An old adage in the sign industry goes, “a business with no sign, is a sign of no business.” Store owners know the value of well-made signs and how these indispensable tools yield strong conversions and deliver strong return on investment (ROI). However, so many fledgling companies fail to budget for signs in their business plans.

How Much Do Signs Cost?

The cost of signs for retail businesses and restaurants can vary widely. A number of factors affect the costs of signs including:

  • the type of sign
  • the size of the sign
  • the materials used
  • and the complexity of the design.

Types of Signs

Here are a few essential types of signs to add to your business to ensure success.

Channel Letters

Most businesses with standalone building, in neighborhood shopping centers, in community plazas, in retail strip centers, and in regional malls use channel letter signs. These are the familiar illuminated signs with individual letters or graphics. Sign companies fabricate these signs from a variety of materials, including aluminum, stainless steel, and brass. The cost of channel letter signs will vary depending on the material used, the size of the letters, and the complexity of the design.

The price range for channel letter signs in the Chicago area is typically $2,500 to $6,500, but they can vary significantly.

Pylon Signs

Pylon signs are another popular type of retail sign. You may recognize these as the tall, freestanding signs typically located at the entrance to a business. Pylon signs can be made from a variety of materials, including aluminum, steel, and concrete. Usually, tenants of shopping centers may have their logo or business name affixed to a plexiglass or similar material with vinyl graphics along with other business on the marquee section of the sign. Standalone businesses may invest in their own pylon sign raised high for ultimate visibility.

Window Lettering

Vinyl lettering in your windows attracts pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Lettering can impact your visits tremendously. You can also consider using perforated window vinyl to cover your windows for highly effective signage.

The price range for window lettering can be $500-$3000. Wrapping your windows with perforated vinyl will incur higher costs by a significant margin. Check your local sign ordinance; some municipalities limit the percentage of windows allowed to be covered.


Banners can serve as some of the most cost-effective advertising you can display. Their movement, striking appearance, and ease of use make them attractive tools to market your organization.

Banners can cost between $20-$100 per square foot. Consider using different types of banner for outside or inside signage:

  • Outdoor banners should be made of scrim vinyl with reinforced seams, grommets, and strong ties (bungees or rubber tarp ties can provide much needed flexibility in the wind. You may also consider wind slits cut in the banner or mesh banner to avoid “blowouts” in high winds which can increase your risk of damage or injury.
  • Indoor banners can be made from lighter material, but high-quality vinyl or paper can make the difference between an impressed customer and a walkout who feels your signs are “meh.”

Other Cost Factors

In addition to the type of sign and the materials used, the location of the business may affect the cost of signage. Signs in high-traffic areas will typically incur higher costs than those of signs in low-traffic areas. Local regulations including sign permits may also affect costs. Some municipalities have restrictions on the size, height, and type of signs businesses can install.

Control Sign Costs

We want to offer you a few money-saving tips for your retail signage:

  1. Choose a simple design. Complex designs cost more money. Simple designs also allow the reader to understand your message more clearly.
  2. Use standard materials. Avoid using expensive materials, such as brass or stainless steel, unless requirements dictate otherwise.
  3. Negotiate with the sign company. Get several quotes from different sign companies before making a decision. Bundling your other sign types may help to lower your individual costs.
  4. Confer with your landlord. Be sure to get your sign approved by your landlord BEFORE you have signs manufactured and installed. There’s nothing worse than needing to start from scratch AND pay for double the work!

By following these tips, you can save money on your retail signage without sacrificing quality.

Do NOT forget to add signage to your business plan! Use the business planning resource Matanky Realty Group created to help you plan your business and forecast your expenses.