by Tara Taffera
Both attendees and exhibitors of Glass Forum 98, held in Manchester, NH, March 27-28, agreed that this year's show was a success. The numbers seem to speak for themselves: approximately 800 people attended Glass Forum 98, a crowd that show organizers say was almost double last year's figures. Event co-sponsors included the Maine Glass Dealers Association, the Glass Association of New Hampshire, and USGlass magazine, a first-time sponsor.
Glass Forum seminar topics catered to various segments of the industry. Attendees were able to choose from a variety of sessions including The Changing Dynamics of the Auto Glass Interface; Customer Service Skills; a Review of Architectural Glass; and Windshield Repair and Replacement Demonstrations.
According to attendees, one of the biggest draws to Glass Forum was the NAGS® seminar, presented by NAGS product data manager Bud Oliver. Attendees such as Michael Gilbert of Rice Glass in Portland, ME, said the NAGS session was one of the main reasons he attended the show. However, Gilbert said the seminar didn't prove worthwhile for him. "The changes are still so vague," said Gilbert. "No one has a firm grasp on what the changes will be."
Oliver said the new NAGS pricing attempts to fix problems such as pricing, problem parts and labor time differences. "We will re-value to provide a NAGS price that more closely predicts a fair aftermarket dealer price," said Oliver.
Oliver stressed that installation shops should be charging for labor. "It's ridiculous to think labor is free," said Oliver. He added that when he tells insurance companies this, they reply that they will pay for labor if the "smoke and mirrors" are taken out of glass prices. "All we're trying to do is put out accurate, realistic pricing information," said Oliver. "Insurance companies know they cannot say 74 percent off anymore. This will help level the playing field."
Although some NAGS seminar attendees said the session was vague and confusing, Barbara Gibbins of Spa Glass in Saratoga Springs, NY, said attendees were expecting too much from Oliver. "His job is to provide us with information, but it's up to us to negotiate our own pricing," she said. Roxanne Lavoie of Custom Glass in Hooksett, NH, added that although she is skeptical of the new structure, she appreciates NAGS giving technicians one year's notice.
When attendees weren't in a seminar, they were roaming the exhibit hall talking to individuals representing more than 60 companies. Whether the intent was to provide information, conduct demonstrations or showcase particular products, each exhibitor seemed to have different reasons for being part of Glass Forum. "We're here to thank our customers for what they've done for us," said Gilbert Gutierrez of Equalizer Industries in Round Rock, TX.
Kathy Scherer of Karas & Karas in Boston, MA, said the company's reason for exhibiting at Glass Forum is not to gain new customers. "We're here because it is important for us to be visibly present in the industry," said Scherer. "I've had the opportunity to meet some of our customers that I've never met before."
Alfie Ogston of Crystal Glass in Calgary, Alberta, said he had great success at the show selling the company's Extractor product, a windshield removal tool. "I brought 25 tools with me and I only have four left," said Ogston. "We did a demonstration and it only took two minutes to remove the windshield. People were amazed at how quick it came out," he said.
Glass Forum was a great way for individuals to "shop around" for different products. Gibbins said Spa Glass is planning to purchase a computer program, so attending the event was a great way for her to learn about the different software programs available. After watching demonstrations on four different software packages, Gibbins said she is pretty sure she knows what package she will purchase.
Many exhibitors said Saturday booth traffic was much higher than Friday. Some offered suggestions on how to improve next year's show. Gutierrez recommends changing exhibit hours to take place in the late afternoon or evening. "This would allow people who work on Friday time to get to the show before it ends." Dan DeGorter of DeGorter Inc. in Charlotte, NC, recommends holding seminars at different times than exhibit hours. However, Scherer differs from the majority. She said she received a great deal of booth visitors on Friday.
"Approximately 800 people, most of whom traveled from three sparsely populated states, attended Glass Forum '98," said John Lafreniere of Lafreniere Glass, Lewiston, ME. "When you consider that the national events draw nearly 6,000, and that another major event was to be held in Massachusetts just five months later, the attendance was pretty pleasing."
Although some spoke of low attendance on Friday, many exhibitors said they noticed attendance increases and overall improvements in the show consistent with the event's progression in recent years. "I've been coming here for the past 12 to 15 years when Glass Forum began as a tabletop show. It's amazing to see how much the show has grown," said Mark Daniels of BTB Tools in Candia, NH. Jud Tower of New England Door Closers in West Springfield, MA, also said each year he notices changes. "I've been to every Glass Forum in the past 15 years and I noticed a major improvement this year."
One factor cited, although small, seemed to make a huge difference for exhibitors: the placement of carpet in the exhibit hall, an amenity not present in previous shows. The event that brought Glass Forum to a close was an occurrence not present in previous yearsthe belt sander races. This event, in which participants raced belt sanders along a track, proved to be a great success. Many attendees gathered around the track to witness Queen City Glass and Mirror of Manchester, NH, take first prize.
Glass Forum returns to Manchester on January 22 and 23, 1999.USG Tara Taffera is the assistant editor of USGlass magazine.
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