Tinters in N.Y. are Struggling with Sales, and PPF May Be the Solution

By Katherine Coig

“Learning to install a paint protection film (PPF). That’s what it’s come down to,” says Sergio Camacho, owner of Supreme Tint in Staten Island, N.Y. He is just one of the tinters whose business has been deeply affected by the new inspection law in New York State. The state had also had a requirement of 70 percent VLT or greater, but as of January 1, 2017, every vehicle’s tint levels must be measured during its annual state inspection test. If the vehicle doesn’t meet the state’s requirement, it won’t pass inspection. With a VLT requirement as high as 70 percent, some tinters are struggling to maintain their sales volumes, or they’re anticipating a drop in the future after the surge in tint removal has been settled. And in order to keep their livelihood, some are delving into the PPF market, while others are trying their hand at it for the first time.

What It Comes Down To

The law has only been in effect for a few months now, so revenue hasn’t experienced an overwhelming decline since tint removal is still a widely requested service. But, installers are preparing for the inevitable. “I haven’t seen a huge drop in revenue yet,” says Chis Marrero, owner of Chris Breezy Customs in Larchmont, N.Y., “but I do foresee it because tinting made up about 40 percent of my business.” With an anticipated deficit that large, Marrero is concerned about where his shop’s future is headed. “As a small business, with about a handful of employees and overhead expenses, this is going to represent a big loss for me over the long run,” he explains.

And he’s not alone. Camacho says he’s experiencing the same deficit in sales. “Business went down by about 50 to 60 percent, of my customer base that is,” he says. “So now I’m trying to figure out what else I can do to help make up for these losses. But I’ve signed up for [PPF] training, and I’m going to classes to learn how to install PPF by myself.”

Camacho mentions that his shop currently offers PPF, but he has always contracted someone from outside to do the installation. However, with less revenue coming in from conventional film, paying for an extra set of hands is an expenditure some can’t continue to afford. “I have to give my guys two days off now to try and save money,” he explains. “I don’t know if I’m going to last.”

Money Means Everything

With doubt surrounding the future of their businesses, both Camacho and Marrero are looking into ways to help increase their PPF sales. It’s a tough sell that comes with an expensive price tag, and that price includes installers hoping their investment in the product pays off in the end.

That’s Camacho’s biggest concern, especially when the outcome is unknown. “The only problem that I’ll really have is the price of the product, because the initial investment is going to be more expensive than what I’m used to paying for tint.”

He adds that since times are only going to get harder, he’s not sure if spending more on PPF will be money well spent based on previous interactions with prospective customers. “I had a lot of customers ask me about [PPF], and I had a subcontractor that was doing the installations,” he continues. It’s a relatively expensive product with merits that need to be sold, he adds.

Marketing Methods

Marketing is also a huge part of successfully selling PPF. Though product awareness is increasing, it’s not as widely known as tint is to the general population since it doesn’t offer the same obvious aesthetic appeal.

Marrero says his PPF sales have seen an uptick, though he says that’s mainly due to his sales approach. “I’ve ramped up my specials on PPF installations, hoping to buffer the loss  of tinting jobs,” he explains. “And so far, it’s worked,” he says. “But, like I said, that’s only because I’ve been actively promoting it.”

He, too, notes that it’s a hard product to sell given its expense, but he’s trying to find ways to make it work for his business by offering promotions. “You know, it’s easy to lower prices to get sales, but the challenge is finding reliable  marketing techniques that will still bring in a decent profit.”

For advice on how to market PPF, Marrero says he’s had success by using traditional methods, but they’re still a work in progress, he confesses. “I’m still working to find the right techniques for each service, but these have been working for me so far: Instagram, Yelp, Groupon and brochures,” he says.

Though he hasn’t started marketing PPF yet, Camacho plans to use what has always worked for his business—Craigslist, though he seems to still have some reservations. “I’ve been established for years, and all of my marketing is word-of-mouth. So now I just feel stuck,” he explains. “But what has helped me a lot in the past is Craigslist. I had 5,490 views of my site in a month, so my plan is to use it to advertise for PPF.”

Going For It

Though times are tough in New York right now, Marrero is remaining optimistic. His shop’s services are pretty diversified, and he’s well aware that others in this situation aren’t as fortunate as he is to have other products to rely on.

And though PPF wasn’t his company’s sole profit-pusher, he knows it’s going to have to become one to make up for the drop in tint sales. “If I could give advice to others tinters, I’d tell them to push out in every direction, especially PPF,” Marrero says.

For those who don’t have experience in this segment, he offers advice based on experience. “Take a class, and definitely learn the ins and outs of the business,” he says. “Start focusing on it to make up for the loss of auto tints. I definitely suggest taking classes to get the knowledge you need.”

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