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How Profitable is a Printing and Signage Business?

The printing and signage business industry in the U.S. represented a total revenue of $17.5 billion in 2023. But how does this translate for individual printing and signage businesses within the industry?

How much yearly revenue can a printing and signage business expect? And what are the costs associated with starting and running such a business?

This article offers a deep dive into the financial landscape of the printing and signage market. We’ll explore the average revenues of over 3,500 printing and signage shops, the costs of setting up a business, and the profitability metrics that define the industry.

With data-driven insights, we provide a comprehensive understanding of the economic dynamics of the printing and signage sector in 2023.

Printing and Signage market overview

As per IBIS, the printing and signage market in the U.S. represented revenue of $17.5 billion in 2023 and is expected to grow to $20.3 billion in 2028.

Traditional and digital billboards and signs have the same share ($6.25 billion each), both of which are the largest, followed by other billboards and signs ($2.2 billion), other printing services ($952 million), pre-press printing services ($812 million), printing plates and cylinders ($560 million), and post-press printing services ($476 million).

Yet, with over 31,000 printing and signage shops across the country, the competition is also fierce.

How much revenue does a printing and signage business make?

Using the same source earlier, it’s safe to assume that the average turnover for a printing and signage shop is around $560,000. Indeed, the U.S. printing and signage industry is worth $17.5 billion in 2023 and there are about 31,000 printing and signage shops across the U.S.

Now, using the data from more than 3,500 franchised shops, a printing and signage shop earns $667,000 in gross revenue per year on average. This number is the average gross revenue per shop from 3,500 shops of the largest 10 printing and signage franchises in the U.S.

If it is a printing shop, with an average cost per printing job of $88 (1,000 copies), that’s a total of ~7,500 printing jobs per year. Assuming 250 working days per year, that’s on average 30 printing jobs per day per shop.

If it is a signage shop, with an average cost per signage of $2,500, that’s a total of 267 signage per year. Assuming 250 working days per year, that’s on average 1 signage sale per day per shop.

Yet, not all printing and signage shops have the same yearly revenue. Logically, some will earn more than others because of many factors like location, services offered, customer satisfaction, and effective marketing strategies.

How much does it cost to start a printing and signage business?

You would have to invest on average anywhere from $153,000 to $330,000 to open a printing and signage business.

The upfront investment covers costs like rent, leasehold improvements, licenses and permits, printing equipment, tools, and software, printing supplies, furniture and fixtures, insurance, utilities, marketing, etc.

  • Leasehold improvements (12%): costs associated with modifying or enhancing the leased space for the shop’s specific needs.
  • Furniture and fixtures (5%): expenses for the necessary furniture and fixtures in the shop.
  • Rent deposits (2%): upfront deposits paid to secure the leased space.
  • Printing equipment (42%): the major chunk, covering the cost of printers and related machinery.
  • Computer hardware and software (2%): costs for computers and software used for design and administrative purposes.
  • Signage (2%): expenses related to the creation and installation of signage for the shop.
  • Initial marketing (6%): funds allocated for the shop’s initial marketing efforts to attract customers.
  • Training expenses (4%): costs associated with training staff.
  • Working capital (18%): capital set aside to cover day-to-day operational expenses for the first 3 months
  • Others (7%): insurance, business permits and licenses, initial inventory, miscellaneous funds, etc.

How profitable is a printing and signage business?

A printing and signage business has a ~12% operating profit margin (EBITDA margin) after the cost of services and operating costs (salaries, maintenance, rent, etc.) have been incurred.

There are various recurring costs involved in running a printing and signage business. The major expenses include the cost of services and salaries:

  • Cost of services (~35% of revenue): This is the sum of the variable costs directly related to providing printing services. This can include cost spent on paper and other production materials,
  • Salaries (~25% of revenue): This can include salaries, bonuses, and other taxes and benefits you must pay to your employees.
  • Marketing (~1-5% of revenue): This is the cost incurred in executing strategies and activities aimed at promoting the printing services you offer, creating brand awareness, and attracting customers.
  • Other operating costs: (~20-25% of revenue): This includes rental costs, professional fees, licenses and permits, insurance, equipment maintenance costs, utilities, and other administrative expenses.
Profit and lossAmount (US$)% revenue
Gross Revenue$667,000100%
Gross Profit$433,55065%
Labor expense$(166,750)25%
Other operating costs$(166,750)25%
Source: FDDs of franchises