Glaziers Speak Out: Is "Full Service" Back in Fashion?

For some companies, being "full service" has been the cornerstone of their business from day one. For others, specializing in various segments of the glass industry was the direction of choice and/or necessity. As margins tighten across the board and companies look for their competitive edge, many seem to be finding it by diversifying their operations and offering customers a wide range of products and services in flat, automotive and specialty glass. Full service is back bringing with it bigger and better returns.

"We are seeing a movement where full service glass is back in fashion," says Bill Harding, founder of Vision Glass, a full service glass retailer in Springfield, Ill. "There was a time when there seemed to be a mass exodus in the full service market to specialize in just one area of the industry. Today, the margins are getting so tight in the auto glass realm that companies traditionally specializing in auto glass are either adding new service areas or bringing back services [they had] dropped to get back into the full-service realm to help increase market share and boost profits."

Diamond Glass Companies in Kingston, Pa., is such an example.

Long known as Diamond Triumph Auto Glass, Inc., a provider of automotive glass replacement and repair service [with more 240 company owned automotive auto glass centers, 1,000 mobile installation vehicles and three distribution centers in 43 states] the company is gradually diversifying back into the flat glass segment of the market.

Founded in 1923 [as Diamond Glass Works], Diamond Glass' roots in the industry trace back to flat glass. With the advent of the automobile and as demand in this segment grew, Diamond eventually discontinued all flat glass operations.

"The decision to transition back into the flat glass arena is a progressive step in our growth," explains Paul O'Malley, marketing manager for Diamond Glass Co. "We try to change with the times to best meet the needs of our customers. We feel the market is ready for additional growth. Our name change and recent acquisitions mark the beginnings of our movement back into the flat glass market. We think this direction just makes good sense for our company at this time."

Moss Glass in Anderson, Ind., recently brought back auto glass service and installation to its operation. "Auto glass was an integral component of the company for many years," says new owner Jamison Carrier. "It was discontinued about 15 years ago. The timing and demand has brought about our reintroducing it into our realm of quality glass services.

"Moss Glass has a loyal following and our name has become synonymous with anything that has to do with glass in our community," continues Carrier. "We have been turning customers away who are looking for quality auto glass services. While margins are not that great right now in this segment, it's been a nice addition and provides a quick turn around in cash flow. It's something our customers want and there's no reason why we can't give it to them. We haven't been aggressive in marketing this service right now, however, we plan to make it well known that auto glass is back at Moss Glass in 2007."

DeGuelle Glass Company in Huntington Beach, Calif., began offering a full range of quality glass services in 1962. During its more than four decades in operation, the company has grown in size and scope. Today, DeGuelle Glass's owner, Barbara Haynes, says she still considers the company to be in the realm of "full service," although auto glass installation and service was discontinued more than 30 years ago. "We have no intention of bringing this segment back because we provide such a diversity of products and services within the other specialty areas of our operation."

"Diversity is truly the key to success in this business," notes Haynes. "We are always on the look out for new products to increase our offerings to best meet the needs of our customers. Most recently, we have added higher-end products, glass sinks, screens and antique mirrors to name a few. Anytime you can kick anything you do up a notch or two is good for business."

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