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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.