See-Throughs

Dec 2, 2009

Another season is upon us and with the transition to winter, vehicle accessorizing evolves to meet the needs brought on by colder, wetter weather. Some restylers offer a broad range of products and services to accommodate wholesale and retail accessory markets regardless of season. But many of us like to specialize in our restyling offerings.

Window tinting is an accessory that often is associated with seasonality, and winter time is not often traditionally seen as a strong market for this accessory. Restyling, however, sought out a coast-to-coast perspective on marketing strategies for window films and found great information on products, technologies and markets to fill an entire year’s calendar. Following, is information culled from some expert sources that will help retailers and installers now and, certainly, into the months ahead.

Solar Gard

Kathryn Giblin, vice president of global marketing for Bekaert Specialty Films, San Diego, maker of Solar Gard window films, stresses that window film dealers need manufacturers to help them. “In down times dealers spend the time to look around for information to help them with new products, techniques and markets,” she says. “Partner with manufacturers who provide support, training and technology.”

Understanding the full range of products offered by manufacturers is as important as having the right tools for installation. “We specialize in high-performance films with a good, better, best strategy,” she adds. “Our Ultra Performance offers superior heat rejection and performance without metal; today more and more non-metalized films are gaining importance because of the amount of electronics going into cars -” like GPS/navigation systems and tire pressure monitor systems.”

Giblin notes that “the biggest area of fresh interest in window films is UV protection. This is a topic that used to attract a certain clientele” that previously may not have held much interest in window films, thinking that it was a vanity concept.”

“Installation is key,” she continues. “You need to have film performance, obviously, but at the end of the day if the installer doesn’t like what they’re installing, they’re not going to install it. So it’s very important to get the best possible installation. Any manufacturer who can shave time off the installation for the installer is going to have delighted customers. By having a range of films and by listening to our dealers and finding out what is installing well, Solar Gard strives to keep strong partnerships.”

Taking note of the economic hit suffered by the auto industry, Giblin is realistic. “We all know that the automotive market is declining as a result of vehicle sales. We look at this as an opportunity.” She notes that car dealerships are looking to get more value out of their accessories, and a film installer’s targeting of dealerships for partnerships can result in more window film business and help the dealerships profit more from their car sales.

Giblin encourages seeking out opportunities like municipal fleets, buses, trains and even ferry lines in coastal areas. While transportation isn’t a new market, the energy savings aspect of window film installation is a new marketing concept that has a contemporary appeal.

“I think there is a whole other market out there beyond automotive sales and retail consumers. Ferry lines are installing film for energy savings – they’ve had tremendous fuel savings through the installation of window films.”

Giblin also recognizes that window film sales and installation skill sets can be expanded on. “We see huge growth in parallel industries like architectural window film, paint protection and vandalism protection. While these films and installations aren’t for everybody, they offer product line expansion.”

You needn’t be an architectural dealer to branch out into vandalism protection. Such films as Solar Gard’s Graffiti Guard are removed and replaced after the occurrence of vandalism, and offer residual business. The film is a clear, sacrificial product available in different thicknesses that will mount to any non-porous surface protecting against graffiti and vandalism, and offers some UV protection.

As well, Giblin voices an important mantra for all restylers: “If dealers are good at what they do, professional at what they do, they shouldn’t undersell themselves. People are willing to spend money if they are getting value and benefit. Hold firm to your pricing, don’t be afraid to charge for what you do.”

Global Window Films

“Right up with wheels and tires as a top accessory sale after the vehicle sale is window tint,” says Mark Bollegar, marketing consultant to Global Window Films of Pembroke Pines, Fla. He notes that winter 2009-2010 is more than just seasonality; it’s also economics. The list of tint shops are down by hundreds, but Bollegar is remains positive.

“It is my belief that a lot of these shops have gone mobile, and that’s huge because they’re not out of the business, they’re doing what a lot of corporations are doing, and [that’s] hunkering down,” he says. “The guys that have gone mobile are good. They’re hungry and they’re not giving up; they’re just not going to pay big rent. I don’t think the transition to mobile will affect the industry in a negative way; if anything it will keep good tinters in the industry.”

He continues: “As far as business is concerned, for tint dealers that want to go out and get it, there’s been a thinning-of-the-herd kind of adjustment, and there’s still business out there. The weak shops, like in any business, are gone and the ‘real deal’ guys are still here, still hustling and the work is there.

“Where the prosperity is in 2010 will be with the people who are energetic, people who aren’t afraid to go back to working like when they first started.”

Bollegar suggests guerilla marketing tactics like “referral cards, making cold calls to dealers, putting up fliers and POP displays at some of the competitive/complementary shops like car washes and detail shops that don’t offer tinting but will gladly put a POP up,” he says.

Product knowledge and keeping up with emerging film technologies is critical. Bollegar explains two engineered technologies in all of automotive Global’s window films: “Super Shrink, which is an engineered technology that allows for predictable shrinking results, is a dealer-friendly feature that is very helpful in terms of installation. The anti-static technology reduces significantly the static that occurs when removing film from the roll, releasing from its liner, during the patterning process, and the attraction of dirt to the mounting adhesive during the installation process.

“The QDP product is a re-look at the dyed-film technology. We went back to the drawing board to improve our dye technology on our standard non-reflective, non-metalized films. We gave it quick-dry properties, the same super shrink and anti-static properties. We took dyed films to another level; it has the same warranty as a premium high-performance metalized film has, including a no-fade warranty. This puts the pricing lower than metalized film but with equal performance and a no-reflective look, which appeals to many consumers who want the richer appearance of a non-reflective film.”

Solamatrix Inc.

With an eye on window film’s strong season, it is as important as ever that dealers present themselves, their shops and their product offerings in a professional manner.

“It should be easy for the customer to consider their window film options” through POP displays and other literature, advises Angie Howard, marketing communications manager and Bill Stewart, North American sales and operations manager with Solamatrix Inc., St. Petersburg, Fla. “Dealers should dress their shops with colorful promotional items from the manufacturers and take advantage of marketing support offered by manufacturers. Solamatrix offers an online tool that allows dealers to access logos, photos, advertising templates, product information.”

They continue: “We work with all of our dealers to help provide professional, top-quality customer service. We have a very knowledgeable sales and support staff on hand to answer any of their questions. We offer a comprehensive installation training CD that any dealer can obtain free of charge. Also, through a partnership with Windowtinting.com Training School, our dealers can attend hands-on training courses to learn the latest tips and tricks of window film installation.”

Proper training is the undisputed path to profitability. Stewart explains that “someone may learn the basic concepts of window tinting after [installing on] five to 10 vehicles, but we truly believe that to become a seasoned professional film installer, it takes several months to  year to learn all the techniques necessary to tint any vehicle.”

LLumar

Ryan Eilermann, brand manager at CPFilms, St. Louis, maker of LLumar window films helps restylers take get a forward-thinking look with regard to window films. “In 2009 LLumar launched many new initiatives to support our dealers including new consumer website and POP merchandising,” he says. “These tools have been created to help engage, educate and elevate consumers by showing them the true benefits of window film. Additionally we have re-launched our online marketing resource.

“LLumar Paint Protection and LLumar AIR 80 Blue, two products launched in 2009, were both promoted at SEMA 2009,” Eilermann notes, demonstrating again that parallel products like PPF are seen by film manufacturers to go hand in hand with window films.

“Air 80 Blue was launched in North America in 2009 with tremendous success, and demand is continuing to rise beyond our expectations. This product uses proprietary technology to create a film that provides tremendous heat-rejecting properties without employing traditional dark tint.”

Additionally, Eilermann describes two other markets that Llumar is addressing with specialty window film products, UV protection and safety. “LLumar UVShield provides 99.9% UV protection without the traditional look of tint. LLumar Safety & Security Series, which is available in clear or tinted, is a safety and security film which holds shattered glass in place, reducing the likelihood of personal injury in an accident and deterring smash-and-grab theft.”