WFCT 2021: Worth the Wait

August 17th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs

Attendees Advance with Education, Exhibition and Engagement

By Chris Collier

The last 16 months have showcased the industry’s resiliency. From shutdowns to supply-chain challenges to evolving health and safety guidelines, window film companies have been challenged. Yet it was clear that The 2021 International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT) was ready for a triumphant return. Through renewed in-person connection, industry professionals gathered under the sunny skies of Orlando, Fla., for education, exhibition and engagement. And it was most certainly worth the wait.

Hall of Fame History

What better way to kick off WFCT 2021 than by making history? That’s exactly what Lisa Winckler, director of Global Window Film Product Management for Performance Films, accomplished on June 7 in Orlando. An employee of Eastman Performance Films and its predecessors for more than three decades, Winckler was inducted into the Window Film Hall of Fame during a special lunch in her honor. The honor is awarded each year by WINDOW FILM magazine.

“Lisa Winckler is more than deserving of this award,” says the magazine’s editorial director Tara Taffera. “We were especially proud to be able to honor her right before her retirement from a long and accolade-filled career.”

“The impact she had on the whole industry has been phenomenal,” said Erin Bernhardt, general manager of Eastman Performance Films. “She is an advocate, an inventor and entrepreneur, a mentor and a teacher and a friend to many of us.”

Winckler’s accomplishments include getting window film recognized by the Skin Cancer Foundation and earning window film its seal of recommendation for safe and effective sun protection. She is also lauded for her efforts to have window films included in National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) certifications, allowing window films to be considered by many utility rebate programs across the country. Winckler is active on the NFRC board, and is the longest serving board member (over 25 years of service) of the International Window Film Association.

“I’m incredibly grateful for this and for the number of friends I have made throughout the world,” Winckler said. “I love the people involved in this industry … When you say go to the wall, they go to the wall.”

Winckler retired from Eastman at the end of June, 2021.

Seminar Spotlights

The three-day conference featured seminars pertinent to every corner of the industry. Savvy speakers reflected on 2020’s challenges and how to embrace an uncertain future, prepared attendees to sell their business, emphasized the lucrative potential of decorative window film and more. Here are some highlights from all three educational days.

Manufacturer Talk Show Live gave attendees the opportunity to hear from C-Suite executives from many of the industry’s major manufacturers. Moderated by WINDOW FILM magazine’s editorial director Tara Taffera, the roundtable discussion touched on 2020’s challenges and featured Erin Bernhardt, general manager, Performance Films, Eastman; Shawn Kitchell, president and CEO at Madico Inc.; Faisal Nazir, CEO of Hüper Optik USA; Silvia Perez, president for 3M Commercial Solutions; Harry Rahman, director of architectural window films for XPEL; and
Mariana Rodriguez, senior director and general manager of graphics solutions for Avery Dennison.

“What was incredibly impressive through it all was how our dealers and how our customers worked together on how to deal with the stimulus, worked together with how to train their employees [and] re-open through different, meaningful ways with the customers that allowed for safe installation and safe work practices,” said Bernhardt.

The supply chain was highlighted, as its impact continues 16 months into the pandemic. “I spent the majority of my time in 2020, as the president of the business, focused on demand-generation discussions,” said Perez. “90% of my time now is [spent] on supply. It’s not just the high-demand, but then we were also hit with the raw material shortage.”

Rodriguez said raw material shortages have proven challenging but has seen progress in the supply chain situation. “Things are definitely looking much, much better,” Rodriguez said. “The roughest part of supply disruptions was back in February and March [2021] because of the combination of very high growth with some of the challenges from the Texas weather impact back in late February. Things are slowly recovering and getting back to normal.”

Keynote and IWFA Day

Monday’s slate of seminars also saw Janine Driver, a former federal law enforcement officer and CEO of the Body Language Institute, share sales strategies during her keynote—You Say More Than You think When it Comes to Sales.

“One of my favorite seminars was Janine Driver’s,” said Danny Maldonado, president of Prestige Window Solutions Inc. “That woman had a powerful presence. It was awesome to watch her control the room, and we felt that we learned a lot about our body language and that of others. We also attended many of the other seminars and always found our takeaways. These types of events always leave our creative juices flowing, and motivate us to level up when we return home. We will absolutely be back!”

Day two of WFCT was IWFA Education Day, a day of education sponsored by the International Window Film Association (IWFA). (for all the news from those sessions go to www.windofilmmag.com and search for IWFA Announces.)

Future Plans

Day three of WFCT’s seminars featured insight that’s sure to resonate and reverberate in film shops everywhere. Matt Darienzo, CEO of Solar Art, Laguna Hills, Calif., and Ed Golda, 2014 Window Film Hall of Fame inductee shared their top tips during Preparing to Sell Your Business—Tomorrow or in 20 Years.

“Everyone has to have an exit-plan or an end-goal for their business and where they want it to go,” Darienzo said. “It’s important that, even if you want to give it to another generation, it’s good to always prepare for these things that will come up in the future.”

Darienzo emphasized people as the variable in a business’s success. “People are the variable in whether businesses are successful or not—it all comes down to the people,” Darienzo said. “When you’re selling a business, if you have key employees and can use that as a selling point to the person that’s buying and say, ‘I have this person, they’re an all-star and they’re going to be able to run this department.’ That’s really valuable to a buyer if you have good, solid employees. If your employees are wishy-washy, then it’s a liability.”

For Golda, WFCT presents an ideal networking opportunity. “Come to events like this—network with people,” Golda said. “That relationship that you establish early on might end up being fruitful. That might be an avenue for when you’re ready to get out. . . . The worst thing you can do is put in a number of years and not reap any reward. Your end becomes just discontinuing the phones, wrapping it up and walking away. There’s no reason to—there’s a lot of value in the window film industry.”

You can’t talk about the future without highlighting the state of the market and future trends.

Nick St. Denis, director of research at Key Media & Research (WINDOW FILM magazine’s parent company), discussed demand and trends in the window film and paint protection film market.

“Consumer sentiment is a strong indicator to look at regarding aftermarket accessories and alterations to vehicles, as well as improvements to a home or building,” he said. “When consumers are comfortable with their financial standing and the economy in general, they’re more likely to spend on discretionary things such as PPF for their vehicle or window film on their home.”

The Index of Consumer Sentiment, which measures this, has partially recovered as of the second quarter of 2021 but still has a ways to go. Fortunately, several other indicators closer to the industry— including personal consumption expenditures of motor vehicles and parts, as well as retail sales  of automotive parts and accessories—has been booming since late 2020 and through the first quarter of 2021. Additionally, new vehicles sales have improved to start the year.

Sponsor Spotlight

After a year and a half of no trade shows, WFCT attendees were eager to scan the latest products— in person. During all three days, sponsors displayed their latest and greatest for all industry professions to peruse and preview for potential purchase and use at their own shops.

Eastman demonstrated its new and improved PPF products at its booth.

“We’re excited to showcase a lot of our new PPF products, including LLumar® Valor and SunTek Reaction,” said Jacob Motley, channel marketing manager at Eastman. “They’ve been completely reinvented to give you your traditional protective benefits along with ceramic-coating-like qualities.”

Eastman also talked about its new film-cutting software for window film and PPF. Pam Feese, channel development manager at Eastman, said the product has been a few years in the making. “We’ve invested very heavily in a development team that’s worked closely with our dealers in order to understand their immediate needs for a cutting system,” Feese said.

Hüper Optik USA displayed its latest PPF product at its booth, which shined thanks to a yellow Mercedes Benz AMG GT.

“Our new product that we’re launching at the show this year is our Incognito,” said Jeanne Kratz, regional sales representative for Hüper Optik, Autobahn and Edge window films. “It’s a new PPF that is going to fully round out the Autobahn program. It is much more easy to use and installer friendly.”

Madico took ClearPlex, one of its long-standing products for windshields, and unveiled ready-fit kits designed to simplify installation.

“To answer the needs of our customers—they were asking us to either create a product that’s easier to install or somehow make this product easier to install—we came up with ClearPlex ready-fit kits,” said David Jensen, business development manager at Madico. “[They] are pre-cut and pre-shrunk using an OEM windshield. We guarantee their fi t. And it makes it so you can install the kit in about 20-30 minutes compared to about an hour and a half.”

Tint Wiz’ purple, neon-lit Tesla was front and center at WFCT.

“Tint Wiz isn’t a tool company,” said Erik Devash, founder and CEO. “What we are is a customer relationship management (CRM) software for window film companies—wrap, PPF, ceramic coating and so on. It’s a way to manage your business, from lead capture all the way to invoice.”

XPEL’s booth featured many products, including its Prime Automotive Window Tint line, its Fusion Plus Ceramic Coating and its Ultimate Plus Paint Protection Film. The booth also featured a white Jaguar F-Type for attendees to practice installing paint protection film on. After several successful applications, Brian Prochilo, OEM technical specialist, said it’s a
testament to the company’s training program.

Global Window Films displayed its second-generation paint protection film. Product development manager Fred Zwilling said the product was designed around installer feedback and features less-aggressive tack and reduced yellowing.

“PPF is a product that ever-evolves,” said Bill Stewart, corporate PPF trainer. “The market demands create change in the products. If you look at all of the other manufacturers in the industry, there’s always been multiple variations. It’s part of the nature of the product.”

Avery Dennison detailed its new Vela Dynamic Display System, a smart window film that incorporates technology to enhance retail and other commercial interior environments.

“It’s a smart film that can be applied to glass,” said Doug Phelps, business development manager for architectural films there. “It has several advantages in terms of privacy. It’s a privacy glass, but you can also project on it. . . .You can create some imagery on the back of it. It’s good for corporate branding, and it’s really good for retail spaces. The benefit is you can have an ad running on the glass. And then if you want to turn it off, you can actually see what’s behind it if you have a storefront setup.

Nick Dahm, application engineer at 3M, detailed the company’s new ceramic coating. “It actually launched back on April 15, so it is still fairly new to the market,” Dahm said. “Given that it’s a hot season, people are starting to get back out and get their cars looking their best. [We’re] trying to make sure everyone knows about our ceramic coating, its ease of application and its main features, advantages and benefits.”

The latest product from CoolVu is Black Ceramic IRX. The product is infused with the highest quality ceramic nanoparticles, creating the richest “black” coloring and highest performing automotive ceramic window film in the world, according to the company. But David Karle, vice president of solar and security distribution, said its product’s benefits extend beyond its specifications and features.

“Everybody is trying to make the best product and there’s a lot of great companies here,” Karle said. “You’re going to stand out most [to] any customer with your customer support.”

Johnson Window Films’ Paint Protection Film (JPP) was on display as well. William Davidson, marketing and sales representative at Johnson Window Films, said the company has launched a 6 mil version and is working on other variations.

“It has a bit more flexibility than what else is on the market and I think installers are really going to enjoy it,” Davidson said. “The market is pretty established now so people might have to take a chance to try ours, but once they get their hands on it, I think they’re really going to like it.”

PremiumShield showed its paint protection film, a self-healing product and one of the clearest in the industry, according to the company. Chris Keller, distributor for PremiumShield, said the product’s lifetime warranty, affordable price and Cut Studio software differentiate it.

“The sales staff are not just salespeople,” Keller said. “They are installers as well. [There are] multiple locations around the country for training and people willing to come to your shop for training.”

Meet WFCT’s Winners

See Film Stars on page 32 to meet the winners of the WFCT Automotive, Architectural and PPF competitions.

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

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