By Monica Mendoza
Skyline Products made its reputation in manufacturing large electronic signs that hang over freeways. Nowadays it’s also selling signs that help motorists in yet another way — finding the cheapest gasoline.
The Colorado Springs company, which celebrates its 40th year in business this month, has launched a new division making software and electronic signs that allow gas-station owners to change fuel prices at multiple stores from their computers or smart phones.
The company made its name with those large freeway signs where police post warnings about traffic conditions along with what are known as “Amber Alerts.”
Skyline began to pursue its newest niche several years ago after company owners Greg and Chip Stadjuhar, brothers, stumbled upon a key issue in the fuel pricing game.
Fuel prices change faster than gas station owners can change price signs, and in the fuel business, pennies per gallon amount to millions in revenue.
“There is nothing worse than a case where you are 5 cents high and everyone is going across the street to buy gas,” said Greg, who is vice president of sales and marketing “The margins on gas in the industry are very thin. Fuel is so volatile. It is the most volatile thing outside of the stock market.”
That leaves most gasoline and convenience stores spending their days scouting the competition, creating spread sheets to analyze prices and calling store managers to change price signs manually. By the time they made all the changes, it was time to make another change.
That issue opened the door for Skyline’s software, called Price Advantage.
Price Advantage sends store owner real- time competitor prices, analysis of the price paid for the fuel and the volume expected to sell and calculates the optimum price per gallon.
CEFCO Convenience Stores just equipped 124 stores in Texas and Louisiana with Price Advantage software and signs at a cost of about $10,000 per store.
CEFCO fuel manager Mark Lapierre said if his prices are off by a penny or even less, it costs him customers, money and time.
“It took me nine steps, and two and half hours just to get ready to price the fuel each day,” Lapierre said. “I was so frustrated. When you have a lot of stores even a tenth of cent (per gallon) is a lot of money.”
Skyline sales have exceeded the owners’ expectations, making this its best year in a decade with revenue expected to reach $26 million.
Price Advantage helped, but it only represents about 5 percent of the company’s total revenue.
The backbone of the company remains its electronic message signs.
In July, the company won a three-year contract with the State of Hawaii for the large electronic message signs, making it the 27th state to sign Department of Transportation deals exclusively with Skyline.
This fall, Skyline Products will unveil new color electronic signs in the City of Colorado Springs. The idea is to use symbols, like the Interstate 25 shield, to help direct traffic.
When Greg and Chip’s father, Robert Stadjuhar, started the business, he drove around Colorado Springs at night looking for broken neon signs. The next day he showed offering to fix the signs.
He later began making signs, and today, the company employs 185 people. Everything is manufactured at the 67,000-square-foot plant on Delta Drive.
“Sometimes it scares him a little, like wow, what did this become,” Greg Stadjuhar said. “But I think there is a lot of pride in what he created.”