Volume 12, Issue 1 - January/February 2008

Newsworthy           THE LATEST INDUSTRY NEWS

CPFilms Goes Direct to Dealers 
in the Northeast

Solutia® Inc. has converted distribution for the Northeast region of its CPFilms® business to a dealer-direct model. Effective January 7, 2008, the St. Louis-based company said its Martinsville, Va.-based window film business began working directly with its dealers in the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and New York. As a result, the company will discontinue its relationship with SAGR Products International in Gettysburg, Pa., its past Northeast distributor. CPFilms says its revised strategy is designed to facilitate a greater market share in what it views as an under-penetrated market.

“Our change is really about the Northeast and about the potential we see in that market,” says Kent Davies, vice president of Solutia and president of its CPFilms business. “We sat down with our distributors and, after a long conversation, we decided this was the best option for our dealers and, ultimately, if it benefited our dealers it would benefit CPFilms.”

Terri Fair, general manager for SAGR, says this move will impact SAGR significantly, but luckily the company has plenty of other automotive accessory products on which to fall back. She believes this change has come as quite a shock for CPFilms’ dealers.

“I think this has been a shock for most of them,” she says. “When something just gets thrown at you like that, it leaves you unsure. I think they were very confident and secure, because they had worked with us for so long.”

Time Marches On
Jim Martin, owner of HEI Window Tinting and Fashions in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., says he will miss working with SAGR, but he doesn’t believe the change will greatly impact his business.

“It was a business decision on CPFilms’ part,” Martin says. “What initiated the decision? I don’t know. But I don’t see it impacting us really. I’m going to miss working with Terri [Fair], because we’ve got a great relationship and I’ve been dealing with SAGR for years and years, but we’ll still be able to get the film we need, when we need it, and that’s the bottom line.”

Davies confirms it was a business decision.

“I’ve gotten to know the principals [at SAGR] extremely well over the past couple of years, as I’ve been in this business,” Davies says. “I think the people there are fantastic, and the simple fact is—we just weren’t able to reach an appropriate business arrangement and we’ve had to make a business decision to move forward.”

Domenic Argenti, owner of Solar Tint, a CPFilms dealer in Johnston, R.I., says he understands it’s a matter of business.

“You know, it’s a corporate decision,” Argenti says. “I own my own business, so I understand—these decisions have to be made every two weeks.”

Argenti says he, like Martin, does not expect to be affected by the new format.

“I’ve been dealing with Terri [Fair] for fifteen years or so now, and we have a great relationship,” he says. “I will continue dealing with her if there’s an opportunity to do so and I’ll do whatever I can, but I’m a CPFilms dealer first and foremost.”

CPFilms says its new format will allow for greater intimacy with its dealers and, ultimately, greater market share.

“Frankly, it’s about our interest in having more clear relationships with our dealers, as we do in all other areas of the United States,” Davies says. “By serving them directly, we think we will grow the business more quickly and provide more consistent customer service, marketing and technical support.”

Tighter-Knit Future
The company says it expects its dealers to notice a positive change in the coming year.

“Our objective is to leave our dealers in the Northeast feeling like their relationship with our company has improved dramatically—taking nothing away from the incumbent or previous distributor in the Northeast—but only saying that our objective, the philosophy that we plan to deliver on, that we are delivering on, is to give them more,” Davies explains. “That’s our goal.”

He says the Northeast region is a little different than others.

“The [Northeast] market is different geographically,” he says. “It certainly has a higher percentage and probably a higher opportunity in flat glass and architectural applications. There are some states and some regions that have more strict tint laws, so the dynamics for different regions of the country are a little different.”

Davies’ says its other area distributors have nothing to fear.

“Our relationships with the distributors in other parts of the country are very clear, very straightforward and we have a very firm understanding,” Davies says. “We’re going forward to develop the market and partnership together.”

Fair says her company will continue working with the window film industry.

“We’re looking forward to continuing to work with [the window film] industry, because of our experience and our establishments,” she says. “We definitely feel there is a place in the industry for localized service.”

Both companies are looking to the future.

“We see this as a very positive message,” Davies says. “We see it as a change, but a positive change from the evolution of our business strategy and that’s what we’re absolutely focused on.”—DV

Florida Dealer Expands Market Area
While many Florida film dealers are reporting less than stellar outlooks for 2008, at least one says it’s planning to grow. New Port Richey-based Advanced Film Solutions recently announced it would expand into the Orlando corridor.

“We believe there is a tremendous growth opportunity for our unique window film solutions in the Orlando-Sanford-Kissimmee area,” explains Mike Feldman, president. “Orange and Seminole County face the very same high cost of energy.”

Advanced Film Solutions was founded in early 2007 and the company reports to have completed over 400 home installations since last June. Feldman, who was national sales manager of 3M Window Film until his retirement after 33 years, believes the high-end housing market may offer a niche opportunity in and around Orlando.

“The current economic situation in Greater Orlando, combined with the numerous high-end homes in deed restricted and gated communities, lend themselves to our non-reflective ceramic technology, which easily complies with these covenants,” he explains. Feldman says educating will facilitate his growth strategy for 2008. In November 2007, his company announced an offer to remove any competitive automotive window tint that has failed by bubbling or turning purple, at no charge to the consumer if they install its Formula ONE® or Huper Optik ceramic window films.

“My objective is to educate the market that our films won’t turn purple and that we can fix their messy situation,” Feldman explains. He says faulty window film is an issue that continues to plague the industry.

“Many of these cars were done within the last three to four years, but I would estimate 40 percent to be more recent, within the last 12 months or so,” he explains. “I call this dyed stuff the ‘original sin’ of window tinting. Perception is reality, and many consumers continue to perceive window tint as that bubbly stuff that turns purple.”

FTI’s Closure No Sudden Downturn 
CEO Wheeler Clears the Air in an Exclusive Interview
The closing of Film Technologies International Inc. (FTI) in St. Petersburg, Fla., has left a number of questions in its wake. SUN-GARD had been a prominent brand in the window film industry for literally decades. Company officials had confirmed that Wednesday, January 26, was the manufacturer’s last day of operations after more than 30 years.

In an exclusive interview with Window Film magazine, FTI’s chief executive officer, Don Wheeler, said that the company’s closure was, in fact, due to a long decline. Wheeler assures that he and his employees did everything possible to prevent a closure, including a potential buyout.

The following is an excerpt from Wheeler’s interview:

WF: What would you say, if you’re able to say, made the closure happen so abruptly? Was it just a matter of trying every avenue and, when the final avenue didn’t happen, it was just time and you had to pull the plug?
Wheeler: That’s a fair characterization.

WF: We appreciate your openness. I’m sure there is a lot for others to learn from this unfortunate situation and set of circumstances.
I like to think that we did all that we could do.
This has not been a fun year. I was retired and came back to attempt to salvage the company, and so forth, and everybody here put forth a tremendous amount of effort in the year that I’ve been back and made a lot of sacrifices, and actually accomplished a lot, but the company, in the end—now looking in hindsight—was too steep in a decline …

WF: An unfortunate situation such as this will often offer up a sort of “moral” or anecdote. This is certainly no time for ‘What I would have done differently?’ but would you be willing to share some of the factors leading to FTI’s closure for the benefit of the industry?
Wheeler: There were several factors, in combination, that impacted the company … but one is, not necessarily in order of importance—I do believe the industry is under increasing global pressure; pressure that is squeezing the profit margins of all manufacturers. Others may disagree with that, but I think that is a trend that has been going on for a number of years …

Complete Interview Available Online
Wheeler was able to provide many insights into what caused FTI’s decline and eventual closure. In his explanations, Wheeler has offered a number of key points and advice for industry members.

To view the entire interview immediately, please visit www.windowfilmmag.com and click on “Special Only Online Feature.” A complete version will also be printed in Window Film’s March-April issue. Also, look for additional comments and interviews in Window Film’s free monthly e-newsletter. If you do not currently receive our e-newsletter and would like to, visit www.windowfilmmag.com and click on “Subscribe to Focus on Film.”

UCSD Study to Measure Window Film Effectiveness
In 2002, the University of California San Diego (UCSD) received a $5.9-million grant from the National Science Foundation, and additional funds from private contributors, to construct a $10.9-million shake-table facility. One of the university’s upcoming projects could provide the window film industry with much-needed evidence.

The table is capable of supporting up to a 25- by 40-foot building structure weighing up to 2,200 tons and reaching as much as 60 feet in height. Hydraulic actuators capable of shaking at speeds of up to 6 feet per second enable researchers to produce accurate simulations of the most devastating earthquakes ever recorded. Thanks to funding provided by the Association of Industrial Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators (AIMCAL) Window Film Committee, window film will be applied to an upcoming test structure.

“In the past, there’s been no standard to test to for proving the effectiveness of window film in these situations,” explains Darrell Smith, executive director for the International Window Film Association (IWFA).

Smith said the University of California San Diego plans to construct a multi-story commercial building in its laboratory to a fully finished state—including furnishings—for the sole purpose of destroying it through a series of seismic tests. Part of the study will specifically examine the effects of window film and will result in a testing protocol for seismic performance. Tests will include films of various thicknesses, in both attached and non-attached models and will examine the effectiveness of window film in earthquake conditions. 

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