March 30, 2009

What I Didn’t Hear at the Glass Expo

By Paul Bieber

I did hear bad jokes (How do you tell who is man’s best friend? Place your dog and your wife in the trunk of your car and drive around on a bumpy road for an hour. When you open the trunk, which one is happy to see you?) I heard a lot of baseball talk (Mets good, Yankees bad). I heard from old friends (Didn’t you used to work around here?). I didn’t hear doom and gloom in the glass business.

The Glass Expo was on Long Island last week. It was probably the most well attended regional trade show I have seen in five years. The show floor was expanded twice, and still sold out. I spoke with many vendors and they spoke of business picking up from its low point. There were no thirty story jobs in the offing, but many small shopping centers and and store fronts were going in. Shower doors held strong. New residential was quiet, but refurb and remodel seemed very strong. Mirrors seemed to have fallen off the table, but energy-efficient glass seemed to more than have balanced that out. And on and on.

The glass shop owners were not negative. They were neutral or even up-beat. I spoke with maybe a hundred owners, and I can remember only two people who cried the blues, and these same two cried the blues five years ago when everyone made money.

This may not be the scene around the rest of the country, but I am guessing that glass shops that are aggressive in their service and their self-promotion are going to survive this recession. It all starts with one person having a positive attitude; that will become infectious throughout your organization. You have already cleaned house, now is the time to start rebuilding…look for new products to sell, look for quality people to upgrade your staff, look to yourself to be the spark plug.

As far as new products are concerned, there was a big crowd around a booth from Elmont Glass, ( that was watching switchable glass. This is glass that is opaque or clear, with the touch of a button. Yes it is very expensive, and yes it is not normal. It is new. When a customer asks you what’s new, you should know about this. You should have this, and many other products in the back of your mind. You never know when the possible sale will come up…but it will never come up if you have your mind closed!

There was a strong presence of fire-rated glass products. Yes, it is expensive, yes it is different. Get the picture?

If you keep up the same and steady, you will not pull through this recession. Do you know what a “Glassasaur” is? It is a dinosaur who operates a glass shop and will become extinct because of looking backwards instead of forwards.

See you at the next Expo.