Securing The Right Signage

August 7, 2017

It’s impossible to drive through a populated area without seeing commercial signage. Business names are lifted high on marquees or monuments, out near the street or above the door – they market a company in the most basic, essential way. Yet some business owners are unsure of the best ways to secure appropriate signage.

With keen brand planning and savvy negotiation, building signage can become a significant business asset. The key to signage success is balancing landlord preferences with tenant requests.

For landlords, the best signage is tasteful and uniform. It makes a positive impression in the community, and can increase traffic and sales for the property. This, in turn, adds value to the real estate asset and benefits the owner’s portfolio.

The lease for any commercial property should include a specific clause related to tenant signage. This language should refer to signage standards, including the construction, design, approval, maintenance and removal of building signage. It’s critical to establish clear and precise terms regarding signage, as failure to address these issues could lead to unintended embarrassment or financial liability.

Most negotiations involve exterior storefront signs, and traditional leases cover these concerns with language like this: “The Tenant shall not fix or maintain upon the glass panes and supports of the storefront windows, or within twelve inches of any windows, doors or exterior walls of the Leased Premises, any signs, advertising placards, descriptive material, names, logos, insignia, trademarks, or any other such item except those that have been approved by the Landlord in writing, with specific regard to size, type, color, location, display quantities, copy and nature. Tenant shall not affix any sign to the roof of the Leased Premises, or place any sign within the common areas of the Shopping Center. In addition, Tenant shall only erect signs in accordance with the provisions of the signage criteria attached hereto and incorporated herein as Exhibit F.”

Avoid the urge to skim this section – it is worth the time and attention it takes to fully evaluate signage rights. Be sure that the lease allows businesses to effectively market themselves while remaining compliant with the signage requirements of the landlord as well as the local government.

Tenants should note that they have the greatest leverage to influence and negotiate signage rights before they sign on the dotted line, as landlords have no incentive to negotiate after their lease income is guaranteed. That’s why it’s crucial for business owners to review signage guidelines, make design requests and resolve any placement or maintenance issues with the landlord in advance, then ensure that any changes are reflected in the final lease agreement.

When it comes to determining the proper signage for a business, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each type of commercial venture warrants a custom evaluation of the needs and goals of the company.

In the case of retail settings, it is important to secure prominent signage that lets customers know where you are and attracts new consumers to your location. The same general approach also applies to banks and financial service companies, law and accounting firms, and even medical offices. Each of these companies can elevate their public perception with dominant billing. What’s more, signage that is installed in a high-traffic area can serve as outdoor advertising at a significantly lower cost than billboard placement.

For industrial or warehouse space, signage may seem less important. Back office operations of large corporations, nonprofits and fulfillment centers may wish to minimize visibility in order to reduce walk-in traffic. However, even understated building signs can make a business far more recognizable to those using nearby roadways or to employees at nearby businesses. In these cases, signage can help establish a professional relationship with neighboring companies and assist with overall brand awareness and recall.

While the negotiation and finalization of signage rights is unique to each business, the need for proven real estate acumen is consistent. That’s why it’s important to work with a team that understands the commercial real estate landscape and can advocate on your behalf. Contact the professionals at Intelica Commercial Real Estate to learn more, or for help determining the right signage approach to fit your needs.