Welcome to the July 2020 issue of Window Film News.
As COVID-19 restrictions ease for most Australians, residents of 36 Victorian suburbs have entered lockdown again as the State attempts to contain the recent outbreak. Our thoughts are with everyone who is impacted. The Victorian situation is proof that while Australia has to date successfully limited the spread of COVID-19 compared to other regions, we aren’t even close to being out of the woods. In this issue we examine the COVID-impacted conditions in which tinters now work, how it’s affected our customers and how we can adapt and thrive as an industry.
The role of WFAANZ is to support Australian tinters. Call us on 02 9160 4736 or email email@example.com if you have any questions or requests. We’re here to help.
The ripples of COVID-19
The flood of corona-related news stories consuming the media this year has been relentless. As we ease out of restrictions, many articles are now analysing how the pandemic has changed the way we work and live.
Experts advise it takes a long time to totally change human behaviour, and alarmist predictions should be taken with a grain of salt. But there are some shifts that could be here to stay, at least for a while. Here we examine the changes impacting tinters, which could become the new norm.
First, handshaking. Are we really expected to bump elbows from now on? Anthony Fauci of the US White House coronavirus taskforce thinks shaking hands should be ditched for good.
“I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again…Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease, it probably would decrease instances of influenza,” Fauci told The Wall Street Journal’s podcast. Mayo Clinic infectious disease expert Gregory Poland put it more dramatically when he said, “When you extend your hand, you’re extending a bioweapon.”
An interesting choice of words considering historians believe the origin of the handshake was to show the other person you didn’t hold a weapon in your hand, and so could be trusted.
For now and into the foreseeable future, handshaking is taboo. Health authorities strongly advise to alter your routine when meeting people or introducing yourself. Even if you personally don’t believe it necessary, a handshake ‘rebuttal’ could cause embarrassment and resentment – not a great way to begin or build a client relationship.
Next we consider home renovations and improvements, obviously most relevant to flat glass tinters.
To boost spending, the government recently announced a $24K HomeBuilder grant for renovations. Data from 1.8 million Australian’s participating in the Zip’s Weekly Spending Index for May shows that during May, spending was already up on home renovations and trade services when compared with the same period last year. Security and safety system installation was up +133%, and trades services spending saw a +30% increase.
CommBank’s Household Spending Intentions series for May 2020 reports a 6% increase in retail spend on household furnishings and equipment.
In the recent WFAANZ tinter survey, many respondents confirmed an increase in flat glass enquiries as people were forced to remain in their home and as a result, sought to make improvements. During the lockdown period when we had to spend so much time indoors, our windows suddenly became a crucial link to the outside world.
People spending more time at home and expecting more from their space, plus HomeBuilder and other incentives like early access superannuation and tax incentives, has pundits predicting a continued increase in home renovation activity. What remains to be seen is how much and for how long that trend is tempered by our desire to ‘save for an emergency’ and/or a reluctance to have strangers in our home.
More behavioural shifts that could take root…
- Hand washing: Respondents of a recent Australian consumer NAB survey indicated Aussies thought the most lasting change of the coronavirus will be improved personal hygiene – more frequent hand washing.
- Saving: The same NAB survey found that Australians are planning to save more for emergencies
- Online shopping: Online purchases exploded during the pandemic, and experts foresee this trend continuing to some extent
- Cards reign supreme: there has been a significant shift towards becoming a ‘cashless’ society, some retailers still refuse cash and insist on card payments
- Shopping habits: hand sanitiser stations, larger till areas, contactless transactions and designated queuing spots will remain commonplace
- Cleanliness expectations: consumers may expect and show preference to businesses that promote a diligent cleaning/sanitizing routine, such as regularly cleaning EFTPOS machines throughout the day
- Local and small business support: growing consumer preference to support local businesses
- Personal habits: sneezing or coughing into the elbow and being mindful of exposing others if you have a runny nose/cough/fever is an expectation that’s here to stay
- From paranoid to considerate: where once you may have thought a person with a face mask out shopping or at the airport was paranoid, the common perception now is they’re being considerate or cautious. It doesn’t hurt for the installer to offer to wear a face mask in the home of the client – especially if someone vulnerable to the virus lives there
- Careful touch: stroking a baby’s head or pinching the cheek of a cute kid? These are behaviours of the past, experts advise, unless you’ve a strong and familiar relationship
- Office routine: yes, some people will now work from home in the post-pandemic world or split their week, but the majority will return to the office eventually. What will change is the way some offices are designed/configured, how meetings are held, sanitation protocols, work times, work events, etc.
The extent to which these changes apply will alter over time. While people will remain conscious of certain behaviours, they will become more casual if anxiety over COVID-19 fades, but that hinges on the discovery of a vaccine or cure. In the meantime, it’s vital for tinters to consider these shifting mindsets when interacting with and marketing to your customers.
Germ-free window film
When tinters were asked in our recent survey whether consumer enquiries have changed during COVID-19, one tinter replied that requests for antimicrobial film had increased. It’s not hard to see why. Here, we look at antimicrobial film, what it does, how it does it and why it’s particularly relevant right now.
Antimicrobial film is specially formulated to resist the growth of microbes on its surface. It was originally designed to protect surfaces in areas that require a high degree of hygiene.
Unlike other films, antimicrobials are used on a variety of surfaces, not just glass. There are two types of the film, non-conforming and conforming, which enables diverse applications. They are typically used on high-contact areas such as touch screens, monitors, door or drawer handles, door push plates, desks, benchtops, cafe and restaurant table tops, shop displays and counters, medical facilities, medical equipment and packaging, factory equipment…the list goes on.
The glaring selling-point of antimicrobial film, and the one that makes it so relevant right now, is that it guards against the surface transmittance of bacteria. The films are formulated with reactive copper or silver ions that essentially block the metabolism of bacteria, moulds and yeast, so preventing their growth.
Some antimicrobial films also claim to protect the surface against degradation, improve screen clarity, offer impact resistance and some have been treated with an agent to deter fungal growth. They are promoted as being waterproof, easy to clean, with strong adhesion and the ability to mould to different shaped objects. Not all antimicrobial films from different suppliers are the same though, so the certification and testing results should be checked.
It should be noted that on researching these products, WFAANZ did not find any that have been tested to guard against ‘all’ bacteria, only ‘certain’ bacteria. To the knowledge of WFAANZ and at the time of publication, no film has been tested to prevent the transmittance of COVID-19.
Online tool helps OH&S + COVID planning
To provide advice and instruction regarding OH&S requirements during the pandemic, Safe Work Australia has launched a new online planning tool for small business, viewed here.
WFAANZ has also released COVID-19 guidelines specifically for tinters, which we’re happy to tailor to your needs, add your logo, etc. to make it easy for you to promote your coronavirus protocols. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Through the eyes of three film distributors
Here we get status reports from three of Australia’s leading window film suppliers about film sales throughout the COVID crisis.
“The pandemic has impacted our business on many levels. Container orders from overseas have been delayed, which creates a time lag on actual sales. Also, businesses are wary of holding too much stock during these uncertain times, which of course effects film sales. As far as our customers are concerned, we know many who have laid off staff or are working four-day weeks.
I have auto installers telling me larger car dealerships which might have had four to five locations are mothballing all but one site to reduce staffing costs, as total car sales are down. This means less cars are tinted. These sites will reopen (and should see a rebound in demand) but with such lower volumes now, the demand is low.
I think the more reputable brands which WFAANZ represents are selling a ‘value proposition’ to their end user and are faring better than the ‘lower cost’ suppliers.
With more people working from home there have been many opportunities as homeowners identify heat, glare, privacy and security issues.”
“COVID hit hard in April during the strictest lockdown period with some distributors being 50% and even up to 80% down on sales. Especially in decline was new car sales and therefore auto window film sales. Architectural suffered less of a drop, which I believe to be due to existing booked jobs to complete and the fact many more people working from home and had time to focus on their home comfort and explore options.
May was better but still I expect most distributors would be down significantly on sales, likely in the 30%+ range and again car sales were slow, which directly affects auto tint sales. As is always the case, Australians in general seem to have a short memory for the harder economic times, which has seen a great improvement in June approaching or exceeding normal sales levels. This includes a rebound for auto window film volumes, which would have also received some positive impact from the Federal Government instant asset tax write-off on offer for the end of financial year.
Looking forward, I expect July will be softer than June for car sales when the instant asset write–off is over. Likely architectural sales will continue to perform at near normal levels. The media loves to dwell on the impact that the end of JobKeeper will have in quarter four, pointing to a spike in unemployment, but for window film sales I don’t expect that event will have a significant impact as we move again into the warmer months and the average Aussie tries to put the COVID crisis behind them and get back to normality.”
“When the COVID crisis exploded in this region back in March, nobody in the Australian window film industry knew what to expect and how it would be impacted. All in all, to date our industry has managed much better than originally predicted. But we need to acknowledge that this isn’t over, even though many or most of the restrictions have eased. With a fresh outbreak of cases in Victoria, the end of the financial year and the normal slowing of the market during Winter, this next month is going to be extremely telling. The million dollar question is – what baring will all these factors have on film sales? Needless to say, we’ll be much better equipped to answer that question at the end of July.
Personally, I do not know of any tint businesses that had to lay off staff. Many are on JobKeeper though, and made the decision to continue to pay their tinters even if there wasn’t the same workload, because tinters are so hard to find and for fear they wouldn’t be able to hire them back.
From our perspective, flat glass and retail automotive remained steady, but trade automotive really suffered as new car sales dropped. Film sales in the Western and Northern States and Territories are relatively unchanged from normal levels, but sales in the Eastern and Southern regions are noticeably down from last year.”
Judge rules in favour of window film installer
Names have been withheld from this story. Last year a window film installer took his client to court after three months of their refusing to pay an invoice. The client claimed the film installation was sub-standard. The tinter disagreed.
The job entailed a strip and retint on 38 year-old windows at a two-storey commercial building.
To provide an independent third-party opinion, WFAANZ was asked to conduct an inspection and submit a report. This entailed a WFAANZ executive committee representative inspecting the windows onsite. The WFAANZ Inspection Procedure Document, outlining the industry standards to which film should be applied, was used as the basis of this inspection.
The inspection found that both parties were in part correct. The client was right to ask for a couple of the windows to be attended to, which could have been resolved in an hour or so of the installer’s time. Overall, however, the job was found to be of a high standard.
The tinter offered to remove and replace the film on the windows identified in the report as having issues. The client refused, and so the matter went to court. After an adjournment late last year, the case was finally heard in April 2020.
In her ruling, the judge referred to the WFAANZ inspection report as providing an independent, unbiased account of the situation and ruled in favour of the tinter. The client (defendant) was made to pay the outstanding amount and court fees.
In these matters WFAANZ is not on the side of the client or the tinter, but is called in to provide a professional, independent third-party opinion regarding the validity of the claims. This instance highlights the importance of WFAANZ in performing this role and upholding the standards of our industry.
Tinting through the crisis in the US, written by Andrew Booth
COVID-19 has dramatically affected the Australian tinting industry. The Federal Government stimulus went some way to assist small businesses, but it seemed to help smaller owner operators more than larger businesses employing numerous installers. There is no doubt some operators will simply not make it through the difficulties imposed upon them.
Tinting worldwide has been affected far greater than our own. Many countries like Spain, Italy and the UK had to shut down all but the very essential services, no doubt including window tinters.
The US Centre for Disease Control released a forecast on June 22 suggesting there will be between 129,000 and 145,000 total COVID-19 deaths in the US by July 11. On June 28, CNN reported new confirmed cases are on the rise in 36 states.
Our USA colleagues are not only dealing with the coronavirus, but also the riots and looting that were televised worldwide. Social media posts revealed some US tinters were preparing to defend their family, business and livelihoods by force if necessary, a position we in Australia could never imagine.
Carole Lockwood, Veloce Innovation – Business Development Manager, Texas, sheds some light of the current climate there:
“Today’s COVID times combined with the shutdown of businesses and social unrest in the USA calls for some unique situations. In many ways, COVID did not hurt the sales of window film though it may have delayed some. The social unrest has in many increased the awareness of window films and other security products. As a nation, we have a lot to come together on, we feel very divided but not conquered. The USA was built on some solid fundamentals and we feel as soon as COVID days are in the rearview mirror, we will shine even brighter.
Overall, the auto business was a lot less affected than flat glass. Within flat glass, residential was more affected than commercial, due to the fact that customers did not want contractors in their homes. The government stimulus has done a lot to help small businesses in our industry though many businesses that had mainly contract laborers were not able to take advantage of government funding. Many of the successful companies reached out to smaller dealers to help them with installations and we really saw a great industry come together. Like the rest of the world, we pray for everyone’s safety, happiness and future success.”
Here, Gil Guerra, owner/operator of Team GK Glass Tinting, Los Angeles, was kind enough to share his recent experiences:
Gil’s COVID timeline
First 3 weeks – no work.
Then small jobs every other day, for 2 weeks.
Then 1 job a day for 2 weeks.
Then Bammm…back to normal, as in, booked every day.
Construction jobs are still at a halt.
It was a crazy ride.
Social media has enabled us all to come together as an industry regardless of boarders. Many of us communicate with tinters in the USA and around the globe. I am confident when I say that we here in Australia wish for the safety and wellbeing of every tinter and their businesses, regardless of who or where they are.
An empirical facelift
One of the most iconic buildings in the world, New York’s 102-story Empire State Building, has instigated a raft of retrofit changes to cut carbon emissions by a whopping 40% and reduce its annual electricity bill by $4.4 million.
One of those changes was refurbishing existing glass panes. In doing this, the Empire State Building made its 6,514 windows several times more efficient.
This Washington Post article explains further, advising home owners wanting to green-ify their home to “Cover the glass with a solar film or other treatments that can filter out certain wavelengths of light and prevent the transfer of heat.”
The article also states, “According to a study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, highly insulated windows save about six kilowatt hours of energy a day. Over the course of a year, that’s about 1.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide saved — equivalent to emissions from a cross-country road trip in an average car.”
Contractor directory for qualified tinters
Staffing has been an issue this year. Some tint businesses having to reduce staff hours or lay off staff, while others have hired new tinters or increased work hours. If you need tinters on a contract or temporary basis, WFAANZ reminds members of the online contractor directory of tinters available for contract work. It can be accessed through the Member’s Only portal in the WFAANZ website. If you’re a member and need your login details, please email email@example.com.
PART 1: The Viral Effect – survey explores impact of COVID-19 on the Australian window film industry
To take the pulse of the Aussie window film industry, WFAANZ released the COVID-19 Aussie Tinter Survey earlier this month. The survey results highlight how the pandemic affected different installers differently.
As is always the case with the Aussie tint industry, there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer because each business is so unique. Please keep this in mind when reviewing responses, as respondents included flat glass tinters, flat glass plus auto tinters, and just auto tinters.
Massive thanks to the 105 participants. Your answers enable us to identify the varied ramifications of the pandemic, which will inform on the strategy we put in place to support the industry going forward.
One of the hardest hit segments has been automotive film. Over half of respondents, 54.35%, selected auto film as a part of their business which suffered a COVID-related downturn. By all accounts, the marked decline in car sales is to blame.
In the first week of May, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries reported that new vehicle sales across Australia had plunged by a record 48.5% in April (compared with the same month a year ago). Victoria experienced the biggest slump, with new vehicle sales in April crashing by 53%. Auto tinters with a relationship with car dealers were affected by this downturn, one citing his sales were still down 60 – 70% because car sales had flatlined.
Residential film was also impacted in some businesses, with 60.87% of respondents indicating a recent downturn in sales.
In response to the general question – has COVID affected your sales of window film – 60.58% of respondents said it had a negative effect, a quarter (25.96%) of respondents said it hadn’t affected sales at all, and 13.47% have actually experienced an increase in sales. Again, the take out is that the COVID crisis hit everyone differently, depending on where they operate, the services they offer, their business model, etc.
When asked if there had been a change in the type of window film enquiries, the answers were equally varied. There were 71 respondents to that question, of which two indicated it was not applicable and 32 said the type of enquiry had not changed. There were 37 respondents who said yes. Of those 37, 23 said home tinting enquiries were up because people were spending more time at home, nine cited an increase in glare, heat and privacy enquiries, and two each listed a spike in Low E, commercial or auto requests respectively.
The results of the JobKeeper question were more definitive. 68.42% of respondents had registered for JobKeeper as the tint business owner, 33.68% had registered one or more of their tinters and 28.42% had registered office staff.
The industry was near split when it came to the statement: “As COVID 19 restrictions begin to ease, my business sales of window film are returning to normal.”, with 53.33% agreeing and 42.86% disagreeing.
Regarding the instigation of COVID-19 business policy, changed disinfection protocols were by far the most prolific, with 69.07% of respondents making disinfection improvements in the workshop and 67.01% while on site or in their customer’s vehicle. Over a third of respondents have a COVID-19 policy in place, promoted on the website, Facebook, etc. 14.43% of respondents wore a mask while quoting or installing film, and 11.34% wore gloves. 19 respondents reduced prices and 7 increased prices.
The complete WFAANZ 2020 COVID-19 Survey Report will be avilable next week. If you’re interested in receiving a copy please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PART 2: Marketing window film in the new world
The marketing golden rule is to stay on the front foot of a crisis. To achieve this you must be transparent, proactive and most importantly, agile. Just because you’ve done something the same way for years doesn’t mean it can’t be improved or tweaked to suit the current climate. Adapting to the changing needs and expectations of your customers is the best way to stay successful during this COVID-impacted time.
There are two questions you should ask right now when marketing your tint business. Have the behaviours and attitudes of your customers changed? How can you change in response to those shifts?
Here we look at some of the predicted trends, then relate those learnings back to running a tint business with some marketing thought-starters.
More people at home has led to a boom in computer usage, TV/streaming/entertainment consumption, iPad and laptop sales, etc. Globally, Netflix subscriber numbers are up by 22.5% in the first quarter of the year compared to the year prior. In response, flat glass tinters can focus on the glare reduction benefits of window film, so screens can be enjoyed without squinting or to enable different furniture configurations. Promote any such jobs on socials or your website. Do you have an email database of past customers? You can send them an e-flyer detailing film’s ability to reduce glare, as many don’t know this is a benefit.
Growing interest in supporting local small businesses means you should ensure your materials highlight how long you’ve serviced the area, how long you’ve lived in the area, do you sponsor any local sport teams, won any local awards, etc. You could run a sales promotion for houses in your local area. It has also make local newspapers more open to supporting local business, so now might be a great time to send the editor an email, offering yourself or your business as a case study demonstrating how local businesses have adapted to the crisis. Can you create a database of offices in your area and offer your services at ‘mates rates’ to show support for fellow local businesses?
Working from home has seen an increase in safety and security concerns. Start selling these benefits of film through all available channels. Are there any local security system businesses you could run a cross promotion with, or agree to promote each other’s businesses through referrals?
Increased online activity means you should review your online presence right now to ensure you’re selling your business accurately and effectively – checking out a business’ website before calling was already becoming normal consumer behaviour, and the pandemic exacerbated the trend. If you haven’t already, LIKE the WFAANZ Facebook page so you can get easy, free, weekly content for your socials. Have you listed your business on all free online directories that connect businesses with consumers like homeimprovement2day? Remember the more links and mentions your business has online, the better the SEO (which basically means your business gets higher up the list in a Google search).
The desire for a more contactless trade experience greatly affects tinters. Can you quote residential and commercial jobs remotely? Can you work outside normal hours when the site is less populated? Can you ask your customer to move all objects/furniture that could impede your access to the window/s prior to your arrival or dropping off their vehicle?
Consumer expectations regarding cleanliness is another one to consider. Remember that WFAANZ has produced COVID-19 guidelines to give you some ideas, and recommends the promotion of this so your customers feel comfortable they’re in safe, sanitized hands when you’re in their home or vehicle. Email email@example.com to request a copy.
Common email sign-offs once considered polite like ‘All the best’ or ‘Regards’ could be interpreted as being detached during the pandemic. Cheerful sign-offs like ‘Hope you’re having a great week!’ were tone-deaf. The balancing act was between acknowledging the pandemic and overdoing it. Simple sign offs like ‘Sending thoughts of health’ or ‘Take care’ struck a better chord. COVID highlighted the importance of always considering the tone and context of your business communications.
Office fitout and design companies have had to pivot on a dime when it comes to configuring offices in line with current restrictions. Expect a continued rise in the installation of glass or Perspex partitions in open plan offices. Are there any local companies you can approach to create a joint promotional campaign, whereby you fit safety film or antimicrobial film to the partition as part of a package deal?
Is it safe to use anti-bacterial slip on solution in installing film? Does it affect the molecular structure and lifetime of the film?
The requisite is for the slip solution to be pH neutral. Johnsons Baby Shampoo was popular in the past as it is pH neutral. It should be noted, however, there have been instances of low adhesion of certain security films with this detergent, so the advice is to steer away from it – even if you’re not installing a security film.
Most detergents contain various grease cutting agents that can reduce the effectiveness of film adhesives and shorten their life. That’s why the recommendation is to use the film manufacturer’s nominated product.
Does WFAANZ have figures or data in relation to the UV reduction when applying window tint to vehicles? Are there any test result from automotive window tinters that specifically show the before and after test results of a Make & Model UV light penetration vs the same vehicle with window tint?
Window film manufacturing plants use spectrophotometer laboratory machines to test the actual transmission and reflection of energy at wavelengths across the solar spectrum, including the UV range. There are international standards around how to do the testing and the test results can be submitted to the International Glazing Database, where it is open for peer review and challenge.
As an example of whether films are effective in the UV range WFAANZ can provide this data, taken from LBNL software Optics, using the IGDB. It is reviewed and bona fide data. Anyone is free to download the free software and check themselves. Search for “LBNL Optics software”.
This example regards a simple clear film, which would be considered the simplest of auto films as it is not even tinted. Note that all auto films would have similar UV rejection, as UV inhibiting molecules are included in the film construction as exposure to UV will destroy the polyester of the film. Basically, manufacturers need to stop the UV even just for the sake of the film’s durability.
You will note the UV transmission in the UV range 300 to 380nm is very low, typically less than 1%, and overall the average UV rejection is over 99%.
Here is also a fact sheet entitled ‘Understanding heat rejection’, outlining WFAANZ stance on the way manufacturers accurately report and promote the energy rejection of films – demonstrating our reliance on the IGDB as a credible source of independently verified data.
As to the second question regarding before and after test results, such data would be of little use. Hand held light meters can’t test the whole spectrum and would only test a single or limited number of UV wavelengths. The test would require the car glass to be tested in a spectrophotometer, which isn’t possible.
As some tinters have had a tough few months due to the coronavirus, WFAANZ is changing its membership invoicing this year. Instead of membership renewals being sent on July 1, they will be sent September 1. We hope those extra two months are enough to help you get things back on track. Members can always call Deb on 02 9160 4736 to discuss your situation. We’re always here to help.
Words from new member Robert Saunders, Reef City Tinting
“A little about myself and my business, I’m a 30 year old single dad to two daughters and have been in the tint industry for approximately 12 years, from fulltime to casual whilst working FIFO in mines. I took the leap just on 2 years ago to open my own business as a way for me to permanently get out of the FIFO work and it has been the best decision I have made both personally and financially.
My business is located in Gladstone QLD, with a population of around 30 thousand people so word of mouth and reputation here is everything to us and feel that becoming a member of WFAANZ will help our business improve our already great reputation, and also give us a competitive advantage over the other businesses in the area.”
Warm welcome to our new and returning members
- Reef City Tinting, QLD
- Sam’s Window Tinting, VIC
- Cooloola Window Tinting, QLD
- Southern Cross Window Tinting, VIC
- HPWF, WA
- Graphic Film & Tinting, NSW
Auto tinters wanted in Darwin
Autocare NT is urgently looking for an automotive window tinter to join the team in Darwin, on a short contract or full time basis. They are happy to accommodate interstate tinters with two-week quarantine accommodation. Applicants can call Kevin on 08 8981 2277 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. More details can be found here.
A reminder that WFAANZ produces 35% VLT cards, available for purchase through the secretariat. The size of a business card, they’re a quick and easy way to check if a vehicle’s window is above or below 35% VLT.
The cards are sold to tinters, police departments and automotive product retailers around the country – as well as to tinters. Members enjoy a significantly reduced rate.
Download an order form here.