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Ask Signs of the Times

What Equipment Should I Purchase Next?

There are several factors to consider. We run them down in the latest “Ask Signs of the Times.”




What equipment do I purchase next/how do I determine what to invest in (new bucket truck, flatbed, router, addition onto building)? There are too many options!

Yes, it’s exciting to make these investments, but you should let the numbers guide you. One way to determine what to invest in is to consider your greatest area of need by time and/or expense. If you’re constantly renting bucket trucks or outsourcing large amounts of printing or routing, then investing in equipment would directly address those largest needs/expenses. Another way is to calculate which will pay for itself most quickly, with an eye toward using that fast payback as the means to then invest in the next equipment item. And because an addition to your building or moving to a larger space would presumably require even greater investment, plus potential disruption of your current workflow, you’ve really got to think that through (see “small shop” question below for a stopgap). Of course, you’ve also got to be confident your market can and will grow into any investment. Ask for advice and recommendations from friendly sign companies before deciding what to do.

… as a follow-up, how do you sell your used equipment? I must have been sick when they covered this in school.

Can’t find a buyer for your neon ribbon burner on Craigslist? Seriously, online posts and classifieds, such as the free listings offered on, help sign companies sell their used sign-related equipment (or buy equipment, seek work, help wanted and more) and reach a much more targeted (and less creepy) buyer!

What ways can a small shop space be used to produce results normally requiring more space?

Rick Ream, vice president, Media 1/Wrap This, Sanford, FL, offered this from his own experience in outgrowing shop spaces: “One thing I did in the past was rent a storage container to be dropped in the yard I was using to park my trucks. It gave me big secure storage for a reasonable cost.”

What are good margins for in-house signage projects? Non-electrical.

Our own Business of Signs columnist Maggie Harlow, CEO, Signarama Downtown, Louisville, KY, who recently covered gross profit (see ST, August 2021, page 27), had this to say: “In-house cost of materials margins should be around 15-20% — for typical digital printing types of products.”

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