7 posts in this topic
By Erik Sine
I may split this off into a separate thread from the original topic and I should probably write one single article and condense all the info from this board into one
Since so many large retailers, movie theater chains and shopping center developers read the info here on The Sign Syndicate I'm sure they will find it a kick in the pants.
In a nut shell, it...the decline in Neon Production had a snowball effect that started small and quantified
There have always been small to large national companies who just built shit for signs, they always have, and that continues today, same business model no matter what light source is being used or how it's being installed. So in some ways back in 2005, LED's were appealing, it was the new "wow". The marketing material was completely false, and so the mis-characterizations of conventional light sources were born i.e. Neon and soon after Fluorescent lamps.
Trade magazines being the mainstream media they are flocked to the story and followed, the "Oooooo's....awwwwww's.." without EVER questioning the actual results, brightness, longevity, color rendering etc etc. The suppliers had a new "thing" to pimp, and they were also blanketed by false notions and mis-information. Afterall, if it's in print by the so called trade magazines or brochure rags as I called them, then it MUST be true....right???
Your hacks who never cared about quality, long life, brightness were just repeating what they did best, create crap and install crap but this time had a better way to bullshit customers with new marketing claims. This time it was dimmer, and failing because they themselves never bothered to check result, buy the cheapest module afterall an LED is an LED!!!! No real education just marketing statement...execute but NEVER explain. Then we all saw the major failures across the country with Permlight, Electra LED i.e. Chase, BOA, and you name it.
Years later we all saw the market go towards LEDs, and Neon shrunk. While all this was happening we all saw the shift in the International Sign Association Expo's makeup at shows and in membership. A lot of LED companies like GE and others were given government subsidies (our tax dollars) for R&D and with that major campaigns were launched and we all saw HUGE one page ads
This whole time other than The Sign Syndicate, LED & Neon light sources have never been tested in any kind of benchmark for the industry. You would think our cartel leadership like International Sign Association would have jumped on this, but the money was too good and the ignorance was too deep. Why I've always said its a bad idea to have a major non-profit composed of those other than those that are in this trade. International Sign Association to it's credit had some small seminars that Kirstie & I personally attended on Neon and electric sign applications. Those were pretty much a waste of time and joke. The Reason? Relationships. In the crowd was Sloan and other LED reps, and when hard questions were raised about longevity, brightness, how they compare to LED's the Neon guys spines and knees folded like a cheap walmart lawn chair. They pussied out, so they ought not to offend. There was maybe one of two who wanted to unleash, but those who were running the actual program opted not too to save face and not start a debate which is the reason why I showed. I asked some hard questions but they were pushed aside. Same questions I asked in San Diego show and the CA Edison guy skirted over. Neon had it's chance but it failed and caved to relationship saving and political/industry correctness
Years before that an LED rep went in front of the California Energy Commission for title 24 to impress them and in front of the California Sign Association who attended and claimed that his LED that is just as bright as Neon is only a half watt, an Neon is 12 watts per foot. That was a show stopper, but not as big as the CSA standing around and "doing nothing", no contest, no protest to the false claims. There was a second time/chance to correct the matter, electrical engineers were sent but it was too late, minds were made up and the CEC never finalized their report on Neon. Closed case. Again, if it's in print in a Trade Magazine it MUST be true!!!
This is a history our longtime association board members who have been in this association and that association hate to hear or have repeated, in fact they used to come on this board and try to tell us different, and tell us that this is false, in fact we ought not question their wisdom because they are our "elders" and THEY are our "betters". But you can't rewrite history. In fact, even with all this, they still to this day have not done a damn thing to correct any of it it's just been swept under the rug.
As of the past few years with Neon at an all time low, demand dwindling. UL decided to be UL, and conjure up more excuses in the name of safety (The environmental product safety movement) to get ye old profit farm up and again and decided component molds needed to be changed, wire diameter too etc etc. But unfortunately that comes with a HIGH cost to retool, remold, 25K-40K here and there to retest, evaluate, etc etc, even more for mold changes, tool changes. Westrim, Transco and others said "Fuck it". It's not worth the money to spend vs demand. Ba Bye PK's, housings and others. Ba bye to those future testing/annual product listing fee's they were supposed to collect
Finally we have the Sign shops, wholesalers themselves.
I have lot's of friends who are reading and I'm probably going to offend a good amount of them. A big fault down the line which is now, is the sign shops who either produce signs, or sub out to wholesalers.
Signs shops these days don't have the "know how" when it comes to Fluorescent or Neon Signs. They've opted for cheap labor. A lot of franchisee sticky sign shops have gotten in because LED's are easy and so are channel letter machines, and their parent Franchise HQ's have pushed the International Sign Association and others to get state law changed so they can operate without a contractors license, and skip the ability of needing a license to sub-contract. i.e. Wisconsin, Texas
Most sign shops these days don't want to put in the time, to learn to continue to build/design signs the way they should or to last. The LED market is a race to the bottom and LED mfg's like GE have pretty much gotten out because most are looking for 25¢ modules and not giving a shit about how long they last. Sell a project, collect the check and walk away.
Wholesale shops themselves find it cheaper to simply peel, stick and ship, also not caring about results or appearance. IN fact, many stock only white LEDs and use that for all phases and colors of signs no matter what the face, whereas a smart shop puts the correct color behind the face, i.e. red behind red, blue behind blue.
Currently when the customer, who actually wants and misses Neon, asks a shop for Neon, the uneducated, unknowledgeable shop who is lazy, tells the client that Neon is dangerous as a product or to the environment, it's dead, not as bright as LEDs is NOT as efficient and tries to sell them what the customer does not want, skips over demand BECAUSE that shop has NO "know how" and wants to just simply sell them something. Sign shops don't want to deal with Neon these days because they don't have the know how, are too lazy, enjoy cheap labor, only offer limited options to consumers, and want to make better money quicker faster with just peel and stick.....their answer to EVERYTHING.
At the same time when it comes to sign suppliers, they also helped kill the Neon industry in a few ways, one... they stopped stocking products. Two, they were quick to relay false / mis-leading information to customers who wanted neon or fluorescent components. Claims that they were fresh out, the component mfg's were out of business, the demanded product is having UL issues BUT...Here's a kick ass LED alternative!!!!! Most Sign Suppliers have entered into he market with their own cheap chinese LED import and cut relations with GE, Sloan, US LED and others as we;ve all seen play musical chairs with sign suppliers, it's a cut throat market even for them. Let's look at all the burned bridges with those dist/mfgs. In fact, most supplier reps don't even know what "GTO" is, or a "200 housing", don't believe me? Call one, you'll get that short pause followed by "what's that?...."
The Neon component mfg's were no longer getting calls about the actual demand that was genuinely out there because the suppliers were able/wanted to make a better margin on another product. So they the component mfg fed false "no demand" in turn stopped producing. Component mfg's only got drop shipped orders from suppliers.
Here's the bigger kicker.
I've always wanted to supply Neon component here on the SS because I genuinely wanted to help this sector of our trade out because I've personally witnessed for myself the injustice of it all, and I love this industries greatest tradition of a hand crafted light source.
THIS is where i chuckle and can't feel sorry for them in the least.....only the for small Neon Bender who loves his trade.
The Neon component mfg's have had these relationships for years with suppliers and depended on all the large sign distributors financially, who were basically trusting the mafia. These component mfgs were told NOT to let small niche markets such as us stock their product, the mafia in action. These large Sign Suppliers think of who they are by name, they operate like a Cartel/Mafia, call up and threaten NOT to let others stock and distribute or they will no longer continue in their relationship. Well...GOOD, they shouldn't because when was the last time ANYONE of us has ever seen a N.Glantz, Montroy, Interstate Electric, or other ever promote Neon products in a the form of a newsletter or flyer???
The Cartel who only selects a few products in great number say 5% of a product line, but omits the 95% tells them they will no longer buy, and twists their arm. I've offered to stock that other 95% BUT, the Neon component mfg folds to the will of the strong arm Cartel Mafia. Not my problem, not my money, NOT my investment to loose. I just want to see a hand crafted art last and continue.
Neon Component MFG's have a lot of fault too, don't feel sorry for them in the least. They choose to continue their relationships with those who don't even really support them or promote them. Karma's a bitch isn't it?? Put all your eggs in one basket and wham...
Let me share a few recent prior posts with you. Anyone who knows this site knows I've bashed the trade magazine Signs Of The Times relentlessly and unmercifully for years. In the last few years SOT is the ONLY magazine that has done a 180˙ and they've began digging deeper. Below is an article part of that. Now I hear Wade is no longer the editor, I only hope the new editor continues where he left off.
SOT aggressive article about Neon Components
Pist off Neon Mfg suffering from their own doing based on that article:
I have to tell you, it's been an amazing ride running the SS, running light source tests and observing the results of light and energy, dabbing into the sign supplier market and personally witnessing first hand how the sign supplier cartel / mafia works, how our Sign Associations & trade magazines have massively failed our industry. To most in this industry, they go to a convention floor, pick up a magazine are are "WOWED". Fortunately, for you, you don't have my or a few others on this board eyes to look through. That magic I once saw when i first started was dispelled, handshakes with smiles all seen for what they really are. A few of us know there is no wizard only a man working behind the curtain and the background is nothing more than a thin cardboard prop. Not to sound grim, or negative, but news is news, and the truth is a stubborn thing. This site has helped greatly in creating a awareness in this industry that has never seen or had before. Something that cannot be learned from a sign association or trade magazine, or even from a close friend, this has been accomplished by it's membership who I see as pushing one another to do better. I'm proud of that and to those.
This very site has brought optimism for me. Optimism & confidence in the Neon market is slowly coming back because OUR customers demand it, that void is getting bigger and it needs to be filled. The only remaining question is, will their be a Neon component mfg around to continue to make products for that demand?
So for this reason Neon is a VERY profitable market to/for those who still know how to produce and install...properly. I and a few others thank those uneducated, unknowing, lazy shops who prefer one light source in my local market, because lean times are my way with NO competition, and it is the same for others. This is not to say LEDs are crap or have no place, we sell and awesome LED line that is unparalleled that has so many good uses BUT, I'm here to tell it CANNOT replace Neon, how many suppliers would tell you that???
All light sources have their place based on environment and application, NEITHER Neon, Fluorescent, or LEDs should be used in all phases. They ALL have their strengths and weaknesses, and everyone needs to know what those are and use them as best they can because the client believe YOU are the expert and YOU will make/select the best choice and NOT limit your customers options based on YOUR capacity.
I say the things I say, do the things I do. Most importantly I want members here to succeed, be better, build better longer lasting signs, and that's why one of the small avenues I've involved myself with being a small niche market in supply sales, and why I've carefully picked the things that I sell, it's because I use them and I trust them and as a business owner I know how important it is to build really great kick ass "unique" products such as Neon that impress customers and keep them buying back.