Better than Expected
Exhibitors and Attendees Agree SEMA Was a Positive Experience
by Ellen Rogers
Las Vegas has not been immune to the effects of the down
economy. Just take a drive along the Strip and you’ll see the shell of
several hotel-casino-condo towers where construction was started and then
halted, as developers wait for improved conditions and the green light
to resume work.
Yes, just as in other cities around the world, folks who make their living
in Las Vegas are facing difficult days. In spite of the challenges, the
city seems to love the SEMA Show. With swarms of people flocking to town,
hotels and casinos are busy, restaurants and bars are busy and so, too,
are taxi companies as drivers shuttled thousands of people to and from
the show November 2-6.
Exhibitors and attendees alike were uncertain of what this year’s event
would bring. While the show was shy a number of window film companies
that typically exhibit, most everyone there agreed it was a positive experience.
“It’s been busier than I thought it would be,” said Roy Mathis Jr. with
Roy Mathis Co., who walked the show. “There are not as many booths, though,
compared to previous years.”
Exhibitors had a similar perspective.
“With all the doom-and-gloom that some were predicting, we were not sure
what to expect,” said Jeffrey Plummer, senior vice president/sales and
marketing, with Solamatrix. “The fact is, we were pleasantly surprised
with the amount of good business that was done.” Plummer said that while
the number of attending U.S. dealers was lower than in years past the
quality of the attendance was apparent, as dealers were seeking out viable
“For many dealers, making the visit to Las Vegas after a difficult 2009
film season may have been a luxury that they chose not to invest in, but
those companies that did make the trip were clearly ready to discuss business.”
While the SEMA Show is one place where many companies launch new products,
one business chose to debut more than just products. Las Vegas-based American
Standard Window Film (ASWF) had opened its doors just months before when
the new company began production. Currently ASWF is focusing on the automotive
market, but has plans to unveil architectural products soon. And while
a slow economy may not seem like the ideal time to launch a new business,
ASWF president Mike Martin, said it was ripe for them.
“There has certainly been a downturn and certainly volume is down, but
I think it offers an opportunity, particularly for a new manufacturer
looking to break into the business, to offer an economic product with
very good quality,” Martin said. “The trend we’re seeing here is attendees
looking for new options and a high quality product at a good price.”
Window film products may make up only a small portion of the SEMA show,
which spans most all of the Las Vegas Convention Center, but film companies
still had a significant presence.
Commonwealth Laminating, for instance, exhibited with products for automotive
as well as architectural applications. “We saw strong representation from
our current customers, as well as a great deal of interest from new, perspective
clients,” said Jennifer Phillips Shorr, the company’s vice president/sales
and marketing. “We learned that our automotive program, and specifically
our Carbon line, continues to provide an excellent solution for our dealers. Also,
our new architectural program, which includes our Ultra-Vision line, has
been extremely well received in the market.”
Liza Bradford, also with SunTek, agreed that the company had a positive
experience at the show, adding, though, they have definitely seen how
challenging the economy has been for the industry.
“People are struggling in this economy, but they still want a quality
product. They are looking for a competitive price, but they don’t want
to sacrifice quality,” Bradford said.
Mark Bollegar with Global Window Films has also recognized the impact
the economy has had.
“There are a lot of shops cutting overhead and shutting their doors to
go mobile,” Bollegar said. “They are staying with us, but they no longer
have an address on Main Street as it’s now their home address.”
Johnson Window Films displayed its Marathon film product, which Fred Zwilling,
director of training, described as a hybrid—half metal and half dye.
“It’s more of a factory match [product] and can match factory tints well,”
Daniel Lee with Solar Free also reported that his company saw a good response
to its film products, including a new line of automotive products.
“We’re focused on having a personable sales approach and we work directly
with our dealers,” Lee said. Like other film exhibitors, he agreed that
while the recession has kept business slow, having a competitive price
is more important than ever.
got to be able to grow the opportunities through getting involved in governmental
affairs and those sorts of things. But as I do these things, I’ve got
to have an engine that sits behind all of this and can react to it.”
—Ray Kollar, CPFilms
These days it seems more and more film installers are diversifying their
businesses with additional products and services. Paint protection films
are becoming increasingly popular and a number of companies at the show
displayed an assortment of such offerings.
XPEL, for instance, featured a number of products, including installation
gel and a paint protection film cleaners, as well as a 60-inch wide clear-coated
roll of its standard and premium paint protection film.
“While attendance was down, we had tremendous interest in our paint protection
system components as it facilitates quicker and cleaner installs,” said
Ryan Pape, chief executive officer. “Despite SEMA being slower than normal,
there was a lot of buzz and change in the paint protection film industry,
which brought out several serious customers and may lead to some interesting
opportunities, even in a down market.”
Installation demos of a new paint protection film from LLumar, which received
a 2009 SEMA Global Media Award as one of the best new products, saw a
steady flow of traffic in the booth. Ryan Eilermann said the new paint
protection film was a big launch for them and they worked closely with
their dealers in the field to develop the product.
“We collaborated with our dealers to make a product that would work for
them … we’re working to bring dealers a complete package,” Eilermann said.
Avery Dennison also introduced a new paint protection film. Phillip Novac,
the company’s marketing manager, described it as a polyurethane, clear,
6-mil product for after-market applications.
“Products such as these can help increase the re-sale value of the vehicle,”
Performance Tools was also on hand with its latest product offerings.
“We’re featuring Griot’s Garage Car Care products and have representatives
from the company here to explain the different products,” said Dick Austin
of Performance Tools. “People here at the show are very familiar with
Griot’s as it’s got a good reputation in the industry.” Austin added that
they were very busy throughout the week of the show with lots of interest
in the new line. (Turn to page
20 to read more about Performance Tools).
Whatever the reason for attending SEMA, whether new products, trends or
networking, many who attended said it was a crucial part of maintaining
a productive business.
Consider Wayne Frost with Frost Auto Car, who has owned his shop for 20
years. Having focused his business on paint protection film, he said he
was at the show because now he’s looking to expand into the window tinting
“The market is changing, so I’ve got to stay ahead of the competition,”
Ellen Rogers is the editor of
Window Film magazine.
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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.