One consumer’s perspective on store signs

I’m that consumer. Allow me to explain something I’ve been telling business owners for years, particularly owners of small stores. Let’s use one of my favourite types of small retail businesses to illustrate the point — coffee shops. I’ve just been reminded of this topic by an image of a shop sign in the latest Sign Media magazine.

As a consumer I can tell you that unless the coffee shop has a readily-recognizable name such as, say, Starbucks or Second Cup, passers-by (particularly those in vehicles) are not going to know what the shop is offering. The exception to this of course is if the name includes the product on offer in text or graphics in a way that’s eye-catching and not over-shadowed by the business’s name.

Show them what they’re looking for.

For instance, the sign that reminded me of this topic had the shop’s name in small lettering and the word “coffee” in lettering at least four times the size of the shop’s name. If the less-than-memorable name of the shop had been the dominant word passers-by would likely have taken little notice, even if they were looking for a cup of coffee.

Many business owners spend a lot of time picking a name for their business and naturally want to proudly display it. For many types of businesses, that’s putting the emphasis in the wrong place — consumers care more about what you have to sell them than they do about your name. They’re overwhelmed by signs and are looking for the word or image on their mind, in this case it’s coffee. So show them “coffee” because, frankly, they don’t care about your shop’s name, they care about what they want.

Sign manufacturers could do customers a favour by pointing this out.