Signage Foundation: The Economic Value of Signs

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SignageFoundation LogoSome truths are timeless. Regardless of when and where, they’re upheld. That’s why The Signage Foundation Inc. (SFI), a non-profit 501©3 research organization, has reformatted and republished the results of a 1997 economic-value-of signs study, soon after its release of a related 2012 study.

The 1997 study, commissioned by the California Electric Sign Assn. (now the California Sign Assn.), was conducted at the University of San Diego. A quarter century later, and 2,000 miles away, the University of Cincinnati conducted a study with the same name, “The Economic Value of On-Premise Signage” and a like purpose. And the conclusions emphatically confirm the economic importance of signs despite completely different specific results.

And while the benefits of effective signs are documented, conversely, restrictions that preclude the implementation of effective signage can cause dire consequences. Hence, the paragraph below:

“On-premise signage must be interpreted as a marketing device, in addition to its role as a communications or identity device. Urban planners and community regulatory agencies should be careful to take into account the possibility that increasingly restrictive on-premise signage policies will have a deleterious effect on retail performance. This, in turn, leads to a deleterious effect on the sales taxes generated by these revenues.

The San Diego study documents sales increase for 162 Southern California locations for a specific fast-food chain when new signs were added. Another component examined 100 modified Pier 1 Imports stores over a seven-year period. Eight San Diego auto dealers, faced with new sign restrictions, also tell their stories, including feedback from their customers.

Far from being merely rhetorical, the 1997 study is chockfull of data in terms of types and sizes of signs, sales volumes, percentage changes, etc. The refurbished 1997 study is posted on the SFI Web site at