Unfazed: Film Shops Thrive Through the Slow SeasonDecember 15th, 2021 by Chris Collier
The film industry finds itself in the thick of slow season, a period packed with cooler temperatures, varying demand and overall financial uncertainty. Which strategies and services are shops leaning on this fall? WINDOW FILM magazine caught up with owners in Georgia, Tennessee, Maryland, New Mexico and Colorado for a countrywide check-in.
“We have to be creative as business owners,” says Lawrence Williams Jr., owner of Tint Masters Window Tinting in Owings, Md. “If you’re just a window tinting company, I can see it [being] a little harder for you to make it through seasons like this. But you have to be willing to step outside the box.”
Williams entered the industry in 2004 and discovered ways to keep busy as a shop manager during business days that dragged. “The one thing that peaked outside of window tint for us in the cold months was remote starts and car-seat heaters,” Williams says. “That is probably the easiest money you can make.”
Chuck Cochran, owner of Eastcoast Motorsports in St. Marys, Ga., has been in the industry for 30 years. He recently hired a new employee in preparation for the busy season.
“Right now is the time that we use to beautify the shop, get pressure-washing done, change the showroom, wipe everything down and take a look at our presence so we don’t have to try to do that when we’re busy,” Cochran says.
What’s the key to Eastcoast Motorsports’ slow-season success? Cochran says it came down to focusing on personable outreach in 2018.
“When I quit advertising, we were doing around $800,000 a year in sales,” Cochran says. “Since then, we average $1.2 to $1.4 million every year. . . . We started concentrating more on our personal relationships with our customers, giving them a better experience.”
That experience is enhanced by a zero-discount policy that allows Cochran to hone in on worthwhile investments.
“If I give away 10% of my business on a million dollars in sales, that’s $100,000 gone,” Cochran adds. “I can take that $100,000, and I can buy better signage, [purchase] better rugs, have nicer windows, have better paint and make my facility cleaner. I can buy that new Keurig machine and a vending machine. I do those things with that money, and my customers see a direct appreciation value other than just saving them $10 or $20.”
Jan Milburn, owner of The Tint Shop in Parachute, Colo., opened his doors in August 2020, right before slow season. The initial crawl was manageable, but 2021’s pace began slowing dramatically in September.
“I’m down to doing a flat glass job—a business or a house—maybe once or twice a month,” Milburn says. “In the summer, I was doing one a week. I was doing 10 cars a week in the summer. Right now, I’m down to maybe five cars per month.”
Ceramic coatings, residential projects and persistence have kept the new owner pushing forward during an unpredictable second year.
“I’ve gone through my Tint-Wiz list and [touched base with] customers I did work for,” Milburn says. “Put proposals in that never got approved or jobs that I never did—follow up on them, see if they’re interested and if there is anything I can do better.”
Milburn plans to incorporate paint protection film (PPF), vinyl wraps, signage and graphics in 2022 to diversify and fortify service offerings. Gilbert Quesada, owner of All Star Glass in Bosque Farms, N.M., focuses on an appealing presentation to ensure a steady flow of customers.
“I’m hanging banners from my truck, parking my truck by the road and constantly trying to draw up some type of attraction [and] commotion to where it looks like we always have cars here,” Quesada says. “Make it seem like you’re not just going home; make it look like you’re busy.”
Business is generated by hitting the pavement and making conversation for some owners. Cory Case, owner of Case’s Tinting in Morristown, Tenn., says, “Carry business cards. If you see a car that doesn’t have tint on it, go up and introduce yourself because I’ve got a lot of business from doing that. If the back is ugly and bubbled up, say, ‘I’ve got a lifetime-warrantied film. This will never happen to your car if you let me tint it.’”