Update: Film Shops Push Forward During COVID

Film shops, like many other companies were impacted by the onset of COVID-19. PPF magazine checked in with a few industry businesses for an update on what changes they’ve made, how customers and installations have been and what they think the future will hold.

“We were shut down for seven weeks from March 23rd to May 11th, said Tommy Silva, CEO and president of T&T Tinting Specialists, Inc., located in Honolulu, Hawaii, then we were allowed to reopen with restrictions in place.”

However the business was forced to close again after it started seeing an uptick.

“Business slowly returned and ramped back up to around 85% of pre-COVID numbers, then we were mandated for a second shutdown from August 27th through September 23rd, Silva explained. “We just reopened on September 24th and are again following all of the CDC’s guidelines to stay open – business is busy from pent-up demand and the hot Hawaiian summer heat… Being forced to close in your busiest season really sucks!”

Big Changes

“We have added more structured protocols to [our] overall operations for cleanliness and peace of mind,” said Ty Sullivan, vice president of SPF Window Tinting located in Hattiesburg, Miss. “Most of those additions are common and simple, structured cleaning of office surfaces, available personal protective equipment (PPE) for our staff, and individual use vehicles for transportation to job sites.”

Silva said he followed his city’s safety recommendations. This included: closing its waiting rooms, closing customer restrooms, locking its showrooms and allowing entry by appointment only with customers being escorted in one at a time.

“[We] also purchased plexiglas and building shields to safely separate our customer service representatives (CSR) from our clients, printed and installed social distancing signs and decals for the entry area and floors to instruct clients on where to stand, purchased gallons of 90% alcohol and filled spray bottles for each employee at each work station to sanitize every high tough surface each time it is touched, bought zip lock bags and we use those for placing car keys in them after being sanitized, installed touchless payment terminals at the front desks,” added Silva. “Then we updated all of our policies and procedures to include all CDC required safety measures for face coverings, social distancing, daily temperature screenings at entry to work, employees to report any cases in their home environment immediately, then take test and quarantine until negative results are in.”

Business Uptick

“We have seen a substantial uptick on the automotive side of the business,” said Sullivan. “At times it has been difficult to manage due to the client basis wanting immediate service, but we have all worked hard and just made the best of what we can.”

Sullivan’s customers have also started adapting to the changes the company has in place. According to Sullivan there have not been any COVID-related complaints due to the implemented safety changes. “We have noticed that the customer base has been a bit more sensitive, but we can offset that with more time and engagement,” he added.

The uptick might be dwindling as fall is a notorious slow season for many window film businesses.

“We are still catching up from our backlog and we are currently about a week out at the moment,” said Chandler Goodman, center manager for Alta Mere, located in Oklahoma City, Okla.

He noted that the vast majority of his customers are ordering and scheduling their window film installations online. The company released the online scheduling option before the onset of COVID-19.

“Business has been good given the circumstances we are in,” said Goodman. “We are seeing our usual decline in the fall, which is why the wait is now a week instead of three. We have hovered around that wait time for about a month now and I believe we will be ‘caught up’ by the start of October.”

Looking Ahead

Silva said he can definitely see some of the changes and new procedures remaining throughout the fall and winter months. “We do not have any choice… if we are caught not following procedures we can be fined and forced to shut down again,” he said.

But Silva isn’t the only one who thinks the changes will last.

“All of the changes that we have made have been simple, and beneficial to the workplace environment,” said Sullivan. “I do not see us changing anything from how we are currently operating in the future.”

Outlook

“We definitely have been fortunate to stay busy during this pandemic, and it seems that it will be business as usual moving forward into the winter months,” said Goodman. “Hopefully we don’t see another [COVID] spike around flu season.”

“We feel overwhelmingly lucky to have a healthy and productive team with work for everyone,” said Sullivan. “In a time of extreme volatility, there is a lot to be thankful for with business being as close to normal as it could be.”

Although many window film businesses fared well during the summer season, others saw it as an obstacle.

“It’s been truly challenging, especially since our Mayor and Governor really don’t know what they are doing and have gone back and forth on so many mandates that it makes our heads spin,” said Silva. “Then there’s the lack of PPP loans and any kind of assistance for businesses to cover our rent and overhead during this second shutdown was really difficult and all of our pleas to the Mayor and Governor have not gotten a response.”