Volume 14, Issue 1- January/February 2010


Better than Expected
Exhibitors and Attendees Agree SEMA Was a Positive Experience
by Ellen Rogers

Las Vegas has not been immune to the effects of the down economy. Just take a drive along the Strip and you’ll see the shell of several hotel-casino-condo towers where construction was started and then halted, as developers wait for improved conditions and the green light to resume work.

Yes, just as in other cities around the world, folks who make their living in Las Vegas are facing difficult days. In spite of the challenges, the city seems to love the SEMA Show. With swarms of people flocking to town, hotels and casinos are busy, restaurants and bars are busy and so, too, are taxi companies as drivers shuttled thousands of people to and from the show November 2-6.

Exhibitors and attendees alike were uncertain of what this year’s event would bring. While the show was shy a number of window film companies that typically exhibit, most everyone there agreed it was a positive experience.

“It’s been busier than I thought it would be,” said Roy Mathis Jr. with Roy Mathis Co., who walked the show. “There are not as many booths, though, compared to previous years.”

Exhibitors had a similar perspective.

“With all the doom-and-gloom that some were predicting, we were not sure what to expect,” said Jeffrey Plummer, senior vice president/sales and marketing, with Solamatrix. “The fact is, we were pleasantly surprised with the amount of good business that was done.” Plummer said that while the number of attending U.S. dealers was lower than in years past the quality of the attendance was apparent, as dealers were seeking out viable suppliers.

“For many dealers, making the visit to Las Vegas after a difficult 2009 film season may have been a luxury that they chose not to invest in, but those companies that did make the trip were clearly ready to discuss business.”

What’s New?
While the SEMA Show is one place where many companies launch new products, one business chose to debut more than just products. Las Vegas-based American Standard Window Film (ASWF) had opened its doors just months before when the new company began production. Currently ASWF is focusing on the automotive market, but has plans to unveil architectural products soon. And while a slow economy may not seem like the ideal time to launch a new business, ASWF president Mike Martin, said it was ripe for them.

“There has certainly been a downturn and certainly volume is down, but I think it offers an opportunity, particularly for a new manufacturer looking to break into the business, to offer an economic product with very good quality,” Martin said. “The trend we’re seeing here is attendees looking for new options and a high quality product at a good price.”

Window film products may make up only a small portion of the SEMA show, which spans most all of the Las Vegas Convention Center, but film companies still had a significant presence.

Commonwealth Laminating, for instance, exhibited with products for automotive as well as architectural applications. “We saw strong representation from our current customers, as well as a great deal of interest from new, perspective clients,” said Jennifer Phillips Shorr, the company’s vice president/sales and marketing. “We learned that our automotive program, and specifically our Carbon line, continues to provide an excellent solution for our dealers. Also, our new architectural program, which includes our Ultra-Vision line, has been extremely well received in the market.”

Liza Bradford, also with SunTek, agreed that the company had a positive experience at the show, adding, though, they have definitely seen how challenging the economy has been for the industry.
“People are struggling in this economy, but they still want a quality product. They are looking for a competitive price, but they don’t want to sacrifice quality,” Bradford said.

Mark Bollegar with Global Window Films has also recognized the impact the economy has had.

“There are a lot of shops cutting overhead and shutting their doors to go mobile,” Bollegar said. “They are staying with us, but they no longer have an address on Main Street as it’s now their home address.”

Johnson Window Films displayed its Marathon film product, which Fred Zwilling, director of training, described as a hybrid—half metal and half dye.

“It’s more of a factory match [product] and can match factory tints well,” Zwilling said.

Daniel Lee with Solar Free also reported that his company saw a good response to its film products, including a new line of automotive products.

“We’re focused on having a personable sales approach and we work directly with our dealers,” Lee said. Like other film exhibitors, he agreed that while the recession has kept business slow, having a competitive price is more important than ever.

“We’ve got to be able to grow the opportunities through getting involved in governmental affairs and those sorts of things. But as I do these things, I’ve got to have an engine that sits behind all of this and can react to it.”
—Ray Kollar, CPFilms

These days it seems more and more film installers are diversifying their businesses with additional products and services. Paint protection films are becoming increasingly popular and a number of companies at the show displayed an assortment of such offerings.

XPEL, for instance, featured a number of products, including installation gel and a paint protection film cleaners, as well as a 60-inch wide clear-coated roll of its standard and premium paint protection film.

“While attendance was down, we had tremendous interest in our paint protection system components as it facilitates quicker and cleaner installs,” said Ryan Pape, chief executive officer. “Despite SEMA being slower than normal, there was a lot of buzz and change in the paint protection film industry, which brought out several serious customers and may lead to some interesting opportunities, even in a down market.”

Installation demos of a new paint protection film from LLumar, which received a 2009 SEMA Global Media Award as one of the best new products, saw a steady flow of traffic in the booth. Ryan Eilermann said the new paint protection film was a big launch for them and they worked closely with their dealers in the field to develop the product.

“We collaborated with our dealers to make a product that would work for them … we’re working to bring dealers a complete package,” Eilermann said.

Avery Dennison also introduced a new paint protection film. Phillip Novac, the company’s marketing manager, described it as a polyurethane, clear, 6-mil product for after-market applications.

“Products such as these can help increase the re-sale value of the vehicle,” Novac said.

Performance Tools was also on hand with its latest product offerings.

“We’re featuring Griot’s Garage Car Care products and have representatives from the company here to explain the different products,” said Dick Austin of Performance Tools. “People here at the show are very familiar with Griot’s as it’s got a good reputation in the industry.” Austin added that they were very busy throughout the week of the show with lots of interest in the new line. (Turn to page 20 to read more about Performance Tools).

Final Thoughts
Whatever the reason for attending SEMA, whether new products, trends or networking, many who attended said it was a crucial part of maintaining a productive business.

Consider Wayne Frost with Frost Auto Car, who has owned his shop for 20 years. Having focused his business on paint protection film, he said he was at the show because now he’s looking to expand into the window tinting business.

“The market is changing, so I’ve got to stay ahead of the competition,” Frost said.


Ellen Rogers is the editor of Window Film magazine.

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