In this Salute to American Success, we’re taking a look at FASTSIGNS, a company specializing in sign and visual graphics. The company and its franchisees typically create banners, building signs, vehicle graphics, and other products for its customers. Founded in 1985 in Texas by Gary Salomon and Bob Schanbaum, FASTSIGNS began franchising a year later.
“Gary Salomon opened a single, independent store and it grew like crazy,” FASTSIGNS CEO Catherine Monson said. “More locations opened and they grew a lot too."
As with many industries, technology has played a major role in the company's operations and evolution.
“FASTSIGNS has always been on the forefront of tech changes,” Monson said. “[In the early 90s] changes in digital technology enabled the printing of full color graphics with full color printers.”
Today, Monson said the industry has become more green and sustainable, and is showing strong growth.
“The industry in the U.S. today is estimated at about $28 billion and has a compound growth rate of 6%,” she said. “The rate is three times faster than GDP growth.”
Despite having a popular business, FASTSIGNS was impacted by the Great Recession in the latter half of the 2000s.
“In 2009, same-store sales were down 20% in the first quarter, 16% that entire year,” Monson said. “We helped franchisees look at ways to reduce expenses and started to see improvements in 2010.”
So far this year, FASTSIGNS has opened about 30 new franchises, and will open about 20 by the year’s end, according to Monson. She added that the company will likely open between 50-75 new locations in 2016.
Today, the company has about 590 locations worldwide (522 in the U.S.) in nine different countries.
In addition to opening new franchise locations, FASTSIGNS also has a conversion program that helps other smaller businesses in the sign industry to convert into a FASTSIGNS brand. The company also features a co-brand franchise opportunity as well, where people in related businesses, such as a smaller printing company, are able to move their company into the same location as a FASTSIGNS brand.
“The program has been very good so far,” Monson said. “The owners keep their companies and usually see an increase in business.”