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2017 State of the Industry Report

(July 2017) posted on Mon Jul 10, 2017

Companies expect sales and profit margins to continue growing.


By Mark Kissling

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When we sent out this year’s industry survey to tens of thousands of signmakers, we wanted to know what was on their minds – and whether they thought sales and profits were set to stumble or soar. We were pleasantly surprised that this year’s respondents, at a nearly ten-to-one ratio, felt optimistic about their financial prospects in a key area, compared to those who felt pessimistic.

In fact, for every respondent who predicted a sales volume decrease for this year compared to last, an average of 9.6 respondents expected a climb. We also found that the vast majority of responding companies are growing, buying equipment and offering diversified services –all signs of an industry in fine health with prognosis positive.



RESPONDENTS AND EMPLOYEES
We conducted our survey from May 24-June 9 and received 316 responses, significantly more than the two 2015 surveys used for some comparisons here. Among them, 71% identified as independently owned sign companies, 8% as franchise sign companies and 4% as national sign companies (Table 1). Another 17% selected “Other” and comprised mainly print companies and in-house shops. Because we wanted to survey sign companies only, the survey ended there for those companies.

Of the 184 responses to our question about the number of full-time-equivalent employees (Table 2), the average was 19.7 employees/company. However, because 142 responses were below the average – and 110 (nearly 60%) respondents reported 10 or fewer employees – we have to consider the average skewed by a few, large firms. Our 2015 surveys provide some helpful background here: Electric sign companies averaged more than 34 employees each while commercial companies averaged just under 12. So while a smaller number of large, electric sign companies pulls up the overall average, it’s accurate to say a comfortable majority of all sign companies can count their employees using one or two hands.

SALES AND PROFITS
Respondents reported an increase in sales volume from 2015 to 2016 (Table 3), versus those reporting a decrease, by nearly 6:1. Nearly 30% of companies reported their sales stayed the same or declined; the other side of that coin is that more than 70% of companies reported increased sales last year over the previous. And when asked about this year’s sales (Table 4), respondents reporting an expected sales increase outnumbered those expecting a decrease by more than 73% to 8%!


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