Volume 37, Issue 5, May 2002


Optimism buoyed by the expansion in custom shower doors was tempered by increased concern about foreign imports during the annual meeting of the Bath Enclosure Manufacturers Association (BEMA), held March 21 at the Hyatt Regency in Houston. The organization represents the interests of shower-door manufacturers, distributors, dealers and suppliers before a variety of audiences, and helps markets the usage of show doors to the general public.

“The shower-door industry is going through a very exciting time,” said BEMA president Tom Sulock of Agalite Shower Enclosures in his opening remarks. “The expansion of custom work can’t be underestimated. I have customers who have gone from one guy to six guys in their custom department in under a year,” Sulock said. “It used to be shower doors costing a few hundred dollars were common, but today, shower doors costing a few thousand dollars are just as common.” 

Sulock said this growth has translated into growth for the association as well. He introduced the group’s first president, Bob Wingfield, who spoke about BEMA’s formation in 1989. “We started with one main purpose: to get together and talk about the industry. In the beginning there were a number of people who didn’t think the idea was a good one. But I think what we’ve accomplished shows that it was,” said Wingfield. BEMA today has 50 member companies.

Executive director Stan Smith began a series of reports from BEMA staff. He also enumerated the future goals of the organization during his management report. They are:
• to provide greater impact in the bath enclosure marketplace;
• to establish member benefits that truly serve member needs;
• to provide information about shower doors to the public; and
• to facilitate better communication among the membership.

Communications director Vicki Allen said the BEMA design competition and awards continue to be a great source of pride and that 31 companies entered the contest this year. Echoing the trend toward custom enclosures, 9 of the entries were in the “less than $1500” category; 22 were in the “greater than $1,500 category.” A fiberglass cross-reference guide was also completed this year.

Allen said the association intends to highlight the environmental benefits of bath enclosures this year. “They are better for the skin, better for the sinuses, don’t have nearly the problem with mold or soap scum,” she said, “and we plan to highlight these environmental benefits to consumers.”

Information technology manager Brad Pitman also used the occasion to unveil the group’s updated website at http://www.bathenclosures.org.

Pitman and Allen were followed by a presentation of the BEMA 2001 Design Awards (see box on page 44). AFG’s Fred Wallin gave the ever-popular economic update to the group. Among the highlights:
• New and existing housing starts did well;
• Remodeling expenditures grew app-roximately 6 percent;
• Consumer confidence fell;
• Housing will remain strong;
• Non-residential construction will fall approximately 5 percent;
• Immigrants and minorities have become part of the mainstream economy.

“We are looking at an economic rebound,” said Wallin. “We are coming back and going in the right direction. We didn’t have a significant recession because people kept spending money.”

Walin also predicted that capacity utilization would increase, especially in light of the float lines that will be undergoing refurbishments this year. “AFG has one that will be down for 35 days, a line at Guardian’s Clinton plant will be down 90 days—that was to start in January ’02, PPG’s Meadville plant is expected to be down 150 days and Pilkington’s Ottawa plant will be down 90 days,” he said. “We anticipate a 93-percent capacity utilization for auto glass lines and an 87-percent utilization for non-auto glass lines.

Steve James of the Loxscreen Co. Inc. then provided an excellent forecast for the usage of aluminum in North America. “Aluminum has lost nearly 25 percent of its volume in high-end shower doors to glass. In 1985 aluminum usage in residential shower doors was 22 percent; by 1999 it was down to 6 percent. So we’ve lost a lot of that business,” he said. “But we all need to be ready for the threat from offshore competition.” 

James said the biggest threat remains a sleeping giant. “There are already companies bringing in knock-down kits from abroad. It won’t take them too long to add the glass and bring the whole unit in like they bring refrigerator units in prices that will make it difficult for us all to compete. “It’s already coming into Canada and it’s just a matter of time before it’s here.”

James said to expect the following from the aluminum industry:
• Continued price moderation;
• Shorter lead times;
• Increased reliability in delivery;
• The development of partnerships on inventory management;
• More innovations in finishes; and
• Smaller run sizes.

James was followed by Steve Kornhauser of Prestige Brands Inc. (PBI). PBI recently purchased the Comet Brand from Proctor & Gamble. Kornhauser said he expects the relationship between BEMA and Comet to get even stronger. Prestige provides support to BEMA and BEMA members by helping distribute samples of the product with new shower door sales. Headquartered in Houston, PBI has 3,000 employees and annual sales of $20 billion, of which Comet accounts for $140 million.

“We are proud of our relationship with Prestige,” said Sulock, “and we are proud of BEMA and all that we plan to achieve.”  



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