Decorative glass seminar offers valuable tips

Sahely Mukerji
October 8, 2008
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION

The third and final day of GlassBuild America featured a seminar on decorative glass, New Age of Trends in Decorative Glass: Options and Trends in the Market. Sixty-three industry professionals attended the seminar.

Steve Schiamara, national sales director, WorldGlass, Tampa, Fla., moderated a panel of four: Belinda Bennett, principal, Bennett Design Group, Houston; Randy Brooks, president, Gardner Glass Products, North Wilkesboro, N.C.; Stew Langer, founder and managing partner, UroGlass, Kansas City, Mo.; and Victor Trnavskis, president, NGI Designer Glass Inc., Concord, Ontario.

Bennett talked about how to work with commercial designers and encouraged attendees to become a member of the International Interior Design Association, Chicago. “Sponsor an event; open your showroom to events; and develop a continuing education unit program for designers,” she said. Commercial design is a pay-based industry, she reminded the attendees.

A showroom is a great way to anchor presence in a community, Bennett said. “Have correct lighting and layout space, and host events and fundraisers for the community.”
Ask questions to be part of the design community, Bennett said: “What kind of project? What codes apply? What is application? What performance issues? Budget goal? Time frame? LEED project goals?”

There are different design phases, Bennett said. In the “schematic phase, help set budget allowance; help select appropriate glass for the application,” she said. “In the design development phase, know your hardware; know lighting applications; know critical application consideration, weight, etc.; and look up technical specs for Section 08810 of commercial project manuals. In the construction phase, keep your product on the project; communicate with contractor; follow through with glass contractor; communicate lead times; and notify team of any money deposits. And always go the extra mile: help photograph space; help enter project into design competition.”

Brooks talked about industry landscape and trends. “We’re dealing with a lot of scarce resources: glass, capital, labor and demand,” he said. “This is one of the strangest periods in the glass industry. It’s changing the dynamics of the product we use. The operation strategies are changing. Unemployment’s taking over. As business gets difficult, it’s going to be harder to find the people you want. Demand’s dwindling too. We could all use more business.”

To cope with the hard times, Brooks encouraged participants to implement the Lean technology. “Invest in productivity—PC skills, smart phones, time management and communication skills; use technology to customize your product offerings,” he said.

In terms of trends, new home starts are dropping, but remodeling benefits is the silver lining,” Brooks said.

“Consumers want authenticity,” Brooks said. “They want products that are unique, handmade. They want to be able to brag about their products.” There is “snobization” in the market, he said. “The middle class is now looking for higher end experiences and brands. Day spas are common, so are $100 jeans paired with a $15 shirt from Target.” People are looking for cool places to hang out at, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble. “There are more bathrooms, larger, more color, people are using master baths as a statement,” he said. “Larger homes, more windows, starter castles and hummer houses are making an appearance.” As a result, niche stores are making resurgence, he said.

Manufacturers have to reinvent themselves to stay in the game, Brooks said. “Leverage existing capabilities; encourage customers to do the same; see new customers and avenues of distribution; capitalize on trends, such as, more glass being used to open up spaces, the role of glass in green building.”

Langer talked about stained glass and its varied use. “When I started 33 years ago, the principle components of our business were entry doors and residential homes,” he said. “Now we do railings, balustrades, interior doors, cabinet inserts, counter tops, back splashes, mirrors, tiles, integrated sinks, partition wall, reception halls, lighting, the list is endless.”

Trnavskis showed a series of photos that his business is involved in and re-iterated Bennett’s message. “You have to be professional to be successful in this industry,” he said. “Your products have to meet ASTM standards. You have to have testing to back everything up and you have to meet codes.”

The biggest trends in the decorative glass industry: Color; stone and glass coming together; and digital technology, Trnavskis said. “Glass and stone integration is a golden opportunity and offers lots of possibilities,” he said.