick and mortar locations, or more importantly their signage, there is a large potential for missed opportunity.

Let Signage Do the Work for You

When visiting a brick and mortar location, signage is the first exposure a customer will have of your brand. While some customers may have a continued relationship with your company. An article from Sign Research Foundation reveals that a past Burger King study indicated that almost 1/3 of people became aware of their restaurants when they “saw it while passing the facility”. With such a large portion of your business coming from customers who were passing by. It is necessary to understand the power your signage has on your business.

Shifting to the mindset that signage is a one-time advertising investment. Will allow for a greater ROI of the initial signage. Investing in high quality, long lasting signage. Will continue to benefit your business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, InfoTrends reports that digital signage can increase brand awareness by 47.7%. Boosting the average purchasing amount by nearly 30%. The decisions you make when creating your sign package have the potential to greatly benefit your bottom line. As the purchase is made once, you will be able to sit back and watch it continue to benefit both your customers and your business.

Consider Signage Part of Your Marketing Mix

The traditional marketing mix for a product or service involves four different components: product, price, place, and promotion. When it comes to signage, it can greatly impact your brand’s physical product and place. Having signage in a retail environment will greatly impact the experience your customers have when they walk into a store. Keep in mind that this can either improve or tarnish their relationship with your brand.

Signage is a fantastic cost-effective way to extend your brand. It happens to be one of the first elements of a brand’s positioning that consumers interact with. Despite this, most sign companies focus on more analytical goals of signage such as gross impression, visual impact, color schemes, lighting efficiency, highway presence, etc. While these aspects of signage are important, many companies are missing the opportunity to set themselves apart.

Sign Research makes the point that “you need to become brand experts, not just signage experts.” As a sign company, it is important to discuss a client’s brand position. Asking them how they can make changes to improve their existing signage is a great starting point. Our job in the sign industry is to create a product that will best convey our client’s brand to their target audience. Understanding your client’s marketing strategy will aid in their brand positioning, creating unique opportunities. Opening up room for collaborative innovation, allows for better working relationships with clients, and ultimately a better understanding of their product.

Brand Consistency is Key

Overall, there is no argument that signage is important for any company. It alone will increase sales, drive in foot traffic, and direct consumers to the right location. There is still an important piece of the equation that is overlooked by many. Which is neglecting to understand signage as a necessary piece of your marketing mix. In doing so, you run the risk that your product/service may fail to connect with potential consumers.

Personally, we pride ourselves on not only being experts in signage but at being on-site branding experts as well. We understand what our client’s brand message is trying to convey. Create a quality product to reflect that position and ultimately drive results that will increase their bottom line. Signage is a powerful way to connect with the consumer but is often overlooked as part of the marketing mix. If you consider signage as a marketing tool, there are many more opportunities to connect with the customer and find creative methods to convey your brand through signage.

Untapped Potential: The Necessary Resurgence of Trade Schools

As we’ve discussed in earlier blog posts, the baby boomer generation is getting even closer to retirement, and within the next 10 years, millions of trade jobs are expected to be left vacant. As more jobs open up, it is important for our economy to find a means to replace this labor. The solution comes with promoting young workers such as young women and millennials to pursue manufacturing and trades as a viable career option.

The Financial Benefits

Trade school tends to be much less expensive than traditional colleges or universities. Many offer additional classes to allow students to get their associate’s degree through a local community college. In an article from NPR, Haley Hughes’ apprenticeship subsidizes the cost of an associate’s degree for those involved in their program. Hughes takes classes at a local community college to earn a two-year degree for around $1,200 a semester. This pales in comparison to the average student debt of the millennial generation, of around $27,000 in 2012 and is climbing at a steady rate.

People will often hear that the unemployment rate for Americans with a high school diploma as their highest level of education is nearly twice as high as those with a four-year college degree or higher, and will be deterred from attending other schooling options such as trade school. While this statistic is true, it accounts for all workers fitting in this demographic. This includes those who work minimum wage and part-time jobs. For highly skilled workers in trades such as welders, carpenters, electricians, etc. the rate of pay is actually higher on average than college graduates. This number is only going to grow as the demand for these jobs increases.

As the baby boomer generation retires, the US will be in need of many carpenters, welders, utility workers, and more. There are about 600,000 electrician jobs in the United States, and about half of those will go vacant in the next 10 years. There is a huge opportunity for the millennial generation to pursue a high-paying job and avoid student debt.

Closing the Trade Skills Gap

When discussing this issue, the concept of a skills gap is often brought up. This means those entering the workforce today do not have the same knowledge of the trade that retiring workers do. Logically, this makes sense. Those in an entry-level position lack the experience of someone doing a similar job for 20 or more years. This issue with this particular gap is that there are more skilled workers leaving the field than there are entering, resulting in an overall loss of talent.

In order to combat this, there needs to be a shift in focus to those choosing to work in trades. In other traditional jobs such as medicine or law, there is an emphasis on a continued education. As technology or laws change, so does standard protocol. There needs to be an emphasis on on-the-job training in the manufacturing industry, particularly at lower level positions.

By investing in the continued training of your employees, you are building employee loyalty. This investment in training forms a two-way loyalty between the employer and employee. If employees feel valued by their employer they will be loyal to them. As a company, providing additional training to your workers shows commitment through the time and resources spent on continued training.

It Starts Young

There are simple ways that to get involved with the resurgence of vocational schooling. Local high schools can invest in vocational training, 0r bring in outside professionals to showcase what they do each day. Schools that offer vocational programs for students are more likely to have students who enter trade-related fields. Utilizing career and technical education centers offered at many high schools will provide more students with the opportunity to pursue vocational careers.

Local businesses can participate, too. Each year at North American Signs, Inc. we invite children from neighboring schools to learn about what we do on National Manufacturing Day.  Students take a field trip to explore our manufacturing facility. While at NAS, they learn about different forms of signage, as well as the many positions we offer.

If we want to promote trades as a great career option, we need to teach this from a young age. Our society encourages those who excel in academics that college is the way to be successful. However, these analytical thinkers may find success in the trades as well. By making these career options throughout a child’s early education, more children might take interest in pursuing trade school. Encouraging more students to pursue trade-related career paths can help close the skills gap and reduce the burden left by those retiring from the manufacturing industry.

Untapped Potential: Why Aren’t Millennials Working in Manufacturing?


As I’ve come to learn more about the manufacturing industry, it’s easy to notice its differences from the overall labor force in the United States. While millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, manufacturing companies are struggling to attract them to the field. This raises the question: Why aren’t more millennials pursuing careers in manufacturing? With factors such as a changing technological climate, and thousands of baby boomers retiring each day, something needs to change.

The Start of a Labor Shortage

The concept of a labor shortage is nothing new. Economists have been discussing the inevitable retirement of baby boomers for decades, and how that will affect the US economy. With 10,000 baby boomers expected to retire daily from now until 2030, there will be an additional increase in the demand for labor. These demands particularly fall on the manufacturing industry. Nearly 1/3 of manufacturing workers are over 55 and are expected to retire within the next 10 years.

Deloitte Insights reports that between 2.5 million and 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled in the coming years, but the issue has already begun. 84% of manufacturing executives agree that a talent shortage already exists in the US. This presents an opportunity to change stereotypes surrounding the manufacturing industry, and for companies to invest in the millennial generation.

The Solution? A Change in Mindset

Many students today express that they do not view manufacturing as a viable career option. Parents often are discouraging their children from taking these non-traditional career paths as well. In fact, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute found that only 3 in 10 parents would consider guiding their child toward a career in the field.

As the parents of millennials entered the workforce, they had children of their own. They brought along the influence that the way to be successful is to go to college and get a degree. Contrary to popular belief, the average US manufacturing worker makes more than $70,000 a year, according to the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

Our society has slowly diminished the importance of trade careers, despite many industries hurting for qualified workers. The average welder in the United States is age 55, meaning the majority are expected to retire by 2030. We need welders to create many important things, from the signs here at NAS to bridges and buildings. According to a Deloitte study, there were 570,000 welders in the US in 1988, and that number has dramatically fallen to only 360,000 welders as of 2012.

Manufacturing environments are often associated with being dirty, loud, or dangerous. However, the current climate of the industry is one with cutting-edge technology and ingenuity. Millennials are among the most tech-savvy generations, with the emergence of the internet playing a primary role in their adolescence. According to Industry Week, Millennials prefer to work in environments that are innovative, high-tech and have flexible roles. In order to recruit top talent, the industry needs to promote high-tech opportunities and sent a standard of work-life balance. By doing this, they can demonstrate how their opportunities fit these expectations.

The Road Ahead

While the retirement of baby boomers will present many challenges, there are several opportunities for the industry to move forward. As manufacturing moves toward a more technology-focused environment, more and more millennials are pursuing manufacturing-related fields.

37% of millennials today reported seeing manufacturing as a high-tech career choice – notably higher than both Generation Xers (27%) and baby boomers (23%). Also, 49% of millennials believe engineering is a needed skill in today’s manufacturing sector. This indicates a positive increase when compared with only 41% of baby boomers believing engineering is necessary.

North American Signs hopes to change this stigma within our industry by engaging with students to educate them about manufacturing. Each year, we host an event on National Manufacturing Day, inviting students from area schools to come to our manufacturing facility and learn about what the industry is like. As students enter higher education and become more focused on future career opportunities, we offer internships in many different roles from IT to marketing and beyond.

There are simple ways companies can get involved, such as updating job descriptions and engaging more with their community. This can help manufacturing companies gain a better understanding of what millennials value in a position. As the baby boomer generation continues to retire, the manufacturing industry needs to look toward underrepresented demographics in the industry, such as women, minorities, and millennials.

The exodus of 1/3 of the workforce presents a great opportunity for innovation and a change in perception. Working to change negative stereotypes and engage with a new generation will help to lessen the burden of a labor shortage and help the manufacturing industry continue to thrive.

Untapped Potential: How Encouraging Women to Pursue Manufacturing Could Save the Industry.

As an intern with North American Signs, Inc. this summer, I’ve spent the past several weeks learning the sign industry inside and out, and what gives our company a competitive edge. Upon doing additional research, I was curious as to why there weren’t more women looking for careers with sign companies. Additionally, why there is such a large difference between the percentage of men and women working in the manufacturing industry?

A Peak At the Industry: Why Aren’t There More Women in Manufacturing?

When discussing the manufacturing industry, it’s important to note its current state. In 2016, females totaled about 47% of the US labor force, yet only 29% of the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing makes up roughly 9% of the overall US workforce and supports more than 12 million workers directly. If we take 29% of that 12 million, there are roughly 3.48 million women working in manufacturing.

These 3.48 million women are not only working out on the manufacturing floor as welders, or engineers, but in the corporate offices of manufacturing companies. Like other major industries, these businesses are in need of skilled professionals working in sales, marketing, and finance. Within the sign industry, there is a need for expert designers, project managers, painters, and installers, among many other positions. There is a common perception that working in manufacturing means working out on the factory floor. While that is an option, manufacturing companies need all sorts of employees to keep things running smoothly.

With such a discrepancy between the manufacturing industry and overall labor force, I wanted to explore how we can work to make this a more inviting industry. Because the amount of women working in manufacturing is disproportionate to the amount of women in the overall work force, this presents a huge opportunity for manufacturing companies to expand their reach, and recruit a whole new demographic.

The Need for Skilled Workers                                              

From now until 2030, 10,000 baby boomers are expected to retire, each day. This dramatically increases the demand for people to enter the labor force. At the moment, some areas of the country, particularly those that rely on manufacturing, cannot hire people fast enough.

As the number of retired baby boomers increases, this demand will only grow. Despite millennials making up almost half the US workforce, the manufacturing industry still heavily relies on work from baby boomers. In fact, The Washington Post states that 27% of manufacturing workers are above the age of 55, meaning nearly 1/3 of the manufacturing industry is expected to retire within the next 10 years.

The Bright Side: Things Are Looking Up

As the need for manufacturing workers grows, it seems fitting that encouraging women to pursue these careers would be beneficial. We’ve seen organizations sponsor Women in STEM programs for the past several years, such as Women in Manufacturing, and these initiatives help girls to foster a passion for such careers from a young age.

These efforts seem to be working already, as 29% of women in 2017 (up 12% from 2015) reported thinking the school system actively/ somewhat encourages female students to pursue a career in the manufacturing industry. Additionally, 70% of women in manufacturing say they would still choose manufacturing if they were to start their career today. According to the Women in Printing Alliance, 82.1% of women in graphics and sign production are highly satisfied with their jobs, and on average stay with their companies 5.8 years or more.

With the inevitable retirement of baby boomers, there is an enormous need for more workers to enter the manufacturing industry. Females make up nearly half of the US labor force, but are an underutilized labor resource for the manufacturing industry. The manufacturing industry offers many career paths for individuals with diverse backgrounds ranging from trades, to graduate degrees and beyond. We can work to change the male-dominated stigma of the industry and empower women to take on more non-traditional roles. This will not only diversify companies, but will become increasingly necessary as more of the older generation retires.

The Only Way | Wayfinding Signs in a Healthcare Environment

We have all experienced that unsettling feeling of trying to find our way through a vast building, such as a hospital. Feeling lost can be overwhelming, and at healthcare facilities, time is of the essence. Every moment someone spends tracking down their destination can be vital, making wayfinding signs essential. According to “Wayfinding Management: Models & Methods in Healthcare Environments,” a 2018 report from the Sign Research Foundation, there are some best practices of how to manage, create, and update your signage to better help your guests in navigating your facilities.

Best Practices in Wayfinding

Clearly Define Responsibilities

When developing proper wayfinding systems, it is important to appoint a wayfinding manager. This manager will supervise all activity involved with wayfinding signage. Depending on the size of the facility, or how many campuses are within your healthcare system, you may also need to create a wayfinding committee. This committee will conduct research, establish guidelines, and ensure that your location is using the best possible wayfinding strategies.

Through assigning specific responsibilities involved with your wayfinding plan, each task will be clearly delegated. This proves to be more efficient and helps to avoid confusion as to which jobs have already been completed.

Set the Standard, then Spread the Word

Signs themselves serve as valuable wayfinding devices and guide customers through high-traffic areas to their intended destination. According to On-Premise Signs as Storefront Marketing Devices and Systems by Taylor, Claus, and Claus (2005), this is why the federal government has detailed specific guidelines for highway signage. While hospital signage does not face the same, strict regulation that street signage does, the principle still stands. Visitors rely on these signs within a hospital to help them navigate around safely and reach the right destination.

Because of this, after choosing a wayfinding manager and/ or committee, standardization among all signage is key. Establishing a consistent vocabulary of building and area names is crucial to the success of the wayfinding system. Additionally, using a consistent room numbering system will help visitors anticipate how far they are from their destination. This will also help visitors gain a  better understanding of the layout of the building.

Engage and Learn From Visitors

There is a great deal to learn from listening to visitors, which is why shaping your strategy to their needs is very important. Regularly developing methods to obtain user feedback is a great way to gauge the current performance of your wayfinding signage. Conducting a survey of recent visitors of the hospital will be extremely valuable in understanding the effectiveness of your signage. While there are many ways of collecting visitor data, even something as simple as observing visitor reactions as they navigate around the hospital can provide valuable insight. You may notice several people mention how lost they were when arriving at an appointment, or you’re stopped by visitors seeking directions several times a day. These are indicators that your current signage could use some improvement.

With the rise of smartphone usage, hospitals have the opportunity to implement online applications as part of their strategy. These apps can help visitors develop a custom map of the hospital, showing them only locations they need to find. Boston Children’s Hospital developed a wayfinding app that did just that. In fact, within 6 months they had over 4500 downloads of the app, along with many positive reviews. Using new forms of technology in your wayfinding plan will give your hospital a competitive edge, and ultimately leave visitors, patients, and staff with a more positive experience.