PPF: And Now For Something a Little Bit Different

Dec 3, 2009

In spite of current economic uncertainty, and at a time when most companies are scaling back and recording losses, the paint protection film market appears to be stronger than ever.

With so many different applications, and the appeal of its durability and protection, the future looks bright for this versatile film and the restylers who offer it to their clients.

“With the recent downturn in the economy we all know that new vehicle sales are down. It’s more important than ever for people to maintain their vehicles, and paint protection film is the perfect way to do this,” says Jeff Boettcher, market development manager for the 3M Automotive Division/Scotchgard, St. Paul, Minn.

Even with vehicle sales down, there still are abundant opportunities to outfit many different types of autos, old and new, with paint protection film.

Kathryn Giblin, vice president, global marketing of Bekaert Specialty Films/Solar Gard, San Diego, is in agreement with Boettcher noting that, “In this economy, owners need to protect their investments. Paint protection film is an ideal product to protect many different vehicles over the long run, and for resale.”

Ideal candidates, Giblin adds, include not only cars and trucks, but also RVs, watercraft, buses, farm equipment, long-haul trucks and much more.

Thinking outside the box

For paint protection film, however, these applications are merely the tip of the iceberg. Among the somewhat untapped segments of the paint protection film market are motorcycles, OHVs, RVs, rental fleets and creative applications outside the automotive genre.

“Under the current economic condition a paint protection film restyler cannot stay in just automotive, but must reach out to new markets, including, for example, the motorcycle and RV markets,” says Max Stutz, sales representative for Avery Dennison Industrial and Automotive Products Division, Strongsville, Ohio.

Ingenuity is the key to keeping any business running strong in today’s tough times, and paint protection film offers automotive aftermarket retailers the chance to diversify their offerings and increase business — all with one flexible product.

“One market that I see a lot of people forgetting about is motorcycles,” says Michael Mayall, president and CEO for Pro-Tect Film Distributing Inc., Las Vegas. “With an unstable prediction on gas prices, people are really looking to have a second (or new primary) form of transportation. Harley-Davidson is one of your more expensive motorcycles (average price $25,000-up) and these buyers typically want to protect their investment from hazards the road can dish out.”

Another great opportunity for installers is recreational vehicles.

“We see lots of RVs because they really take a beating,” says Lane Carter of Funklines, Cincinnati. “We also see a lot of paint protection on ATVs, much more than we used to.”

While paint protection film can be used on just about any non-porous surface, patterns may be unavailable for many of its more unique applications, requiring dealers to be well-versed in special installation techniques.

“In some cases, the film may need custom cutting by a skilled applicator because there may not be a pattern available, such as with OHVs (off-highway vehicles), RVs and motorcycles,” says Boettcher.

Not only is it important for paint protection film retailers to think of new vehicle applications, but also new applications on the same vehicles they see daily.

“Think door edges, door handles and door cups on vehicles,” says Pro-Tect’s Mayall. “These areas suffer a great deal of wear and tear and generally are not as time consuming to apply compared with a bumper.

“If you have downtime in your business due to the slump in automotive sales, consider this to be a constant residual on your cash flow, and also a fresh solution for your local dealership, as these areas add tremendous value to the end buyer without a high price tag.”

Rental car fleets may seem like an obvious choice to maximize work for any installer, but Celeste Steele, marketing specialist for Xpel Technologies, San Antonio, Texas, says this is arguably the largest untapped market.

“This market has been hard to tap in the past because high film costs and installation times made it difficult for providers to install film at a cost lower than refinishing,” says Steele. “This is becoming a more viable option as the labor pool matures and films become easier to install.”

Opportunities for diversification are also abundant for installers who are willing to explore the many unique applications that have been discovered for this highly adaptable material.

“The transportation markets, whether by land or sea, as a whole are healthy targets,” says Dan McPhail, product manager for Venture Tape, Rockland, Mass. “And while the strength of our business is with the automotive trades, these alternative channels offer an amazing growth potential.”

There’s green in green

McPhail also identifies a couple of creative ways for independent installers to increase business. One use McPhail proposes for paint protection film is in the wind energy field. “With our global economy thinking green, so are we,” he says.

Wind turbine protection, for example, offers an excellent chance for installers to branch out. And with the sheer size of the turbines, the amount of material to be applied is substantial. “There are opportunities within the aerospace, marine and green markets such as the wind energy market that we are developing,” McPhail notes.

As well, the popularity of consumer electronics presents many items that feature sleek designs and scratch-sensitive screens. “Paint protection film is a great way to keep them looking like new,” he adds.

These types of items also offer uses for smaller pieces of paint protection film left over from larger jobs.

“Though the individual part price is low, the volume can be significant,” adds Steele. “This is also a good way for installers to use up roll ends and other scraps that they would have previously thrown away.”

And here’s yet another very creative place for paint protection film that most automotive-minded installers could overlook – laundromats.

“Commercial washers and dryers have a long shelf life of up to 20 years,” says Giblin. “Industry data suggests that the more rundown equipment looks, the more abuse it receives from users; therefore, laundromat owners would like to ensure the longevity of their equipment by keeping their machines looking good and functional.”

Back to basics

With so many new and innovative ways paint protection film can be used, the staple for many installers remains with new-car dealerships. Even with sales of new vehicles in the doldrums, car and truck dealerships still provide an excellent base upon which paint protection film installers can build a strong business.

“Even though sales are down, the industry predicts that over 12 million vehicles will sell in the U.S. this year,” says 3M’s Boettcher. “Less than 5% of vehicles sold in the U.S. have paint protection film, so clearly there is great room for growth.

“Now is the perfect time to approach this market because people are keeping their vehicles longer, and dealerships are selling fewer new vehicles and are looking for additional revenue sources. When pitching to this market, focus on the revenue stream benefits that you can bring the dealership.”

The luxury car market remains a very viable option among dealerships.

“Consumer desire to drive luxury vehicles has not wavered,” says Giblin. “-¦roughly 50% to 70% of luxury vehicle sales are through lease, and paint protection is an ideal product for leased vehicles since drivers must return the vehicle in good condition.”

For dealerships that might not be immediately receptive to paint protection film, think about adding different price points.

“Consider adding more affordable coverage to your offerings. Instead of pushing only a 24″ hood and full bumper coverage, offer door edge, door sill or trunk ledge coverage for a number of cars at an affordable price,” says Xpel’s Steele. “This allows the dealership to add much needed margin to the cars, without fear of having to give the product away.”

Dealerships will always remain a great place for paint protection film installers, adds Funkline’s Carter. “Even when it’s slow, they are still selling cars.” And although many dealerships now offer paint protection film in-house, he adds that these are ideal clients for pre-cut film kits, even when a restyler can’t get the installation work.

“If the economy as it is right now makes it more difficult for (installers) to sell full-frontal paint protection, this gives them some other options,” adds Steele. “They can sell (kits) to their dealerships to hang in the parts department, sell them to local store chains, or sell them in their own stores. The margins are good and they require no installation time.”

Sales tools

“Informative marketing materials are important to help restylers sell paint protection since it is often a lesser-known product,” says Bekaert/Solar Gard’s Giblin. “To sell paint protection to the consumer, installers need to educate them on the benefits, which requires thoughtful and informative marketing materials.”

The before and after countertop displays Solar Gard offers, she adds, help to illustrate to potential clients the long-term benefits paint protection film can offer on their vehicle.

3M’s Boettcher notes that his company offers “a comprehensive program for helping certified installers market Scotchgard film, including customizable POPs, literature, professional apparel, training and promo videos, and an online installer locator.”

Another clever idea for dealers is a private label film care and maintenance package featuring the installer’s shop name, offered by Pro-Tect. “By giving every consumer who purchases paint protection film for their vehicle a care package, it helps to educate the consumer on how to properly care for the product and also gives the customer a direct relationship to the installer,” says Mayall.

Cutting software, for those installers equipped with plotter/cutters, is another area manufacturers can be of assistance.

“Avery Dennison introduced a no-cut-fee paint protection film software program, which financially aids our customer,” says Stutz. “We also offer free POP materials, StoneShieldâ„¢ tri-folds, mirror hangers, display boards, etc.

“In today’s environment it is important that restylers make the maximum profit on each PPF installation, while remaining competitive. In recognition of that, Avery Dennison has extended its promotional offer on StoneShield PPF template software. In addition, there is no usage fee. This program is supported by a full array of sales support materials and POP. And Avery Dennison forwards all leads to its installer base.”

Many valuable tools are available from manufacturers and distributors to help dealers increase sales and install more paint protection film. Be sure to ask suppliers about the offerings they have that can help increase business, especially during challenging times when added sales are needed most. Often, these types of sales tools can help turn an uncertain potential client into a paying customer.

Perhaps the most valuable tool for paint protection film installers today is that, even in a slow market, it’s a product that is still seeing increases in sales and growth opportunity.

“I think paint protection film is going to continue to do well; it’s such a value and it really protects paint,” says Carter. “It does what it’s supposed to do, and it has real value to it.”