Volume 40,   Issue 12                      December  2005

Glass, Bath and Beyond

Bathroom Remodeling 
Trends Mean More Sales and Opportunities for Glass Shops 

With the increasing number of bathroom remodeling jobs taking place in the United States each year, homeowners have begun taking an active role in the re-design of their bathrooms. Adding a glass shower enclosure in the bathroom is a major trend right now. It allows homeowners to individualize their bathrooms—and it also brings opportunities to the glass industry. 

Glass shower enclosures give bathrooms an expansive appearance, creating an open, luxurious and airy environment, even in smaller-sized baths. The options are limitless. 

Now that glass is available in an array of textures and designs, it is critical that shower door suppliers maintain healthy relationships with their distributors. This ensures that they receive quality product, trend-setting design and dependable service. Obtaining the glass on time and in perfect condition is essential, as is on-time delivery.

Ahead of the Curve
For a glass shop to be competitive it must guarantee services to the builders and homeowners it serves. To ensure that it can meet its customers’ needs, products must be readily available.
In addition to on-time delivery, the trend of glass in the bath has also led many glass shops to re-examine their quality standards.

For Jack Hoey, president of Coastal Glass Distributors, the trend toward frameless enclosures and less metal is prompting glass distributors to raise their standards of quality.

“Frameless enclosures are a huge trend we are seeing right now,” says Hoey. “Years ago, shower doors were primarily made of metal. Now 80 percent of the value is in the glass and only 20 percent is in the metal.”
Hoey continues, “The increasing use of frameless glass is raising the bar of standards of quality. A lot of attention needs to be paid to the glass that [until recently was] hidden behind the frame.” 

Along with greater demand for frameless enclosures, thicker glass is also growing in popularity, especially in the luxury market. In these high-end homes, glass that is 3/8-inch or thicker is customary, as is the increasing push toward more glass and less metal.

Brad Roberts, president of ThermaGlass in Portland, Ore., says this trend will continue as product becomes more available.

“There is an increasing importance of glass in the shower door industry, less emphasis on metal and hardware and this trend will continue as long as it is reflected in the product lines,” Roberts says. “Frameless doors and 3/8-inch glass are forcing manufacturers and distributors to reengineer products and rely more on glass temperers to [provide] stronger glass for today’s shower doors.”

Bigger and Better
Today’s bathrooms are more spacious than ever, and often including dual sinks and toilets to provide homeowners with ultimate privacy and relaxation. Adding to this spa-like environment are steamers, heat lamps, body sprays and even residential touch-free faucets and soap dispensers. But, among all of these advancements, glass continues to play a vital role in the bath. It can be used to create privacy, as well as the illusion of additional space. Glass allows the designer to experiment in ways never thought possible. 

Center of Attention 
The shower is no longer considered a necessity, placed in the corner of the bathroom, but is often the focal point of design. This trend has shaped the product offerings from the shower enclosure industry, requiring manufacturers to keep up with the times. Distributors now offer more high-end options, greater flexibility of design and a wider range of finishes than they did in the past to better match the faucets, fixtures and accessories being specified in today’s homes. Some of the popular finishes on the market now include oil-rubbed bronze and nickel as well as platinum. 
Many glass shops are moving toward keeping a wide selection, of glass in stock so fabrication can begin as soon as the order is placed. Offering tempered, laminated and insulating glass in a variety of textures, glass distributors must continue to set the trends and position themselves as the one-stop shop for all glass needs. 

In addition to that, many glass shops are starting to fabricate their own shower enclosures, which can help ensure proper installation, few callbacks and more satisfied homeowners. 

The Extras
Many shower door suppliers also provide software to distributors and fabricators that allows them to configure, design and customize a product application in a real-world, error-free, user-friendly environment. These programs can provide glass shops with the tools to configure custom enclosures to the manufacturer’s specifications. 
“Custom software programs add value to product lines, allowing us to take that program and do our job faster and with more accuracy,” Roberts says. “It is beneficial to the distributors, as well as the shower door suppliers and the end-users.”

With glass becoming more and more popular in bathrooms, customer service is becoming increasingly important among distributors as well. Glass shops are often asked to lend assistance regarding custom-designed showers. With today’s array of glass options, shower door suppliers rely on distributors for information on the latest trends, as well as consultation on design options for clients.

Choosing the right distributor is important to shower door suppliers, but creating a working relationship with them is equally as important. Knowing the products and the consistent quality is a must for any business. This decreases time spent inspecting the product and addressing product flaws. Creating this firm relationship between suppliers and distributor also ensures a commitment to both businesses, as well as the clients they serve. 

the author

Ray Adams is the president of Coastal Industries in Jacksonville, Fla.

© Copyright 2005 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.