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Cautiously optimistic

The mood at the GlassBuild America show held this year


February 13, 2009
By Rich Porayko

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The mood at the GlassBuild America show held this year in Las Vegas,
Nev., from Oct. 6-8 could be summed up in two words; cautiously
optimistic. Yes, attendance was down and the show had fewer exhibitors
than previous years, but as with all things in life and business, the
event is about quality not quantity.

co1 
Photo courtesy of the National Glass Association (NGA).


 

The mood at the GlassBuild America show held this year in Las Vegas, Nev., from Oct. 6-8 could be summed up in two words; cautiously optimistic. Yes, attendance was down and the show had fewer exhibitors than previous years, but as with all things in life and business, the event is about quality not quantity. The show is widely recognized as one of the best marketing venues for the glass industry in North America.  It is literally a showcase of who’s who in the industry. 

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Of course the hot topic at the show was the economy, however, most exhibitors and attendees shared a united confidence that although there would be significant changes yet to come, companies that have the ability to adapt to the new conditions would persevere. They recognize that there are problems out there, but they see it as a correction.

Just weeks before the show, Calgary, Alta., based decorative glass fabricator Goldray Industries Ltd. announced that they had recently purchased 50 per cent of Brooklyn, New York based Colonial Glass.  “New York is a really huge market for us; they just love decorative glass.” says Cathie Saroka, marketing director.  Goldray, who was exhibiting at the show, has been selling decorative glass products such as backpainted wall cladding for lobbies and elevator interiors as well as silkscreened product for partitions, bridges and glass floors to the market in New York for about 20 years.

co2 
Photo courtesy of the National Glass Association (NGA).


 

“Sales are still increasing. We know that there are some serious issues in the U.S., and we’ve been seeing many residential companies losing 30-60 per cent of their business, however, commercial has still been good for us. Some of the projects that we have been working on have been cancelled, but there is still so much work out there that we’re not seeing any real business lost yet. There are definitely problems in the construction market and we’re not naive enough to believe that it won’t affect us, but so far we’ve been lucky,” says Saroka.

The new glass economy hasn’t been without its challenges, however, as Saroka explains, “AGC closing their plants has had a really big impact on us, mostly because of their textured glass which now has a very limited availability.  Now we’re scrambling to find alternates because we have jobs that we bid one and two years out that are using AGC glass and we’re having trouble sourcing it so we’re trying to find a substitute. We get the rest of our domestic supply from PPG.”

With glass shortages comes price increases, “We’ve had about a 25 per cent increase on our glass in the last couple of months so we had no choice but to raise our price for glass only,” says Saroka, however “we haven’t added anything to the decorative or value added services.  Our raw materials are going up and we have to pass those increases on to the customer which are all-inclusive prices as we don’t have an energy surcharge on top. We feel it doesn’t fluctuate enough to change prices and we absorb as much as we can.”

Saroka says she was happy with the 2008 show, “Attendance is down but the quality of people has been outstanding. I heard that there are 140 exhibitors less than there were in the show last year. But for the people that are exhibiting, really that just means that there’s more time to spend with people that are coming through.”

Marc Deschamps, Business Development Manager for Montreal based Walker Glass, is equally positive, “The show has been outstanding for the first two days; the traffic has been awesome. We’ve had existing customers passing through our booth but we’ve also had quite a few new people stop by that didn’t know about our Textures products so it is a good time to educate them about what we do and talk about new products.”

Deschamps continues, “Day three was quiet for a number of different reasons, as it usually is, there was a religious holiday and since it’s Vegas a lot of people were pretty tired from staying up late. But it has been a great show for us; great exposure, we’re happy.”

“Our experience with GlassBuild has always been very positive. We believe as much in push marketing as we believe in pull marketing, so when we get glaziers in the booth we’re happy because we get to educate them. Even though we aren’t going to sell to them direct, we know they will be buying from our customers. This is what is known as pull marketing. We also actively promote to architects and designers so in turn we also get some traffic from these people.  Obviously we get a lot of traffic from fabricators as well. At every show we get to know a new temperer or a new laminator which are our two niche markets. It’s great to get a mix of everybody. Our existing customers always come and visit us to chit-chat and we had all our reps around the last two days, so obviously we’ve had a lot of people in the booth which creates a big buzz. There has been quantity, but I would say it has been mainly mostly quality.”

Deschamps acknowledges the challenges of the current business climate, “There are certainly a lot of signals pointing in the direction that the slowdown will continue.  People see that the residential market is down and in certain areas of the United States the commercial market is going down as well.  I think we’ll see some markets soften up but I don’t think it will be as bad as the media is letting on.

“AGC’s closing of four float tanks has certainly made everyone’s life more of a challenge from a glass purchasing point of view. It is certainly not as easy to get glass but we get the glass we need to service our customers properly. It does make our life a little more complicated but we always keep our buying strategies up to date. It’s always changing. The glass market is not a static market. It changes all the time. It’s constantly evolving.”

Deschamps sums up what seems to be the recurring sentiments of forward minded companies preparing to weather the storm. “If we keep investing in research and development and keep coming up with new products and developing new opportunities, then the outlook is always going to be positive. We need to stay close to market trends and it is that way that we will survive a market that is very challenging.”

The next GlassBuild America show will take place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, 2009, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA.


Rich Porayko is a professional writer based out of Coquitlam, BC.

GlassBuild America 2008
October 6-8, 2008, Las Vegas, Nev.

  • Final Stats Registrants: 8,019 verified; 9,292 registered
  • Visitors’ places of origin: 64 countries represented
  • International registrants: 1,615
  • Annual sales volume of attendees’ companies:

        51% – Under $5 million
        34% – $5.1 million – $50 million
        15% – Over $50 million

  • Senior managers: 45% of attendees have title of owner, president or vice-president
  • Exhibiting Companies: 485
  • International Exhibiting Companies: 122 companies from 12 countries
  • Floor space: GlassBuild America exhibitors occupied 161,100 net square feet
  • Attendee Profile:

        Glass Retailer/Dealer – 14%
        Glass Distributor – 14%
        Contract Glazing Co. – 20%
        Glass Fabricator – 27%
        Residential Window & Door Dealers &             Distributors – 19%
        Residential Window & Door Manufacturers – 24%
       Architects/Specifiers/Builders – 6%
Total equals more than 100% due to the ability to select more than one category.


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