Signarama opens 100th Aussie shop

Global sign printing franchise Signarama just opened its 100th Australian shop, but there are unlikely to be many more as a contracting industry limits growth potential.

Evan Foster, national director of Signarama parent company United Franchise Group, says the Australian market can probably only support another 25 locations, mostly in regional areas.

“We don’t want to put one on every corner and have them eat into each other’s customer base, 100 is almost too many stores with the way the print market is going,” he says.

He says towns and cities like Townsville, Rockhampton, Launceston and Darwin are on the company’s hit list, following recent openings in Dubbo, Murwillumbah and Bathurst, and at least two stores in Canberra where Signarama has not yet made headway.

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“We have tried a few times to get into Canberra but for various reasons it hasn’t happened yet. We desperately want to get in there and if we focus enough it will happen,” he says.

“There are probably only a few big metro opportunities left for us which is why we are shifting our focus to regional areas. I think it speaks to the strength of the brand that we have got to that point in only 17 years.

“Getting to 100 stores is a huge milestone for us. It’s a validation of the model and a tribute to the tireless work of our franchise owners.”

The 100th store in Mosman on Sydney’s lower north shore is owned by former mechanical project engineer Colin Sharp and, like many Signarama shops, will focus on vinyl production, using a HP Latex 260, because of its relatively high margins.

Sharp says he learned how to run a business working as an engineering consultant after a career in both technical and corporate roles.

“I was in coal and the work dried up and at my age it’s hard to get a new job. I wasn’t ready to retire so someone suggested owning a franchise,” he says.

“I looked around a bit and I was attracted to Signarama because it is product and business-to-business focused like I was used to. I spoke to a dozen owners and it got great reviews.

“With the backing of a franchise model it’s relatively low risk. I’m hoping to make a decent living, do something worthwhile, and hopefully build something good to sell when I retire.”

Sharp says most of his clients are small businesses but he sometimes gets last minute emergency jobs from big companies. He says 70-80 per cent of production is done in house and the rest outsourced to other Signarama stores.

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Foster says Sharp is an ‘ideal’ franchise owner because he is precise and focused.

“We have been lucky recently to attract some particularly good candidates like Colin who will have huge success,” he says.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today without people like them, they do the hard work.”

Foster says some commercial printers own Signaramas along with their existing businesses because the backing of the franchise model makes diversification easier, providing access to resources and high margin work.

He says Sharp is a great fit for the Mosman market, as with a mix of retail and high-end business it is more focused on quality and value than price.

“Colin is focused on service and getting the job right the first time,” he says.

United Franchise Group global performance vice president Scott Mast, who was on hand at the grand opening for staff, clients and local business figures, says Australia is by far the company’s most successful and fastest growing market outside the US.

“Opening the 100th store is a really big deal for us. When were came here 17 years ago we knew this was going to work because Australia is a great place to do business,” he says.

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