Retail Signage: General Versus Luxury
Through my work with Wide-Format Impressions, I’ve been able to take deep dives into the retail segment to gain a better understanding not only of how graphics producers are serving the segment, but also the trends and preferences that are driving retail signage needs. While it's easy to think of the retail segment as monolithic — a bunch of stores and shops with more or less the same needs and expectations, the reality of the retail space is much more nuanced than that.
In a general sense, general retail – the stores in which most of us do most of our shopping – is likely to have more signage, mainly because communicating price is a strong purpose for that level of shopping experience. The goal, often, is to compel the shopper to make a purchase, with purchase price being one of the primary purchase considerations. One retail expert I spoke with for an upcoming Wide-Format Impressions article described this by saying that the more signage there is in a retail space, the more “self serve” it feels, and that too much signage ends up feeling “inexpensive.”
It’s different, however, in the luxury retail space. Luxury retailers use a “less is more” approach. The reason for this is that the products speak for themselves through quality, through reputation, through strong brand identity. It doesn’t mean that signage is not included in these retail spaces – its just different. In some cases, for instance, one singular image may be used to connect the product to a brand or lifestyle in a compelling way – no markdown messaging or prices needed. Physically, these graphic elements are high-end, including wall coverings, textile signage. Perhaps tastefully-placed SEG, expertly lighted either front or back.
In truth, this phenomenon it not exclusive to retail. It can just as easily translate to restaurants. For example, the finest restaurants don’t tend to feature lighted menu/price boards on the walls or have roll-up displays by the door advertising new appetizers. The food speaks for itself. These restaurants instead – and this may sound familiar – rely on atmosphere and quality, on a great experience that connects the diner to the food and the space in a compelling way. It is graphics more as decoration than as advertising.
Finding Your Retail Opportunity
A few of key lessons that can be gleaned from the concepts presented here. Graphics producers must understand their customers (current and future). Whether the work done for them is comes directly from the retailer or through a marketing agency or interior decorator, those making the graphics must be able to speak the customer’s language and understand the types of applications that will help them achieve their vision. Expertise is valuable.
There is plenty of graphics production work for the retail sector and it takes place along a broad spectrum of possibility. So, it is wise for a company to define what subsegments it will serve and prepare to compete in that space.
Finally, while lower-grade signage for general retail may not be as profitable on a per square foot basis, there is a lot more square footage to be printed. Conversely, while there is less square footage to be printed for the luxury space, but the cost per square foot for complicated work of exceptional quality is higher.