Exhibitors Assess the U.S. Market
September 13, 2011

By Charles Cumpston

Selling into the U.S. architectural glass market has long been a tradition of foreign companies. At this year’s show in Atlanta, the Italian Pavilion is the only organized foreign pavilion. The other large foreign presence on the floor is the Chinese exhibitors.

The number of foreign exhibitors seemed smaller than in the recent past, understandable given the state of the U.S. industry.

Dan De Gorter Inc., the Monroe, N.C.-based rep firm, described the market as “steady.” “We believe the worst is over. The Administration is pushing hard, but until we get construction back I don’t see us improving. I see us holding our ground,” he stated. “Right now there is nothing propelling the market forward. The economy has to improve and the value of the dollar has to improve. It’s hard for foreign companies. The dollar has fluxuated against the euro, with movement up and down. We try to sell a quality product with quality service. If you want a quality product, you’ve got to spend the money,” he added.

Cinzia Schiatti, foreign sales for Schiatti Angelo, the Italian manufacturer, said that to her the U.S. market is much like the European market. “Sometimes it shows improvement, but it is still a difficult market.” On the other hand, she points out that while the Far East, particularly China, has been hit by the same economic conditions as the rest of the world it is still showing more growth than the U.S. and Europe. “Overall, we feel like there are good prospects and we look forward to a better future,” she states.

Renata Gaffo, who heads up both GIMAV, the Italian machinery manufacturers association, and Vitrum, its annual show which follows on the heels of the Atlanta show on September 26-29 in Milan, points out that the U.S. market is still an important market for Italian suppliers, as it has been traditionally. “For the last couple of years it has been weak,” she states, “but we have faith in this market and we expect I to come back. So we are here.”

The markets around the world are going up and down, she explains. “A market will be going up and stop. So it makes it hard for companies to make medium and long-range plans for their sales, marketing and production. They have to look at the markets on a day-to-day basis. The members of GIMAV re export driven and so we follow the markets to respond to customers’ requirements,” she states.

The Vitrum head points out that things look better for the show than expected. “It will be similar to the last time two years ago, which is good given the global economic conditions. We are expecting good international for the show and just need something to get our global industry going,” she says.

Some of the less traditional areas of the architectural market have been faring better. Giulio Vitelli, export area manager for Italian machinery manufacturer Forel, says that his company has been growing in the U.S. in the last year and a half because of the environmental issues which has been more important: double glazing for thermal efficiency. “Also solar glass has been good with government encouragement,” he points out. “There is also a need for higher performances in the products used for energy efficiency and so we spend more in research and development to develop better products to meet our customers’ needs. The machines have to be able to make units with flexible spacers, work with different gases, and thicker glass. Also edge processing is taking over and customers need machines that can handle the new needs of the solar industry such as totally automatic rounded glass units.” He said that his company will be introducing some new machinery at Vitrum, and talking about “some of the things we’re doing for existing customers. One of which is in the U.S.

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