Volume 15, Issue 2 - March/April 2013
Top Auto Glass Retailers
This has auto glass companies reporting cautious optimism in 2013. However, no one is popping the champagne cork just yet. This month, AGRR publishes its first-ever list of Top Auto Glass Retailers. The rankings are primarily based on our estimates of annual retail sales. If a company did not report this information, AGRR provided an estimate based on its best efforts. While many companies on our list provided the information herein, others did not.
The list includes auto glass retailers except for franchisors and their franchisees. No Glass Doctor or Novus companies are included. In cases where companies offer services in addition to auto glass, such as collision and glass companies, we estimated to include just their retail auto glass sales. Repair-only companies are not included here, nor are Coast to Coast, DNS or its successors as a complex ownership structure has proved too difficult to assess.
If you would like to be included on the list next year or comment please email Jenna Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Estimated at $700 Million or More
Estimated at $30-$50 Million
Guardian Auto Glass LLC
Gerber Collision & Glass/ The Boyd Group
Estimated at $20-$30 Million
ABRA Auto Body
All Star Glass Inc.
Million Belle Tire – Auto Glass
Cascade Autoglass Inc.
Auto Glass Fitters Inc.
Arrow Auto Glass
City Auto Glass Inc.
Jack Morris Auto Glass
Advanced Auto Glass Inc.
Ray Sands Auto Glass
Royal Glass Company Inc.
Turner’s Custom Auto Glass
Banner Glass Inc.
Estimated at $3-$4.99 Million
Ace Auto Glass Inc.
Glass Services LLC
Midtown Glass Company LLC
AAA Glass Service Center Inc.
Apple Glass Company
Fast Glass (dba in California Under Alan’s Fast Glass)
Stockton Auto Glass
American Auto & Plate Glass
C-Auto Glass Inc.
Acme Glass and Mirror Co. Inc.
Best Glass Company Inc.
Premium Auto Glass Inc.
Tri State Glass Company Inc.
Louis Auto Glass Inc.
Estimated at $2-$3.99 Million
Butler’s Glass Service
American Mobile Glass of N.J. Inc.
Indianhead Glass Inc.
Jones Paint and Glass
National Auto Glass & Mirror Inc.
Ever-Ready Glass of Tucson LLC
Rockford Auto Glass Inc.
Steben’s Motor Auto Body Inc.
Premier Auto Glass
Smith Auto Service Inc.
Southeastern Auto Glass
Lone Star Glass Inc.
Santa Fe Glass Co. Inc.
Fenkell Automotive Services Ltd.
Schraufnagel Auto Glass
Advanced Auto Glass Systems
Intermountain Auto Glass
Jack’s Glass Inc.
K & K Glass Inc.
Martin Glass Company
Vision Glass Inc.
Tiny & Sons Glass Co.
Cassady & Self Glass Co Inc.
Though the government claims the recession is over, many in the country are still dealing with the ramifications of the market fallout of 2008. From bankers to investors to a variety of retailers and others, the economic turmoil of the past few years has rippled out into almost every business sector, including auto glass repair and replacement companies.
For an industry that includes many local, some regional and a few national players, which have been evolving and feeling the pinch of ever more competitive pricing for some time, the economic uncertainty has not helped.
Indeed, many regional companies are selling out to larger competitors.
Assessing the Market: A Smaller Pie
“Fortunate for us, we were slightly up over January 2012. From all indications 2013 will be a great test for the independent glass companies, especially if the price of gasoline continues to rise. Mobile service is a big part of our business and continues to grow every year. Everybody in the industry knows that weather and travel produce glass breakage, so with the 1 ½ inches of snow and temperatures plummeting in the low 20s, February should make for a respectable month,” he said.
“Weather is critical, whether it be rain, snow, ice, heavy frost or hail. Fortunate for us we have eight locations in South Carolina and we are able to move technicians around to accommodate the demands we might incur from damaging weather. Working overtime or weekends is another option,” Lanter noted.
Describing the current market environment, Tom Feeney, Safelite’s president and chief executive officer, said, “We started 2013 very cautiously as we did not expect much of an upturn in the industry this year. The last few years have been hit hard by lack of weather, lack of consumer confidence, high gas prices and decreased miles driven. That makes the industry atmosphere tense—everyone is fighting to keep their share of the pie, but the pie is getting smaller.
“That being said, we have been pleased with the initial results so far this year, thanks to our continued investment in our business such as our national advertising strategy and technology enhancements,” he highlighted.
Offering his viewpoint on industry changes, David Warren of Apple Glass Co., in Houston explained, “I think the auto glass business is going through somewhat of an evolution. We’ve been a regional player in Texas. We normally operate out of bigger stores. We run 20 trucks out of one location and 10 trucks out of another.
“The auto glass business is changing with the influence of networks,” he continued.
Warren said some of the larger competitors are able to maintain lower operational costs, which ultimately makes their price points very competitive. It can be more difficult for the local or regional operator to keep healthy profit margins.
While safety is a top priority, in the cash paying consumers’ eyes, windshield replacement has become much more of a commodity than a service, he noted. Consumers who are paying out-of-pocket are looking for the best possible price without questioning the service as much.
Selling a Safe Service with a Smile
“Our business is transitioning with customer service people who answer the phones. For years they were order-takers. Today, they are inside salespeople. Customers have many options and they call around. Our people have to communicate our value. This is more so than they ever have before,” he explained.
And safety remains a topmost priority. Just as reports of horsemeat hidden in burgers are surfacing on the news causing consumers to reel with horror, so, too, are there some operators in the AGRR business who are, perhaps, not paying as close attention as they should to safety issues. Longtime executives pointed out that the auto glass business has few barriers to entry.
“When sales are reduced, we are spending more,” Morris stressed. “Expenses are increasing. We’re being proactive to improve our value statement to the customer. We’re using one-hour urethanes for safety. We have increased our inventory.
“Our technicians have more tools and more expensive tools. Both our techs and customer service reps are receiving more training. A new phone system has also been installed. All of our shops are tied together. We’re coming online with a new computer and software this year,” he said.
Spending more when business is tight just makes sense to Morris.
“The reason behind all of this is to bring a better value to the customer, so we’re giving our people more tools. Our techs will be carrying mobile devices so they can communicate directly with our software. We’re optimistic and we feel like we increase our value proposition to our customer,” he remarked.
Morris said the key is to sell safety. This is why despite a tough business environment, Jack Morris Auto Glass continues to invest in infrastructure, deploying mobile applications and bringing in more inventory in an effort to speed efficiency.
“By increasing efficiency, we can do more work with the same people and keep our price competitive,” he added.
Warren agreed, saying, “Legitimate businesses and have safety in mind. With some [fly-by-the-night operations,] this is not the case.”
He went on to describe that, “trying to sell someone a service can be difficult when people just want a price. They just want to know how much windshield is. Our service is worth the price.”
Lanter said his company, too, is ensuring it’s up on the latest technology.
“We are currently running Windows 7 and Windows Server 2003 Operating Systems with Mainstreet Glass Avenue auto glass software. We are totally electronic-only compliant with the auto glass industry utilizing EDI, Metryx, Direct Deposit, and online web services such as accounts payable/receivables and order entry.
Safelite’s Feeney said many shop owners take it upon themselves to uphold safety standards. Though some questions occasionally arise, he said for the most part, the industry takes care of their customers in a safe manner. It’s just not that bad.
“While there certainly are some unreliable techs, I think it’s important to give credit to shop owners who follow strict safety standards and to urethane providers who have been strong partners in providing safety guidelines,” Feeney pointed out.
Advertising Outlook and Looking to the Future
Apple Glass’s Warren said the online push is capturing more of his ad budget. While he used to invest more in traditional avenues, such as the Yellow Pages, he now has a person contracted to help with search-engine optimization and pay-per-click campaigns.
“When you do advertising, you’re trying to get them to call you. We used to do a lot of Yellow Pages advertising but print media is going south. We now do a lot of Internet marketing. We’ve also been doing more residential and some commercial glass as well. We’re getting more heavily into showers and vinyl windows, but our bread and butter is auto glass. A lot of our business comes from the Internet and we put a big stress on repeat business as well. Repeat customers are our biggest success stories for marketing. It costs a lot of money to get the phone to ring so when we get the opportunity to establish the relationship and the make problem go away, they’ll come back,” Warren said.
Meanwhile, over at Jack Morris Auto Glass, Morris explained his company’s take: “We’ve had a web presence for a long time. If you use the search engines, we’re going to be on the first page. We don’t use pay per click stuff. We do understand the importance of being found. In 2013, we’re going freshen up our web page. But we think as long as we’re on the first page in search, we’re in good shape.”
Down in South Carolina, Lanter said advertising is a huge and necessary expenditure.
“It is very important to get the most bang for your buck. The Yellow Pages are on their way out and social media is front and center. We are currently advertising utilizing radio, television, social media and website. We continue to think outside the box and have developed some of our own advertising methods which will remain anonymous. More and more of the population are going to the Web to shop, inquire, or locate a business to meet a current need. You better be out on the web or chances are the public will not find you,” Lanter explained.
As these four companies all predict a tougher business road ahead, all are looking for ways to shine and help their company’s service stand out.
Though Feeney didn’t delve into his company’s advertising techniques as much—Safelite has some strong contracts with insurers—he did say, “Some of the recent storms have resulted in an uptick in business.
“We’re not sure why 2011 was a record year, but our 2012 dropped back almost to 2009,” said Morris. “In our part of the country about every five years we do get some storms such as ice storms or heavy snows and some hail storm and this can help our business. But we really haven’t seen much of that in the last few years. What is driving the business here is the economy and rising deductibles. As the deductibles grow and economy is worse, including [fewer] miles driven, people are having disposable income available for glass or deductible. Hopefully there is some pent-up demand.”
Warren added that his “company is feeling the pinch on all sides.”
“I don’t know what it is in other parts of the country. Others I used to talk to have sold out. We’re looking to diversify, such as doing more auto upholstery. We’re trying to watch the road signs and pick up any business where we can,” he explained.
But ultimately it comes down to value. That appears to be the key to helping these companies maintain their financial footing.
“We’re optimistic and we feel like we increase our value proposition to our customer,” Morris highlighted.
Lanter concluded by saying, “The auto glass industry will continue to face many challenges in 2013 with insurance companies increasing the discount amounts on auto glass, a suffering economy, higher gas prices, increasing taxes and health care cost. We have two choices either increase or downsize the business to offset rising cost. To operate in today’s economy you must be extremely resourceful and productive without sacrificing customer service. Even though we face many challenges in the coming months I remain hopeful.”
Jenna Reed is the incoming editor of AGRR magazine. Connect with her on LinkedIn. “Like” AGRR magazine on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.