Volume 15, Issue 6- November/December 2013

Window Film:
A Small Investment Could Mean BIG Profit
by Jenna Reed

Are you looking for a good way to drive up profit margins with a relatively small investment? Adding on window film services could be the answer for your auto glass company.

The profit margins are between 60 and 70 percent, according to auto glass companies that offer this service. It takes approximately two hours for an experienced tinter to do a vehicle and a company can add it on by teaming up with an established window film installer and subletting the business. Once demand for these services grow, the company can also look to bring someone in-house.

“The profit margins are high and it leads to a huge cash flow for us,” says Justin Ellis, owner of Tucson, Ariz.-based Royal Auto Glass & Tint.

A roll of film costs about $500, according to Jeremiah Penaflor, sales manager for Thorton, Colo.-based Complete Auto Glass. A good tinter can do approximately five vehicles with a roll and the company brings in about $80 to $100 per vehicle, he adds.

“Window tinting brings in about an extra $5,000 a week,” notes Dan Kitt, customer service manager for Auto Glass of San Diego.

It takes about two hours for an experienced window tinter to do a vehicle, points out Chris Robinson, founder and CEO of The Tint Guy—a window film dealer based in Woodstock, Ga.

The Facts
Royal Auto Glass & Tint opened in September 2009 and added window film services two years later.

“Window film has been a big boost for our business. The bulk of our tinting business is done in our shop,” says Ellis.

He says the company gets a lot of overlap business, in that a customer comes in for tinting and winds up getting an auto glass repair or replacement later.

“It works both ways. People come in for window tint and while they are here, we go ahead and replace the windshield, too. And sometimes we do the windshield and they see we offer tinting. This has been a huge deal for our business. We’re bringing in five to eight cars a day and this is five or eight more opportunities to talk to people about auto glass as well.”

His shop uses 3M window films and has two full-time tinters.

“Absolutely, an auto glass company should consider adding tinting,” Ellis says. “The return on investment for window tint is much quicker than auto glass. But you need to ensure you hire a tried and true tinter. Have them tint some cars and inspect the quality of work. If you don’t, you’ll create a huge liability for yourself.

“A guy having trouble with cash flow should not add tinting. It takes at least $1,000 or so to buy the film to get started,” he cautions.

Over in San Diego, Kitt says his company—Auto Glass of San Diego—has eight employees and three trucks. While they do mobile and in-house auto glass repair and replacement, window film work is only done in-house.

“We opened about seven years ago,” says Kitt. “We added window film two years ago. It brings in an extra $5,000 a week. This business depends upon the quality of the tint and the quality of the person doing it. There is a good demand in our market for it, especially in the hot months.”

He says the company has one full-time tinter who has about 12 years of experience.

“I’ve got to have the best,” Kitt says. “Our supplier is Llumar and it takes about 2.5 hours to do an average car,” he adds.

In Colorado, Penaflor says his auto glass company opened about five years ago.

“We’ve been offering tinting for two years,” Penaflor explains. “My tinter used to have his own company but came here and talked us into it. Two brothers are now doing it. Business has been very good. All of our tint work is done in-shop. We’ll only make a few exceptions for a body shop or dealership.”

Before a company considers adding tinting to its business, he offers some advice.

“Check around for competitor pricing,” Penaflor says. “Do not go too low or too high. Know your suppliers before buying. Some people say they know how to tint and it comes out bad. So make sure you hire someone who knows what they are doing because if you do a lot of warranty work and it comes out bad, you can lose a lot of money on tinting [though there is big potential for profit].”

Words to the Wise from a Film Dealer

Robinson says window film installation is “an easy add on” for most shops.

“By adding window film installation to a current operation it can add enough revenue to add a full-time employee or justify having a retail store location—if a company is mobile,” he says.

The quickest and easiest way to get window film services going is to sublet the business out to an established window film installer, Robinson points out.

“You not only can establish a customer base, but you will ensure you have an experienced installer with few customer complaints. Once a customer base is established, then possibly train a current employee or hire a full-time experienced installer to expand out this business. This will be justified by the flow of customers,” Robinson says.

When asked if window film should be done in-house or if mobile is okay, Robinson says this is a big debate in the industry.

“Mobile tinting is popular everywhere because of the little cost involved, but with a retail store location business can build upon itself overtime,” he explains. “Customers will know where to go unlike mobile guys who are typically in constant search for new business.

“With a glass shop, I recommend in-house window film installation because you will have a captive audience for both glass repair and other aftermarket items you might offer, such as tinting, headlight repair, windshield chip repair and more,” he adds.

Ultimately, Robinson says offering more than auto glass repair and replacement under one roof is a smart idea and a good way to diversify a business.

“I think combining similar services and products is a win-win situation and this is especially true with window tinting and glass replacement,” he points out. “The two fit together equally well and the customer in many cases has a need for both services and this gives the company an opportunity to increase margins by offering additional services that a competitor might not.”
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