This annual list of the best sign franchises was revised and updated on April 20, 2021.
Signs are all around us, from the big boards directing us around cities to the names on doors inside businesses. We need them to navigate the world, to make businesses work efficiently, and to let customers know that they are there. While more and more businesses are operating entirely online, there are still plenty of brick-and-mortar businesses that need signs on and near their physical building or facilities, and this has created a flourishing sign industry, one that franchises play a part in.
Billboard and sign manufacturing is worth a total of $12 billion in the US, employing over 92,000 staff in 25,000 businesses. The industry saw an annual growth rate of 3.9% in the three years to 2019, as new companies obtained their first signs and existing companies upgraded the ones they had. This provided plenty of work for sign franchises to get involved in.
The successful sign franchises emerged from the 1980s or 1990s to bring new computerized technologies to sign making. They all provide a wide array of indoor and outdoor signage and display solutions to serve a wide variety of needs, functioning more like graphic design and print shops than the sign-making companies of yesteryear. Instead of printing paper publications, they print a wide variety of signs, banners, and displays. New technologies have allowed better, higher definition signs to be printed at lower costs, increasing the quality of sign making and so the services these businesses offer. But this is also creating a challenge for sign companies, as others in the printing industry are more able to offer sign services, encroaching on the signage business.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the business world in general was enjoying the longest post-recession economic recovery in history, leading many companies to upgrade their signage. It helped raise awareness of their businesses, drew people to them, and made things run more smoothly around the physical business premises. Business declined during the pandemic, due to social distancing, remote working, and many commercial activities shutting down to reduce the spread of the virus. For sign makers, most work is domestic, and this was where the biggest losses came, though loss of export business to countries such as China also played a part. Half of sign making companies surveyed expected to see less business over the course of 2020.
The industry is expected to see growth over the next five years, starting with a post-COVID recovery period. Though some customers have gone under thanks to COVID, other businesses have flourished or even been founded in response to the pandemic, and these need new signs. Sign makers are already seeing business pick up again, and this trend is likely to increase as vaccination and economic recovery measures kick in. Though much of the world has gone online, we all still need to navigate physical space, and that ensures a future for sign franchises.
The Top Sign Franchises of 2021
FastSigns has been growing quickly in recent years, adding 27 locations during 2019. And the company just recently announced it has acquired Sign Me Up Signs & Advertising, a chain with six locations in Long island, New York and one in New Jersey, all of which will be converted to the FastSigns brand. The company is also growing its international footprint, with plans to open as many as 12 locations throughout France and Monaco.
The company is all about raising business visibility through visual communications. The offerings include all types of signs and graphics, exhibits and displays, digital and interactive signage, printing and mailing, promotional products, point-of-purchase signs, and interior décor. Additional services include graphic design, surveying and permitting for signage compliance with local codes and ordinances, signage installation, visual communications content development, and comprehensive project management.
Founded by Gary Salomon and Robert Schanbaum in Dallas, Texas in 1985 and franchising since 1986, the number of locations has grown in recent years to the current total of 741 (up from the previously reported total of 710), of which none are company-owned and 85 are located outside the US.
Signarama can make a wide array of both outdoor and indoor signs for businesses of all types. For outdoor signs, options include building-mounted signs, freestanding signs, banners, lighted signs, wayfaring signs, and promotional signs, as well as vehicle and boat graphics (wraps, decals, magnetic).
Indoor signage options include all types of office signs and various signs for retailers, including digital displays, banner stands, floor decals, wall graphics, retractable banners, and so on. Additional services offered include graphic design, installation, project management, large-format printing, and financing.
Founded by father-son team Roy and Ray Titus in Farmingdale, New York in 1986 and franchising since 1987, the number of locations has been on the rise in recent years from 672 in 2013 to the current total of 727 (up from the previously reported total of 709), of which none are company-owned and 319 are located outside the US.
Image360 is all about collaboration and consultation from imagination to installation to meet the graphics, signage, and display needs of today’s businesses. Products include illuminated signs and message boards, banners and flags, decals and custom appliqués, custom art printing, event signs, trade show signs and displays, engraved signs and products, all types of interior signage and graphics, regulatory and ADA compliant signs, monument signage, roadside signs, building signage, storefront and window signs, vehicle wraps and decals, printed marketing materials, and promotional products and gifts.
Additional services include installation of signs/banners, booth lighting, bulk sign orders, changeable sign letter sets, custom digital printing, dimensional letter installations, and much more.
Founded in 1986 and franchising since 1987, the number of locations has fallen in recent years from 340 in 2013 to the current total of 304 (down from the previously reported total of 311), of which two are company-owned and nine are located outside the US.
4. SpeedPro Imaging
SpeedPro Imaging offers a wide variety of signs and sign-related products similar to the other companies on this list, but one of its better-known specialties is producing dramatic large-format graphics for wall murals and large displays.
Other products include window graphics/clings, banners, event tents, vehicle wraps, decals, flags, tradeshow displays, digital signage, floor graphics, table covers and table toppers, directional signage, stadium-size banners, elevator wraps, retractable banner stands, event graphics, point-of-purchase displays, and more.
Founded by Blair Gran in Alberta, Canada in 1992 in Canada and franchising since 2005 in the US, the number of locations currently stands at 177 (down from the previously reported total of 185), of which none are company-owned and 47 are located outside the US.
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.