Although much of the business world lives online in the brave new digital world of the 21st century, there are still plenty of brick-and-mortar stores out there in the real world, and they still need signs as they have for centuries. Entrepreneurs who want to buy into a proven concept have a short but solid list to examine more closely in these top four sign franchises of 2018.
All four have achieved rankings on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Three out of four of these companies were founded in the mid-1980s (Signarama, FASTSIGNS, and Image360), making SpeedPro Image the new kid on the block, having been founded in 2004.
These are the companies that helped shift sign making from its handcrafted and industrial roots to more modern graphic design and printing technologies, along with wider applications such as vinyl banners, digital signage, and vehicle graphics. Each company on the list also offers a varying array of services related to signage products, including project management, shipping and storage, graphic design, and more.
The signage and graphic design market in which these companies participate is worth $29 billion, but success depends on keeping up with the changing times in the form of digital offerings and innovative approaches to finding new “real estate” for signage and branding, such as imaged glass, window shades, and even ceiling tiles.
Here are our picks for the best sign franchises of 2018:
Signarama got its start back in 1986 when the father-son team of Roy and Ray Titus had the idea of bringing sign making into the 20th century with more automated graphic design techniques using computers. Roy already had solid franchise success with his Minuteman Press printing franchise company and together they wanted to shift the making of signs from a more industrial setting to a cleaner retail setting that would be an easier and more pleasant overall experience for clients.
It makes indoor office signs, indoor retail signs (banner stands, decals, digital displays, floor decals, retractable banners, wall graphics, etc.), outdoor signs of all types (building signs, freestanding signs, illuminated signs, outdoor banners, promotional signs, and wayfaring signs), specialty signs, boat graphics, vehicle graphics (decals, wraps, magnetic signs), design services, financing, installation services, large-format printing, and project management.
This family-owned privately-held company currently ranks #249 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1986 and franchising since 1987, the number of locations has declined by about 100 during the past ten years to the current total of 702, none of which are company-owned and 308 of which are located outside the U.S.
FASTSIGNS was founded when print broker Gary Salomon realized how much easier and faster sign making could be with the aid of computers. He partnered with Robert Schanbaum and together they learned the techniques and opened their first shop in Dallas, Texas.
FASTSIGNS positions itself as being experts on business visibility and visual communications. The “menu” of products at FASTSIGNS is extensive, including signs and graphics (decals, labels, stickers, electrical signs, regulatory signs, vehicle graphics, wayfinding and directional signage, yard and site signs, etc.), exhibits and displays, interactive and digital signage, interior décor, point-of-purchase signs, printing and mailing, and promotional products.
Additional project services include shipping and storage of products that clients order, signage installation, surveying and permitting for signage compliance with local codes and ordinances, project management from start to finish, content development for visual communications, and graphic design.
This company currently ranks #70 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1985 and franchising since 1986, the number of locations has grown a bit in recent years to the current total of 674, none of which are company-owned and 73 of which are located outside the U.S.
Image360 offers a wide range of signage and sign-related products, including banners and flags, custom art printing, custom displays, decals and custom appliques, engraved signs and products, event signs and banners, interior signage/graphics/displays, lighted/illuminated signs and message boards, monument signage, printed marketing materials, promotional products and gifts, regulatory and ADA compliant signs, roadside signs, signage accessories, trade show signs and displays, vehicle wraps and decals, and storefront, window, and building signage.
Additional services and products include banner hanging, booth lighting, bulk sign orders, changeable sign letter sets, custom digital printing, delivery and shipping, dimensional letter installations, display and brochure racks, fine art and photography reproductions, graphic design, logo creation, shelf markers and tags, sign installation/repair/maintenance, sign permitting and research, and more.
This company currently ranks #310 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1986 and franchising since 1987, the number of locations currently stands at 314, two of which are company-owned and eight of which are located outside the U.S.
4. SpeedPro Imaging
SpeedPro Imaging was started by Blair Gran in Alberta, Canada building on a strong family history of successful traditional sign making and updating it with newer technologies for wide-format printing. The array of products and services offered includes banners, decals, digital signage, directional signage, elevator wraps, event graphics, event tents, flags, fleet wraps, floor graphics, indoor signage, outdoor signage, point-of-purchase displays, retractable banner stands, stadium-size banners, table covers and table toppers, tradeshow displays, vehicle wraps, wall murals, and window graphics/clings.
While the company has all the full-service signage offerings as other companies on this list, it has a definite focus on producing dramatic large-format graphics for wall murals.
This company currently ranks #399 on Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list. Founded in 1992 in Canada and franchising since 2005 in the U.S., the number of locations currently stands at 178, none of which are company-owned and 47 of which are located outside the U.S.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.