Top Window Film DealersAugust 12th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs
THRIVING, Not Just Surviving
By Tara Taffera
Each September, WINDOW FILM magazine ranks its top companies for the previous year and gets insights into the current one. You may think COVID has taken its toll, and you would be right. Yet for many of our top dealers, words like resiliency—and yes, even growth—can be used to describe the current market.
Take, for example, Advanced Tint Co./RPM Superstore in Richmond, Va. In the midst of the pandemic, the company opened a third shop. Much of that business has benefited from competitor closings and from being the last shop standing so to speak—at least in the downtown location. “At one point there were four shops on Broad Street. Then they started to go out of business one-by-one and, as of this summer, we are the last and only tint shop left on Broad Street,” says owner Kyle Calera. “That definitely helped out to escalate these numbers.”
As of August, the company expects to make 2020 its best year ever.
“We are on track for our first $2 million,” says Kalera. “That’s almost 300,000 more—we not just doubled but tripled for the first time in history.”
Steve Pesce, president at NY Window Film Co., in the New York City area, says 2019 was his best ever, as it bumped the company up a revenue category to the $6-9 million range (see chart at left).
Not surprisingly, however, 2020 has provided challenges, despite its strong start.
“The first quarter was up over 2019 by 15%,” says Pesce. That changed in the second quarter, which was down 70% from the same period in 2019.
“COVID has had an unprecedented effect on the economy,” he adds. “After New York reopened things are doing better but we will still be down for the third quarter year-over-year. I see this going on for the rest of the year and possibly through the first quarter of 2021.”
But he does see a bright side. “Business should begin to improve over the course of 2021. I’m optimistic about NYWF future and hope others are able to hold on until we can return to normalcy,” he says.
Other companies on the list were up from 2019 as well, including Sun Stoppers and National Glazing Solutions DBA NGS Films and Graphics. In fact, WINDOW FILM magazine had to create a higher revenue category this year to showcase the growth happening at NGS.
Both companies have high hopes for 2020. SunStoppers is up 20% and looking to sell more ceramic film than ever, according to owner Mike Burk, whose company is based in Charlotte, N.C.
For some of the top dealers, the numbers could depend on what products you offer.
Shifting Customer Base
“COVID has slowed down some areas of business but accelerated others,” says James Beale, managing partner at NGS in the Greater Atlanta area. “We are actually out-performing our projections,” he says. “We anticipated doing $20- $24 million and are on track to hit $24-$28 million this year.”
When asked, ‘How the company will show that kind of growth in 2020 in the midst of COVID?’ Beale says its preparedness regarding social distancing and adapting to COVID definitely helped. “Also the social unrest has created more demand on the security side,” he adds.
Other top window film dealers also adapted to what COVID dished out. At ClimatePro, CEO Jeremy Dobbins says when lockdowns occurred in California, the company shifted its business since employees were unable to work at customers’ homes or commercial sites.
“We used our team and equipment to make PPE items such as face shields, acrylic barriers and signage for essential business and workers,” he says. “This has kept our team very busy for several months. Once we could start resuming some normal operations, we had lots of pent up demand to catch up on and, so far, our business has been well-taken care of by its customers.”
But just like at NGS, he started serving some different markets in larger numbers than pre-COVID due to changing conditions.
“There has been a dramatic shift toward serving residential customers,” he says. “Many people are working from home, they’re spending less on other items than they usually would and they have the resources to invest in home improvements … which include making it more comfortable which is great for window film.”
As those office buildings stay empty, Dobbins says that presents opportunities as well. “We’re already seeing many companies talking about making improvements or doing remodels while employees are working from home, so we’re excited to see what lies ahead,” he says.
While many film shops did have to shut down, many have been slammed since things have opened up.
“We had a shutdown for almost a month, however we have been very fortunate in the fact our spring and summer has seen increased demand for our services,” says Rick Puthoff, owner, Eclipse Window Tinting Inc. in Cincinnati. “We have made up for the month shutdown in only four and-a-half months,” he says. “We are now back on track and actually looking at an increase depending on how the fall/winter goes.”
A similar situation occurred at Advanced Film Solutions, says Adam Feldman, vice president of sales and operations, of the Tampa- and St. Petersburg, Fla.-based company. When the typical residential business dropped off from March to May, the company was able to make that up as it was awarded a job with a local school district which increased business by 33%.
“The residential business started to return in June and, minus additional precautions, we haven’t seen an impact in our customer base,” he says.
Holding Steady, Hanging On
Some window film companies have lowered their projections for 2020, while others remain on an even course.
“We were slowed down since we could not enter the buildings from March through June but we are busier now making it all up,” says Ross Jurman, CEO, Advanced Window Solutions in the New York City area. “It just changed the timing.”
Others are reporting lower projections but are staying optimistic and offering valuable advice. Randy Hutson at Five Star Window Coatings in Grand Rapids Mich., says that although projections are down 10%, the company was even with 2019 as of early September.
“You must adapt and change,” he points out. “We have advertised more with traditional TV and increased our social media footprint this we have maintained our sales revenue.”
What worries Hutson, however, is when the Government PPP money runs out. Still, the company is in the midst of opening an automotive division due to costumer demand.
Other company executives are predicting dips of 20%, including Solar Tint in Cincinnati and T&T Tinting Specialists Inc.
“With the seven-week COVID shutdown we had in Hawaii during March, April and May, and the ensuing slow days up to the shutdown and even now after the shutdown, we are currently projecting 20% less revenue for the 2020 year end, which is about $1 million less than goals,” says Tommy Silva, CEO/president, T&T Tinting Specialists Inc.
Despite that dip, he remains thankful and optimistic. “I think that, in general, our industry should feel spared from the greater part of the reduction of sales and projected losses as compared to almost any other industry,” he says. “I am grateful for the resilience in our window tinting industry.”
Resilient they are, but uncertainty still looms.
At Campbell Corp., president and CEO Brad Campbell says his California-based company has focused on new products. It has made adjustments when necessary when business paused earlier this year.
“As a result, we have maintained trajectory to our 2020 goals, increasing sales year-over-year. Now that window film is coming back online, we still have our new product lines, so the net gain has us readjusting projections upward,” he says. “That said, we are cautiously optimistic.”
Tara Taffera is the editorial director of WINDOW FILM magazine. She may be reached at email@example.com
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