Volume 13, Issue 1 - January/February 2009

SEMA Slims Down
But Is It All About the Numbers?

Ask any Las Vegas taxi cab driver how the economy is affecting the trade show circuit and they’ll tell you—it’s not good.

“It’s simple, people aren’t spending as much money as they used to,” one driver commented during the recent SEMA Show. “We’re getting hurt here,” another said.

But cabbies weigh the success of a show in an entirely different fashion than show attendees or exhibitors. Show officials provide local taxi cab companies with approximate attendance numbers to allow them to prepare for the event’s transportation needs. And that’s the bottom line for these companies: more people equals more cab rides. The same rule doesn’t necessarily apply to show exhibitors.

“The show has been surprising, all things considered,” commented Mark Bollegar of MarketPro Direct, midway through the event. Bollegar is currently under contract with Global Window Films and handles all of the manufacturer’s marketing efforts. “We were a little bit concerned, taking into account the economic climate,” he added. “But our daily lead count is actually quite a bit higher than it was last year.”But the taxi drivers are right; Bollegar’s higher lead count certainly had nothing to do with overall show traffic. By the halfway mark of opening day, people were buzzing about how it had not drawn the usual shoulder-to-shoulder masses.

“The Central Hall serves as a sort of floodgate typically,” one attendee commented during the show’s opening hours. “You’re supposed to walk through there and continually bump into people. This year, I’m walking along, swinging my arms, and I’m not hitting anybody. This is the opening day for SEMA. People are supposed to be walking all over one another.”

The gloom and doom syndrome that’s creating a buzz among show participants is the same that’s overshadowing consumers’ conscious in this day and age. And, though there’s no debating that times are tough and the economy is in turmoil, there is an element of perception involved—perhaps based on expectations.

One taxi cab driver estimated 160,000 attendees but said, “Generally there are many more than that—like 220,000.” Another said, “I heard there are 130,000 here for SEMA, but I don’t believe it,” adding, “One thing’s for sure, there are a lot fewer people than last year.”

At press time, show officials said the exact numbers were still being audited, but it appeared the final count was much lower than even pesimistic cab drivers estimated—approximately 100,000. But officials also reported that last year’s attendance was just around 130,000, a far cry from the rumored 160,000 or 220,000. And, while this year’s numbers are lower than last, they remain higher than 2006—making 2008 the second largest in the show’s history. In addition, the show managed to draw in 1,900 exhibitors, 400 of which were first timers. SEMA officials said they believe the same number of companies were represented, but they simply sent fewer people. Based on exhibitor comments, this would make perfect sense. The consensus was that in 2008—quantity failed, but quality prevailed.

“Keeping in view the times and the current situation, it is at pace with the times,” explained Raj Sood, president of Protect Gard window films, during the show. “It’s comparatively slow from the previous years, but the people here are predominately looking for deals. So, in terms of quality, it’s very good. In terms of quantity, it’s very slow.”J

ennifer Shorr, vice president of sales and marketing, domestic, for Commonwealth Laminating and Coating, admits her company was skeptical, but ultimately very pleased. “We were obviously a little concerned about it,” Shorr said. “But we’re very, very pleased this year. People who are very serious about the business and have been in it a long time are here.”

Jeffrey Plummer, senior vice president of sales, marketing and distribution for Solamatrix Inc., had a unique way of putting it: “We’re getting the filet mignon of people at this show,” he said.

Star of the North Hall

Attendance levels aside, the show was an apparent success for window film exhibitors, especially those with product demonstrations underway. In the show’s North Hall, at times, it seemed the only large crowds were gathered behind tinter demonstrations. But not all of those watching were window film dealers or installers.

The idea of other aftermarket dealers adding tint to their line ups isn’t a welcomed concept for some window film dealers, but Robert Doan, president of windowtinting.com, says they have nothing to worry about. “There’s plenty to go around,” Doan said on the subject. He feels that having more representatives for the trade boosts consumer awareness which, in turn, boosts business for everyone. “There simply cannot be too many good installers in this industry,” Doan added. “And, the fact is, it will never be taken away from us—not by any machine, or person. It’s an art and it always will be.”

Arriving in Style

Johnson Window Films managed to keep the floor packed around its booth. The company created quite a stir by delivering a Volkswagen Beetle to the show floor—in two halves.

“We started kicking the idea around years ago,” explained Fred Zwilling, Johnson’s director of training. Zwilling said it took some time for the budget to catch up to his company’s concept—two rear halves complete with seats. “We have a training school and by having an entire half of the vehicle, the individual gets the full expectation of getting in and out of the rear seat.” 

Johnson also sported its usual casual atmosphere, with a dealer lounge—complete with food and beer. Cody Forbes, Johnson’s director of marketing, says there was never any question that his company would make the trip—regardless of show expectations.

“It’s about continuing to build our relationships with customers,” Forbes explained. “It’s important that we get face to face with them to tell them about all of the things we’re trying to do for them. And, more importantly, we want to listen to what they have to say to us. It’s very important for manufacturers to support their dealers, so we continue to come here, support them, the show and the industry in general.”

The show may not have met cab drivers’ wishes or expectations, and 2008 may have been an off year for SEMA, but it wasn’t for the film industry. By the closing day, most window film exhibitors were reporting great success.

Couldn’t Make It?
Let Us Take You There!

If you were one of the unlucky ones who were unable to attend this year, let us take you to the show floor—through video! During and in the weeks following this year’s show, Window Film posted exclusive video footage, including interviews, product reviews and booth visits.

Log on to www.windowfilmmag.com and click on “The Studio” for a complete video catalogue of the event.

If you were unable to make it to this year’s show, here’s a bit of what you missed:

Call in the Doctor

If difficult to reach places give you frequent headaches, put away the aspirin and call in the doctor—the Stroke Doctor that is. Performance Tools Distributing manages, year after year, to bring new and innovative tools to the SEMA Show. This year, the company brought the doctor.

The Stroke Doctor is designed to make difficult-to-reach places a breeze. A long handle, cushioned grip and wide squeegee blade allow installers to apply extra pressure and remove more solution per stroke than a standard squeegee.

A Dynamic Store Front

Several interesting new products surfaced at this year’s show—not all automotive related. NTech Window Film drew a lot of attention to its booth with a fascinating display of the company’s rear type projection films. Now you can offer your retail customers the same draw and attention.

When mounted to glass, these films convert a standard window into a rear projection screen, allowing store fronts to display video images, logos or whatever they choose—changing their curb appeal on an ongoing basis. 

Automatic Updates

If you’re an Invisible Patterns user who’s complained about the difficulty of updating your systems pattern database, there’s good news—problem solved. Venture Tape Corp., the software’s provider, has updated this program, making the update process fully automatic.

With the latest edition, you no longer have to hunt for, then drag and drop the new database file into the appropriate folder; now the software does it all for you.

Increase Your Average Sale

Now more than ever may be the time to diversify your company’s offerings in order to claim every possible sale. While your automotive customers are waiting in the showroom, shoot for the cross-sale; show them how paint protection products can help protect their vehicle from chips and scratches.

Bekaert Specialty Films set up an Ultimate Tint Shop at this year’s show—complete with an Aston Martin. The company demonstrated its Clearshield® paint protection films on this premium ride, showing how undetectable the product is even on the finest of finishes. www.solargard.com

Matte Black for a Stealthy Look

UltraFilm has become known for its bright red Ferrari F40. Recently, the company rolled out an additional Ferrari featuring a flat black finish to compliment its UltraBlack, non-reflective series. These matte black films are designed to deliver maximum occupant and interior protection, durability and a stealthy look.

UltraFilm uses a plasma process to clean its polyester films. Company officials say this process cleans the product on a molecular level increasing adhesion and optical clarity. UltraBlack films are available in 1.5- and 2-mil varieties and VLT ratings ranging from 5- to 80-percent.

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