Placement Matters

The following article originally appeared on the Small Business Administration website in February 2001, but it was subsequently removed.

Even an attractive, expensive sign will not build business if it can’t be detected and read in sufficient time to safely exit traffic and make a stop. It must be the right sign to enhance business profitability.


The Belmont Auto Spa in southern California (a car wash business) is ideally located on a busy, arterial street, and possesses sufficient access and parking. Its on-premise sign was expensive. It was also well placed, close to the right-of-way and perpendicular to traffic. Yet the business, while operating at a profit, was not generating the revenues its new owner expected, based on local trade area demographics, optimum location and quality service.


The monument sign (see image at left), while visible, was ineffective because — as the owner suspected — the sign was not communicating effectively. The sign, although attractive, lacked “conspicuity.” In other words, it did not stand out from its background and was not easily readable to a motorist from a distance. As such, the unfamiliar or infrequent passerby could neither detect it nor read its message in time to safely enter the business.

The sign’s failure to attract non-local trade meant missed opportunities for a sale; revenues remained stagnant.

Steps Taken / Results Achieved:
  1. The owner purchased a new conspicuous pole sign for $15,000. Although its total square footage is the same as the original sign, in all other aspects, it is transformed . To enhance conspicuity, the colors are contrasting and vibrant. Large print and a strong first-read pictorial graphic enhance readability.

2. The addition of a pole cover contributes to the sign’s “aesthetic” feel and provides space for address numbers. The variable-message board completes the makeover, and calls attention to specials.

Results: The car wash experienced a 125% increase in detailing business and a 15% increase in overall business, which translated into an additional $135,000.00 in gross revenues in the first year – nearly 9 times the cost of the sign.

Wade Swormstedt

Wade Swormstedt

Wade is Executive Director of the Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry. Formerly he was Editor and Publisher of Signs of the Times magazine.

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Posted in Signs' Advertising Value, Small Business Administration, Visibility and Legibility.