Harbinger and Gate Petroleum have quite a few things in common – both companies were founded in Jacksonville, they are family-run businesses and they have worked together for 30 years. What started as a sign for a single location – a tennis club – has grown to managing the signage program for Gate's Southern Division, comprised of c-store and gasoline stations.
"The partnership has been successful because we've always delivered high-quality signage at competitive pricing," explained Jerry Johnson, Harbinger sales representative who has worked with Gate Petroleum from the beginning and continues to devote his part-time day solely to the account. "As well, Gate has always been very receptive to our recommendations."
One example is Harbinger's recommendation that Gate Petroleum switch to using LEDs. Therefore, two years ago Gate decided to make the change. LEDs are now used in all new locations. Harbinger also is retrofitting existing signs with LEDs and upgrading Gate to electronic gas price signs.
"The low maintenance and energy cost savings of LEDs really convinced Gate to try the new technology. Also, eliminating the need for employees to go outside to change gas prices was appealing," Johnson explained.
Today, the signage program for Gate consists of electronic gas price signs, fascia signs, pylon signs and various interior signs, including the branded Beer Igloo sign.
Edwin Watts Golf Utilizes "One-Touch" Signage Program
Harbinger helps Edwin Watts Golf in times of crises, with an ongoing "one touch" program for exterior signage and by bringing ideas to the table. Below is an excerpt from the feature case study in Chain Store Age magazine's June 2011 issue:
“The prints — we call them window clings — were Harbinger’s idea,” [Therese] Grossman said. “They’re beautiful and very impactful for our customers.”
Grossman explained that Harbinger came up with the idea of the window prints.
“It proved an economical way for us to try something new while meeting budget,” she said. “One of the benefits for a very specialized retailer like us in working with Harbinger is that they have a very broad base of experience and of doing different things that they are able to share with us. They bring a lot of great ideas to the table.”
Harbinger, a national sign and lighting firm that specializes in fabrication, value engineering and project management, has hired Don Nagel as vice president, west region. Nagel has more than 20 years experience in national sales, with more than half of that in the sign industry.
In this role, Nagel is responsible for new business initiatives including developing national accounts and establishing an office in Dallas, where he currently resides, to increase the company’s presence in the western region. His location also enables closer ties to one of Harbinger’s business alliance companies, Dallas-based FutureMedia Displays.
“Don’s sales expertise and in-depth knowledge in the sign industry is a real asset to our company as we continue to expand our client base nationwide and increasingly serve multi-location c-store, foodservice and retail customers,” said Steve Williams, president of Harbinger.
Most recently, Nagel served as director of sales and marketing for the non-profit organization Citizens Development Center. Prior to that he held various roles throughout his career with General Sign Company in Missouri, Dallas-based Suntec Industries, and Mighty Equipment Company and Allen Displays in Nashville, Tenn.
What do national retailers want from their signage program partners? Harbinger met with dozens of retailers during Chain Store Age magazine’s 47th annual Store Planning, Equipment, Construction and Facilities Services Seminar (SPECS) to ask.
The answer: Credibility. Reliability. Consistency. Cost savings.
“Interestingly, immediate cost savings was not the highest priority of the retailers we spoke with, even as our economy is just starting to recover,” said Ed Killion, executive vice president of Harbinger. “Many retailers, like our customers in the foodservice and convenience store industries, are focused on long-term costs and value. Therefore, the attributes of credible, reliable and consistent service and products are most important to them.”
Credibility – Retailers want a sign company with national reach, a qualified network of providers and programs in place to monitor the credentials of those providers.
Reliability – Clear, distinct processes for national project management are a must, as is experience. Retailers also want assurances that their standards will be adhered to at all times.
Consistency – All retailers want great quality products and services, including project management and installation, but for national or regional multi-location chains consistency of sign materials, color and illumination also is key.
Cost Savings – Cost savings are important to retailers, but not necessarily the cost of the actual signage. With gasoline prices increasing, many retailers were concerned about freight and shipping costs of the signs once manufactured.
“As the economy recovers and retailers begin opening new locations or refurbishing existing ones, these qualities in a signage partner will become even more crucial,” Killion added.
The world’s largest individual golf retailer, Edwin Watts Golf, trusts Harbinger with its national, multi-location signage program. For eight years, this successful partnership has grown along with both companies. Today, Harbinger manages Edwin Watts Golf’s signage program for more than 75 locations, including new, converted and updated locations.
“We have created a ‘one-touch’ program for Edwin Watts Golf. They contact the dedicated Harbinger project manager to initiate any required signage service and we seamlessly manage the surveys, permitting, fabrication, installation and servicing of any sign at all locations,” explained Steve Williams, president of Harbinger.
The signage program currently involves the logo and letters on the exterior of the locations, and decorative window and interior imaging solutions to maximize the brand at retail.
For color consistency in the green and white logo and lettering, Harbinger converted Edwin Watts Golf signs from paint to translucent vinyl films, all applied first surface for both cabinet and channel letter signs. To stay “green” in other ways, all new signs use LED illumination, reducing Edwin Watts Golf’s carbon footprint, saving the company up to 70 percent on sign operating costs, and providing more reliable, consistent luminosity.
To enhance Edwin Watts Golf’s brand and seasonal promotions, Harbinger provides full digital window prints in an array of motifs. The prints are created on a 3M medium-adhesive product that allows them to be removed without leaving an adhesive residue on the windows. Harbinger also is working with Edwin Watts Golf on virtually permanent interior prints that can be applied to both treated and untreated drywall substrates, and can be fully removed without leaving any adhesive residue.
“Edwin Watts is the most trusted retailer in golf because of our employees’ knowledge of the golf industry and their commitment to customer service,” said Therese Grossman, director of construction for Edwin Watts Golf. “We expect the same of our partners. Harbinger is exactly that in the sign industry -- trusted, knowledgeable and customer-centric.”
Harbinger is profiled in Sign Builder Illustrated magazine's Going Green supplement. The story, A Harbinger of Efficiency, highlights the company's approach to research and development, its environmentally friendly solutions and Lean manufacturing practices.
InMotion Entertainment, the country’s largest airport retailer of electronics and entertainment with nearly 60 convenient locations, has trusted Harbinger with its signage fabrication for more than seven years.
As part of the ongoing program, Harbinger fabricated a variety of standard-size storefront signs that fit a majority of InMotion’s retail locations. For those storefronts where standard just doesn’t fit, Harbinger creates custom signs. And, to optimize the storefront space at the retailer’s airport locations, Harbinger has produced 10-inch round dimensional logos, low-profile illuminated and non-illuminated blade signs, and interior header panels.
All of InMotion’s signage is designed to allow easy access to internal components for efficient maintenance. Also, the signs feature environmentally friendly, low VOC paints and use long-lasting LED lights, which also reduce long-term maintenance needs and are more energy efficient.
Harbinger, a national sign engineering and manufacturing firm, is introducing an online customer portal to better serve its multi-location clients. Through the portal, customers in the retail, convenience store, grocery and foodservice industries with multiple locations and simultaneous sign installation projects will have access to real-time project updates and status, among other features. The online portal is currently being tested and is scheduled to launch Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010.
Using a client login on Harbinger’s website, customers will have access to quotes, inventory, drawings of sign mock-ups and graphics, project and order history, invoices, and project status. As well, some multi-location clients may have access to customized approved-product catalogs, especially for those with franchises where it is important for the franchise owners to select from signage options that meet corporate brand standards.
“An increasing number of customers ask us to manage their signage installation or sign retrofitting programs nationwide. For example, we are retrofitting signage in more than 1,750 locations for one customer,” explained Steve Williams, president of Harbinger. “By investing in the technology to most efficiently manage these projects, Harbinger can continue to meet customer expectations while streamlining our internal processes.”
Harbinger will offer the service free to clients that meet certain criteria. The company expects the online portal will further streamline its internal processes by serving as a central location for project and customer information.
One of our national convenience store clients is reducing its carbon footprint and environmental impact is by switching to LED lighting. In 2010, Harbinger was retained to retrofit the signage in more than 1,750 locations nationwide – and to do it within the year.
In addition to researching and developing a LED lighting solution, Harbinger fine-tuned its project management process to ensure support of hundreds of retrofits simultaneously in varying stages. On average, Harbinger completes 230 retrofit installs for this client per month. Through Harbinger’s national network of local installers, the project is rolling out state-by-state.
Each retrofit is custom fit per location. The process begins with an on-site survey of the sign cabinet at the store location. Even though the client often has standard-size cabinets, the particular size must be verified. Back at the manufacturing facility, Harbinger cuts the Q Strips, wire and necessary parts to size, adds the LED lights to the strip and connects the power supply. The fully assembled lighting kits are then packaged and shipped out to the installer with precise installation instructions created by Harbinger. The instructions include both written steps and graphic depictions to ensure the on-site retrofit is implemented correctly and efficiently.
Harbinger has completed more than 75 percent of the installs to date, with each install being on time or ahead of schedule. In addition to staying on schedule, our client is pleased to start reducing its energy costs per sign by up to 80 percent with consistently lit brand identification signs.
One of the most crucial elements of sign installation is not the sign (although that is crucial too) — it’s the permit. Every municipality and county has different signage guidelines and regulations. Therefore, a signage partner must have the experience and processes in place to navigate the complexities of permitting on your behalf.
Best practices include:
- Maintaining a library or database of the various regulations
- Assigning a specific project manager to oversee the entire process from permitting through sign installation
- Verifying regulations to ensure new laws or amendments are considered
- Gathering the application information and submitting appropriate paperwork; if several permits are needed within the same geographic area, applying for them all at once
- Presenting in front of design and/or review committees, if needed
Depending on the type of sign and the locality regulations, sign permits can take as little as one day to as long as six weeks to get processed and approved. A reliable sign partner also will help manage expectations and maintain an accurate project timeline to ensure installation deadlines are met.