That prominent and well lit LED gas price sign outside your fuel station is the backbone of the fuel industry. But this sign can provide good news as well as bad news to those driving by. It reminds consumers that the current price is this and that the next time they need to re-fuel, they may have to pay more than this. But sometimes prices can drop too. Hence LED gas price signs can also make customers feel good and can win over new customers.
So how did these gas price signs originate and how have they evolved over the years? The answers to these questions are available at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. According to research conducted at this library, it was found that the first freestanding gas price sign was put up in 1934. By 1938-39, the tall elevated signs similar to today’s LED ones came up. But many say that these sign postings should have begun earlier because the law required it since the 1920s. In the Gulf countries, porcelain price signs were up b 1927-28 and oil companies had begun using common images for branding purposes.
While these branding signs were more popular, including the fuel price with these was up to every individual dealer, unless the law required it. Most often, stations would only advertise fuel prices if they were lower than competitors. However it should be noted that at this time, fuel prices remained steady for approximately one year so these signs were usually hand-painted and quite permanent.
Self-serve filling stations
This concept came into being around the year 1947 and presented merchants with new opportunities to beat competitors. They did so by putting up large signs encouraging customers to self-serve their vehicles with fuel and save a few cents per gallon.
Price signs and self-serve stations rapidly expanded until 1952, when the preservation of jobs became more important. Shortly after the return of self-serve stations in 1967-68, there was a split of services in the same station. Self-serve on one side and full serve on the other. This brought about a huge re-awakening in gas price signs. Stations now had many prices to communicate to customers based on the level of service they sought after.
Massive fuel shortages in the 1970s made prices more volatile and hence price signs became more relevant. Due to fuel shortages, some stations ran out of fuel completely. Taking off their gas price signs was a way to tell customers that they were currently out of fuel stock. Moving forward, while self-serve versus full-serve was no longer an issue, stations began differentiating gas prices for cash and credit payment terms. Maintaining so many signs was difficult and updating them on a regular basis was very time consuming.
Finally, fluctuating prices, weather and safety concerns lead to fuel station dealers to move on to LED gas price signs. When prices began changing several times a day, it took dealerships about 30-40 minutes to change the signs and by then they were convinced that LEDs are the best option for advertising gas prices. That took them from 40 minutes to 2 minutes for changing prices on their signs and this was a massive difference. What’s better, the content displayed on these signs can be controlled from the manager’s office itself. No hard and dangerous work required to go out in extreme weather conditions, pull down the sign, change the content and put it back up.
Even though these LED signs have a lot of color options, most dealers prefer red, green or amber. The fonts used are also standard ones and dealerships decide if they want the numbers with curved edges or straight edges. The number eight is the base for making every other number. Each position has bulbs placed in an order that makes the number eight. Then depending on the number needed, the required bulbs are illuminated. The clear advantage here is that they will no longer run short of plastic numbers that they experienced once upon a time.
Beginning from hand-painted signs to individual numbers to flip signs and now to LED gas price signs, the communicating of fuel prices by gas stations to customers has seen a lot of change over the past century. But the communication of gas prices is compulsory as a motivation to customers, especially in these difficult economic times. Retailers should have their fuel prices displayed everywhere. If you haven’t displayed your prices, you aren’t being competitive.