YOU PROBABLY HAVE to be “of a certain age” to recall how shops all over the country used to rely on annual pricing guides, particularly the three different 3 x 5-in. Signwriters guides, which were later compiled into one, “official” Sign Contractors Pricing Guide. Established in 1969 by Jack and June Rumpf in Billings, MT, the Signwriters guides – featuring pages of what to charge for various signwork, compiled from national surveys and averages – determined what the thousands of shops that purchased them would charge their customers. But the Signwriters guides didn’t cover electric signs or neon, so during the 1990’s, Raymond Mayhew of Mayhew Signs (Grand Island, NE) introduced pricing guides for custom electric signs, neon, and sign leasing and maintenance.
In the 2000’s, another pricing guide, The Sign Industry Blue Book, more comprehensive than the others and including more information on digital printing, enjoyed a brief spell in the market. However, beset with problems of uneven sales for its regional editions, and ultimately, intellectual property struggles from within, the publication folded after only a few years. About a decade later, the last Sign Contractors Pricing Guide was published in 2016, after which June Rumpf, who had survived Jack’s passing years before, retired.
Meanwhile, in 2002 ST Books published How to Estimate & Price Signs by Dan Hale of QRS Signs (Portville, NY). The softcover book instructed readers on how to do their own pricing, independent of guides, based on knowing all of their costs and establishing a reasonable markup. When Hale began giving seminars at successive ISA Sign Expos on the topic, the sample spreadsheets he used were incorporated into an electronic version of his book. First available on CD, the updated e-book eventually made its way to flash drives before it, too, was retired just last year.
Today, the ever-important question, “How much should I charge?” is easily and accurately handled by software for sign businesses. Still, it’s a good idea to seek new insights every now and then. At the ISA Sign Expo in Orlando, FL — now postponed until August 21-25 — Michael Stone, owner of Construction Programs and Results Inc. (Camas, WA), will give a seminar on “Markup and Margin for a Profit.”
Yep, we’ve come a long way from the pocket-sized pricing guide.
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