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August 13th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs

Opportunity Beyond Windows

By Manny Hondroulis

COVID presented many window film dealers the opportunity to work “on” their businesses. Forced shutdowns, in the interest of public health and safety, gave decision-makers time they would not have otherwise had for making technology upgrades, marketing strategy enhancements and new brick-and-mortar locations. While these improvements may pay dividends in the long run, working on the business does not necessarily mean you are bringing in the business. So what opportunities are there in a COVID world?

Surface Options

At its very core, the flat glass window film industry is about applying a rolled good with adhesive onto a flat surface. Traditionally that means installing sun control, security or decorative film onto a curtainwall or interior window. If we look beyond the windows, much like dealers looked at face shields and social distancing graphics immediately after COVID impacted our shores, we can translate our traditional installation expertise onto other flat (and curved) surfaces within a building.

Consider all of the times you’re in a building and encounter flat surfaces that are not vision glass —desks, tables, countertops, cabinets, doors, elevator cabs, walls, ceilings and more. Just as we improve the efficiency, security or appearance of a window, why can we not improve the various aforementioned surfaces? Most likely because we have trained ourselves to think only in terms of windows or glass. Or maybe because various window film manufacturers traditionally make only window film.

All of that has changed in recent years. Many window film manufacturers produce architectural finishes that allow the window film dealer to expand their installation expertise beyond windows and onto other flat and curved surfaces that are commonly found within a building. An architectural finish is a vinyl film that can be installed inside and outside of a building that simulates thousands of natural and synthetic materials. In simpler terms, an architectural finish can make a wood conference room table look like granite. That easy transformation provides buildings with many benefits.

Offer Benefits

Many office buildings have been vacant because of COVID. The consensus is that employees are looking forward to returning to work but not necessarily in the same stale environment they left. That means building owners and property managers may need to improve a building’s aesthetics to lure back existing and attract new tenants. The past year’s vacancy rates mean that many buildings have suffered a loss of lease income which greatly affects a building’s ability to make capital improvements. “With a lower cost than many traditional materials like wood, marble and textiles, you can create an affordable yet high-end design,” said Jake Oberle, 3M window film and architectural finishes product marketing manager. “Architectural finishes let
a building update its existing surfaces in a cost-effective manner while creating less landfill waste to help achieve sustainability goals.”

Market Awareness

Similar to window film, architectural finishes do not have great market awareness. “Yet product manufacturers like 3M, Avery, CI Takiron, Koroseal, and LG see our channel as an outlet for them,” said Oberle. “There is a strong correlation to the everyday business acumen the window film channel executes and what this portfolio of product entails.”

Times of economic uncertainty force us to think differently and look beyond our traditional focus —windows. For every building that has windows, there is a desk, countertop, cabinet, or table that needs cost-effective enhancement using an architectural finish. Just as PPF became an integral part of the auto tinter’s business, architectural finishes may become the same for the flat glass dealer.

Manny Hondroulis is the vice president of Energy Distribution Products in Baltimore.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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