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2008 CAS/Commercial State of the Industry Report: Excerpts: Commercial Sign Sales Dip

(July 2009) posted on Tue Jul 21, 2009

The worst year wasn't catastrophic.


By Wade Swormstedt

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(The complete report is found in the August issue of Signs of the Times. See below to order the issue.)

As with last month’s Electric State of the Industry (SOI) Report, we anticipated the worst while awaiting results for this, the non-electric, sign-industry report. And, in some ways, we did get the worst. For the first time in a decade of estimating a CAS/commercial, sign-industry size, we see a drop from 2007’s $6.0 billion to $5.8 billion (also the sales volume for 2006) for 2008.

However, even though the federal government has now officially declared that the current recession began in December 2007, for the sign industry, the noticeable decline seemed to begin in the fourth quarter of 2008. Consequently, even though many results reported here are negative, they only represent a year with one terrible quarter. When we get the results next year for 2009, odds are, the data will be even more sobering.



As I write this, however, just before the half-year point, I see glimmers of hope that I believe aren’t rose-colored mirages. I just returned from the International Sign Assn.’s annual Supplier/Distributor Conference, where I spoke with a few sign companies, product manufacturers and suppliers. If any one statistic can serve as a barometer for the sign industry, I believe it’s vinyl sales, because that material affects 95% of the sign industry.

A vinyl manufacturer told me sales are now back up to last August’s level, following a disastrous November and December. A large distributor told me consumable sales remained consistent, but that equipment sales were on life support. A sign-company owner told me projects he’d bid on a year to a year and a half ago were now being processed.

I want to believe the majority of all businesses have now come out of the storm cellars, ready to take some kind of action. Either fold up the tent or hit the ground running. Wait and see is no longer an option.

This year’s CAS/Commercial SOI Report is a condensed version of prior reports. We deleted many questions for which responses changed negligibly, year after year, such as what percentage of your sales are banners, vehicle graphics, etc. Sometimes, companies don’t want to record bad results on paper, but, fortunately, our number of responses has remained steady, so the data here is solid.


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