2022’s Trials and Triumphs

January 27th, 2023 by Nathan Hobbs

By Chris Collier

The 2020s are in a constant state of flux. Film business owners and managers geared up for 2023 by reflecting on their biggest hits and misses of the past year, taking a hard look in the proverbial mirror. In three words, David Francis, owner of Finishing Touch Detailing and Paint Correction in Maryville, Tenn., says 2022 was “back to normal.”

A Return to Routine

“Getting used to a regular schedule again was the biggest [challenge],” Francis says. “With COVID and everyone getting stimulus checks, there was always big job money flowing. People were throwing away $1,200, $1,500 and $2,000 without even thinking about it. In 2022, you had to sell people more.”

Finishing Touch Detailing and Paint Correction has a 5,000-square-foot building dedicated to paint corrections and coatings. Coatings and corrections comprise 65% of sales, but paint protection film (PPF) drives the company’s profits.

“The installers come out and talk to [customers] directly,” Francis says of team-based sales efforts. “They’ll upsell wheels, interiors and glass coatings to bump that job up. A couple hundred dollars here and there makes a big difference at the end of the week.”

As with all industries, the film segment suffered from a challenged supply chain. “The biggest impact that we saw was vinyl wrap,” Francis explains. “The specialty colors and the popular colors were hard to get.”

Henderson, Nev.’s, Green Valley Window Tint earned a spot on Window Film magazine’s 2022 Top Dealers list. Even so, the business faced challenges. Architectural division manager Joshua Miller says the company “needs more bodies.”

“We’ve figured out a lot on the marketing side, and we know we can generate more leads that turn into more sales,” Miller adds. “The one thing preventing us from doing more is having more people.”

Car Chaos

Window Film magazine reported on the new car shortage at the onset of 2022 (see Running on Empty: The New Car Shortage Unwrapped in Window Film magazine January/February 2022). The average price of a new car in the U.S. reached $47,077 in December 2021, according to Kelley Blue Book. The Irvine, Calif., vehicle valuation and research company noted that the average price rose just below $1,800 in 2019, slightly over $3,301 in 2020 and then a significant increase of $6,220 in 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic and persistent supply-chain problems contributed to the rise. An ongoing global shortage of microchips—critical components needed for today’s autos—also continued to slow down new vehicle production.

Dustin Edmunson, manager at Brighton, Mich.’s, Lingenfelter Auto Spa, says that 2022 was “hectic” due to the continuing shortage.

“Car deliveries were all over the place, so scheduling was a hard thing to keep track of,” Edmunson says. “[New] cars were supposed to be delivered on a certain date. They would be pushed out a month, or a customer would call you and be like, ‘My car showed up today, and it wasn’t supposed to be here for two more months. Can you get my car in tomorrow?’”

Edmunson says Porsches and Chevrolet Corvettes most dramatically disrupted his team’s schedule.

“I don’t think a lot of people replaced their cars this year as normal,” adds Edmunson, whose company’s sales mix is 80% PPF, 10% window tint and 10% ceramic coatings. “So there wasn’t that turnover. Cars were so expensive—you couldn’t find them or you couldn’t get the options.”

Of course, the new car shortage wasn’t the only hurdle for consumers in 2022. Inflation hit hard in all industries, and Edmunson had to shift prices as a result. The company raised its prices by 30% across all services.

2022’s Triumphs

A former Minor League Baseball pitcher, Francis opened his company seven years ago and knows a thing or two about teamwork. The company has three coating installers, one PPF installer, two window tinters and one vinyl wrapper. He says, “You can have the best players on your team, but if nobody works together, it doesn’t matter.”

“About three years ago, I had the best team skill-wise, per individual, that I’ve ever had, but none of them worked together,” Francis adds. “That was the biggest learning curve for me. I would rather have eight guys who work completely great together. That was my turning point—hiring good people versus the best people.”

Francis says keeping his team happy is his greatest 2022 milestone. “Our goal is long-term employees, so it’s about treating them fairly … Everybody that’s with me right now was with us throughout [2022],” he says.

A strained new car supply chain and skyrocketing inflation rocked Edmunson’s 2022. However, his company still experienced growth on several fronts.

“Our sales doubled from 2021, and our expenses from our supplier doubled,” he says. “I think paint protection film is becoming more known and appreciated, so there’s a lot more value for people. We’re advertising more to truck owners. In Michigan, we have a lot of dirt roads. These [trucks] cost between $70,000 and $100,000. People are financing them for seven years because they’re so expensive—they need them to last that long.”

Commenting on consumer awareness, Edmunson adds, “We do a lot of big shows like the Woodward Dream Cruise. Sixty percent of the people that walk through our booth at Woodward have never seen PPF before. The word is getting out more and more.”

Green Valley Window Tint reached a steep sales total in 2022, climbing 30% from 2021’s numbers. Miller also snagged gold in the Architectural Tint-Off™ Division at the 21st Annual International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT)

“I install flat glass every single day, so that definitely helps,” Miller said. “I definitely feel a lot more comfortable now that I’ve competed a couple times. You wouldn’t think it even though you do this all day, every day—but as soon as there’s a timer on and a crowd, you get pretty nervous. I didn’t feel that too much, so I was able to work normally.”

Miller looks to use his WFCT success to propel his company and his industry forward in 2023.

“Since the Tint-Off, I’ve been contacted by a couple people who want to train with us on flat glass,” he says. “Having won that a couple times now—we’re focused on training and playing around with the idea of doing classes.”

Chris Collier is the editor of Window Film magazine.
ccollier@glass.com

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