Effective Signage

Informative, eye-catching and attractive is Key

Figuring out the right signage for your store doesn’t have to be a headache. First, you want to bring people in off the street. Second, once your customers are inside, you want them to be able to quickly find the area of the store that they’re looking for. And finally, you want to highlight sales, specialty items, and staff picks at the product level.

On the Outside

Your store’s location, layout, local bylaws, and landlord will determine much of your decision-making. To attract customers from the road, put flags or other kinds of large signs on grass berms if you have them. Keep the wording simple for drivers. “Flags are cost-effective if they’re generic, like ‘Sale On Now!’ versus specific dates,” says Colleen Nasholm, account manager at Display Design Systems Ltd. Millbourne Liquor Store in Edmonton has a simple roadside sign with the store name; this is in keeping with the signs from the other businesses in the mall.

Nearer to your store, you might put a board or stand on the sidewalk. If you don’t own your property, you’ll need your landlord’s permission for this. Traditional indoor/outdoor sandwich boards let you hand-print your message. Sandwich boards with a snap-in frame for posters and specials (customized by you or provided by suppliers) let you change your message, and are cost-effective over the long run.

The style and structure of your building will determine how signs can hang (e.g. mounted to the building; weighted and hung from the roof) – or whether they can be used at all. Your neighbourhood and clientele will also determine exterior sign styles. If you’re in a heritage building, for example, you may use vertical vinyl banners for a classy, low-key way of getting people’s attention.

On the Inside

We’ve all been into a store that feels cluttered by too much signage. The aesthetic trend now is away from too much signage, too many colours, and too many messages. “The reps used to put gaudy signage all over the place, like giant cardboard signs,” says Kim Barton, owner of BWI Business World. Barton advises that signs that can be integrated into the shelving are popular. They are clean, colourful, and eye-catching without taking up space and blocking the customer’s view of other products or prices. You can also have label strips customized for your shelves, and swap labels in and out as needed.

Tyler Nicholson, manager of Millbourne Liquor Store, prefers to keep signage minimal inside his store. Nicholson explains that usually people have a good idea of what they want when they come into his store. Another Edmonton store even takes all the neck banners off its wine bottles to preserve a sleek look.

Right when your customer walks in, consider having a 22×28 sign holder that allows you to change out the posters to reflect weekly or monthly deals. This sign might even have a flyer stand attached, so your customers can snag a copy of what’s on special. “The things you want to promote should be right at the front, where people come in,” explains Nasholm.

Tasting notes, staff picks and specialty items (e.g. gluten-free and/or organic offerings) can be highlighted using custom signs that slip into a plastic sleeve and clip onto a shelf, or starbursts, which come in a variety of colours and sizes and can be taped or stuck nearly anywhere. Tasting notes – either yours or the supplier’s – can be placed inside little plastic sleeves to give your clients information and insights about a product. You can also look into ordering the newest tiny 1×1 squares that alert customers to the type of beers you sell (e.g. bright, bold dark, balanced etc.).

It’s worth considering a colour scheme, such as using only your store’s logo colours. One store uses only black starbursts with gold and silver metallic lettering, says Barton, while another uses only black and lime green signage. “It depends on the market too,” she describes. “For example, Pincher Creek is going to be a different market than, say, Calgary.” Often retailers will order a mixed-colour package of starbursts and then use the colours on a seasonally rotating basis: green and red for Christmas; pastels for Easter; orange and black for Hallowe’en. And you can use certain colours of shelf tags to denote specialty items, such as organic products or those that are produced using biodynamic methods. You can now even print your logo and promotions onto a cardboard 4- or 6-pack carrying box that a) encourages people to fill the box with bottles of wine – thereby boosting sales, and b) leaves your store and gets paraded around in the outside world. Now that’s true sign power!

Signs in the Digital Age

Digital price tags are poised to revolutionize the LRS business, especially for stores with multiple locations. “Now you can do all your sales and pricing changes from one central computer,” explains Clifford Weerpass, principal at Lions Port Products. “So if you have five locations, you can change all the prices from head office. The margin of error is now based on just one person entering the data on the computer rather than employees at five different stores.” Widely used in Europe and Japan, the digital price tags are relatively new in North America. Nicholson says it’s an appealing idea: “I wouldn’t be opposed to it, given how often prices change. I change more than fifty tags a week.”

According to Tom Hocker, account manager for Best Buy Business Solutions, uptake on large digital signboards is slower than in the restaurant or lodging industry since most producers supply signage to liquor retailers, but they’re coming on-stream. Hocker says a smart retailer can get the signs to pay for themselves while still driving sales by inviting suppliers to purchase advertising targeted to the store’s daily, seasonal and overall customer volume. Keep an eye out for smart monitors in the future too, that can gather data according to how long patrons linger in front of certain displays in your store.

The bottom line on signs? What works for your store will be unique to your clientele, your size, your location, and your focus. Take a look at what draws your eye when you’re shopping in other liquor stores. We’re living in a relatively message-choked world nowadays; your customers will likely linger longer if you’re not crowding their brains with too much information.