Thursday, October 2, 2008

Top 10 jolts in the glass industry

The financial shock waves emanating from Wall Street to Main Street had me remembering more than my Great Depression history classes. This year alone, the glass industry has weathered sizeable storms. Unlike David Letterman’s Top 10 list, mine is no laughing matter, but there is an upside.

  1. The decline of the housing market

  2. The corresponding credit and financial crisis

  3. The rise of energy costs

  4. The tapering of China’s influence

  5. AGC’s float and coating plant closures; intent to sell fabrication business by year-end

  6. PPG’s force majeure notice; sale of its automotive OEM and replacement glass services businesses

  7. Retail auto glass consolidations such as Belron’s purchase of Diamond Glass and Cindy Rowe Auto Glass

  8. Glass, metal and other price increases

  9. The specter of a glass shortage?

  10. The promise of “green” or sustainable glass products and building design

I didn’t list it, but there’s talk of a slow-down in the commercial market; no surprise to industry veterans who have experienced previous business cycles. Meanwhile, does anyone remember a time of such variation in glass price increases? The law of supply and demand—fewer domestic float tanks producing glass, prices up for imported glass—holds true.

Of course, economic downturns also bring new opportunities. Companies trim down, go on sale and focus on products for the future, like solar glass. As I write this, suppliers to the industry are setting up booths at GlassBuild America in Las Vegas. Solar glass is just one of many new products and services on display. The show must go on, sales will be made and nimble, innovative glass companies will prosper.

- By Nicole Harris, publisher, Glass Magazine

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