7 Tips To Create Compelling Signage For Your Retail Store

By Bob Phibbs

retail sign examplesYou’ve probably seen me rail about poor signage choices on TV, or you’ve read my Facebook posts with pictures of bad signage, or you read my post Retail Signage: Examples of How Not To Talk To Your Customers and you may have felt, well then what should we do to create compelling signs in our store…

Glad you asked because some of the greatest sins in retailing are the lack of signage, their lack of personality and the confusing message they often convey to customers.

Signage should be front and center when you are creating a window display or a product display. You don’t want a customer looking at a Highlights hidden picture where they have to figure out what you are trying to sell them. Good retail signage tells customers what or why they are looking at a selection of merchandise.

A great retail sign has to capture the customer’s interest enough to read it; just like a great email subject line gets someone to open it, a great headline in a newspaper gets someone to read it or a great magazine cover makes someone buy it.

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Here are seven tips to create compelling retail signage:

retail signage example Be short and to the point.

We used to think it was tough to come up with an update for Twitter that was under 140 characters or to edit a YouTube video down to under two minutes. Attention spans have shortened even more - check out the new mobile sensation Vine where people create 6 second videos. Customers are in hurry; respect that.

Make sure the fonts you use are easy to read

Some retailers can get away with crayons on a chalkboard, but getting away with and driving sales are two different things. Clear font characters - without curly-cues and multiple colors - let the customer’s attention first gravitate to your message and then to your product. If customers can’t quickly read it (see above), they’ll move on. And as Baby Boomers age, smaller signs are harder to read.

retail signage example floristState the customers’ reasons for buying your product or service.

What is the customer buying this for? To be a hero to his son? To look fabulous for a date? To have easy-to-manage hair? Then tell them, “Be a hero tonight with this.” “Make heads turn!” “Manage curly hair with this.”

Use the words you or yours.

Customers buy when they start visualizing themselves using your products. One way to help them is to incorporate the words you or yours. Notice how much stronger the above signs become with the addition of you or your. “You’ll be a hero tonight with this.” “You’ll make heads turn!” “Manage your curly hair with this.”

retail signage chocolateLess is still more.

A recent article in the WSJ said people were shortening text messages down to a of couple words, a couple of initials, or a single emoticon. We are all getting used to short, succinct messages. Edit your copy ruthlessly until the meaning remains but the fluff is gone.

Test your sign.

It’s fun to have a new sign on the top of a window display that you feel is perfect … until you notice it is too faint to be seen through your tinted window, or the font is too small to be seen by cars going 25 MPH. If you are on a busy street, have a friend drive by and tell you what your sign is about. If they can’t get it - edit, edit,edit.

Have fun

Boring signs are, well, boring. Remember, your goal is to grab a casual browser’s attention. Double entendres, puns and jokes are great ways to show you are a fun business.

Yes, some people will say you’re not funny or whatever, but the bulk of your customers will appreciate it. They might even take a picture and post it on Facebook like these two below. 

reatil reader board exampleWeek 1


retail signage humorous funnyWeek 2


What to avoid?

Just like your merchandise, you don’t want to be generic. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen retailers bastardize the award-winning California Milk Advisory board, “Got Milk?” into Got weeds? Got kids? Got bed bugs? You get the idea. Be creative.


Creating memorable signs that sell your merchandise is truly one of the most fun aspects of retailing. Using these seven tips, you can create signage that not only engages your customers but moves your product almost as well as your best trained salesperson.

And if you would like to have Bob explain how to create memorable signage to your dealers, click the button below.

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