Volume 44, Issue 3 - March 2009

Decorative Discussions

Just Breath
Decorative Glass and Surviving in a Down Market 
by Kris Vockler

Economies around the globe are failing (as if I needed to tell you that). The only product that seems immune to the financial crisis these days is a certain canned meat product that is known by all and hated by most. Oddly enough, this product has seen a huge jump in sales of late. If only the same could be said of decorative glass products. In this trying time, we can’t be certain where the decorative glass market is headed.

What we do know, however, is that the markets will come back as they always do. Construction is not going away because, at the end of the day, people still need spaces to inhabit. What does this have to do with decorative glass and where I am going with this article? Well, first I am going to promote some of the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Decorative Division’s great work, which may offer an answer to the economic blues. I will then share some inspirational words from industry folks who understand what we need to do in this downturn. 

Staying Busy
What have we been doing in the Decorative Division? We’ve been busy from the start. Even with the financial crisis, our efforts have not diminished. One project that’s drawing to a successful conclusion was creating definitions and categories for products/processes within the decorative glass realm (no easy feat I assure you.) The fruits of this effort will help other Decorative Division committees initiate the next round of projects, many of them in the marketing side of the industry. 

In addition, the division’s Product Color and Durability Task Group continues to discuss the possibility of voluntary standards or guidelines to help define product tolerances, a Pandora’s Box that needs to be opened carefully. The group is currently developing lists of properties centered on color, durability and appearance. But will there eventually be a standard or guideline? Your guess is as good as mine, but the possibilities are open. If applied coatings and color/durability issues are interesting to you, why not join this task group and share your opinions?

Glass Week recently took place in Las Vegas, which gave the Decorative Division the chance to discuss many of these current and potential activities. Now that the meeting is over we have a whole new docket of projects focused on offering value to our products.

Fresh Ideas
What else can we do during a down market? I asked a few esteemed members of our industry for their advice and thoughts. The question on the table: Is it too early in the downturn for architects, designers and fabricators to explore new avenues, such as decorative glass? The answers were very helpful. 

Cathie Saroka of Goldray Industries Ltd., shared her insight. 

“I believe companies have to invest and look to new things. Keeping with the status quo means that the best outcome any company can have is to shrink with the decrease in product demand. That being said, it is also important to invest using your own money, not borrowed money. There is a huge opportunity for anyone with capital to capture market share by investing in new products, equipment or pursuing new geographic markets.”

I asked Max Perilstein of Arch Aluminum & Glass the same question and his answer was equally compelling. 

“The smart companies will be working for 2010 and beyond. There’s no doubt right now that most people are resistant to spending, but eventually the worm will turn and the companies that prepared for it will be in much better shape.”

Right now everyone is waiting to see what effect the U.S. government’s financial stimulus will have on the economy, essentially holding on to cash until things get a bit more stable. No one knows how long that might take, but it is obvious that the sooner we move to investing and preparing for the future, the sooner our industry and the globe can start to see a rise in markets again. 

Let’s Get Moving
True, we are in a period of “great financial hurt” at the moment, with industry leaders waiting for that great exhale that signals a return to growth. The funny thing about holding your breath, though, is that it’s hard to move, and lack of inertia can be fatal in our industry.

GANA is a great organization that is always focused on the future and working for our industry. Now is the time for decorative glass players to get involved and work toward that positive future. If you create or work with decorative products, seize the opportunity to showcase them. It won’t be long before things start to move forward. Markets will rise again.

Kris Vockler is vice president of ICD High Performance Coatings in Vancouver, Wash., and chair of the GANA Decorative Division. Ms. Vockler’s opinions are solely her own and not necessarily those of this magazine. 

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