Understanding the Significance of Signage

Just joining an established franchise system isn’t enough to ensure business success and to have customers beat a path to your door … you need proper signage to help your customers actually find your franchise business.

The problem here, however, is that the points of view on signage often differ between the tenant and the landlord. As The Lease Coach, we have worked with tenants who often envision a bold, “splashy” sign to showcase their business and incorrectly presume the landlord will agree and install such signage; however, this does not always happen. If you are in such a situation and your landlord objects to your requests, remember that the landlord isn’t necessarily being difficult or stubborn … you are leasing in the landlord’s property and the landlord has every right to say “no” to something that he/she considers unattractive (or, potentially, will have to remove if your business fails and you are forced to move out).

If you take a close look at a pylon sign (the tall sign adjacent to the roadway), there are limitations of the number of available panels and it would be impossible to provide a panel to each tenant in the property. Therefore, landlords tend to save these sign panels for their premium tenants or to use as leasing incentives for a new tenant coming in to the property. Landlords often fear that too many signs will clutter the property (meaning it may be less inviting for shoppers to visit and may become devalued).  Landlords also reasonably want signs to not exceed a certain size as they could block the view of the property or make the property look cluttered. You may like the idea of a flashing neon sign (or an electronic television screen that scrolls out messages) advertising your franchise business outside of the commercial property; however, the landlord may view these as tacky or something that detracts from the aesthetics of the property.  

Before you even approach your landlord about the possibility of erecting business signage, understand that much of what will be involved will be your responsibility and you may have to comply with strict signage criteria regulations set out by the landlord. You (and your sign company) must design, install, and maintain your signs in most cases. This work on your behalf can pay off, however, as effective signage can make your business far more conspicuous and direct customers to you.

There are various types of signage that may work for you. Evaluate all the following options and discuss with your landlord which would work best for both of you.

Building signage: This is the signage that almost every business will have and it will generally appear directly above your main entry door. It can be to your benefit, however, to also have signage on multiple sides or even the rear of the commercial property. This additional signage can provide you with additional exposure to walk-by or drive-by traffic.

Monument signage: A monument sign resembles a tombstone coming out of the ground and, typically, advertises just one or a few select tenants. Monument signs are not that common, but they can make your franchise business look more substantial if you can get one.

Pylon signage: This is the tall sign which motorists and pedestrians will often see first when approaching a property. It is not uncommon for one commercial property to have several pylon signs surrounding it and for all of these signs to display the plaza’s name.  While a franchisee is often a major tenant in a shopping plaza (even perhaps becoming an anchor tenant), it can be a mistake to automatically assume that you will be automatically given one of the sign’s panels for your own business. Tenants may also overlook requesting a certain panel – those situated higher up will be more visible. Also, are panels located on both the front and the back of the pylon sign? Evaluate the traffic flow and decide for yourself which side would be best for you.

Sandwich board signage and banners: If part of your promotional strategy includes limited time offers, sandwich boards can be useful. These are the signs that can be folded up and placed on the front sidewalk outside your place of business. A coffee shop, for example, could use a sandwich board to list daily drink specials. As landlords don’t always approve of such signs, The Lease Coach will negotiate for these in advance of a tenancy. Alternatively, we will let the landlord know that such signs will only be placed at certain times or on certain days. Knowing that the sandwich board may not always be an eye-sore may be enough to convince the landlord to agree.

Temporary pull-away signage: A wheeled sign where you can change the business messages may seem like a good idea; however, most landlords hate these signs and the associated problems. Such signs are often magnets for vandals who find enjoyment in shifting the letters and/or words around to create entirely new (and possibly inappropriate) messages. As with sandwich boards, we can often negotiate with the landlord to agree to a tenant having this type of signage at specific times of the year.

For a copy of our free CD, Leasing Do’s & Don’ts for Franchise Tenants, please e-mail your request to JeffGrandfield@TheLeaseCoach.com.

Dale Willerton and Jeff Grandfield - The Lease Coach are Commercial Lease Consultants who work exclusively for tenants. Dale and Jeff are professional speakers and co-authors of Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals FOR DUMMIES (Wiley, 2013). Got a leasing question? Need help with your new lease or renewal? Call 1-800-738-9202, e-mail DaleWillerton@TheLeaseCoach.com or visit www.TheLeaseCoach.com.