As financial news centers on the possibility of a slowdown, on the show floor at GlassBuild, some attendees might experience déjà vu from 2018. Tariffs and labor shortages also linger over this year’s show, but exhibitors tell [DWM] they aren’t as concerned this time around. Since the start of September, Filip Geeraert, president and CEO of Deceuninck North America, says his company has found the residential market to be stable.

“We usually see signs in how people are paying,” he says. “We haven’t seen that yet.”

Deceuninck’s CEO believes the residential market to be stable.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been ups and downs among his company’s customers, especially by region, but Geeraert says that some are up by 30%, while others are down by 10%, with the balance in Deceuninck’s favor. Looking ahead to 2020, he and other exhibitors at GlassBuild say they’re “cautiously optimistic.”

In preparation for the unknowns, “You have to find ways to differentiate yourself, through unique products,” Geeraert advises. His company is shifting its focus partly to the commercial sector, as are some of its customers.

“We’re looking for more on the commercial side as well,” says Aron Perelman, vice president of marketing and sales for window manufacturer Climate Solutions. But that shift doesn’t come without challenges. Climate Solutions has primarily focused on vinyl products, for residential dealers in and around Chicago. When it comes to high rises and other commercial projects, “People still want aluminum,” says Mario Nalepa, the company’s CEO and owner. But there a number of products and technologies at GlassBuild designed to lure commercial customers over to other materials—including laminates that give vinyl and fiberglass the appearance of aluminum, says David Harris, product manager, exterior films for American Renolit.

Woodgrain laminates are popular this year at GlassBuild

At last year’s show, laminates looked to follow the trend toward darkly colored doors and windows with greys and true blacks—touting advancements in heat-reflective technologies that make them better suited to materials like vinyl. This year, laminate makers are showing off more woodgrains, some of which also follow those darker trends. Combined with developments in vinyl welding technologies that eliminate excess material (in pinch welds), and materials such as aluminum (which can be mitered and joined), woodgrain laminates now offer a more genuine, real-wood appearance.

As a result, “Laminates have grown so much here in the U.S. among windows, now other segments are latching onto them,” says Marco Patermann, of Global Architectural Products and Services LLC, a representative for Continental.

For residential customers who choose vinyl windows with woodgrain laminates, fiberglass doors must be stained in order to achieve a matching finish. With the aluminum-wrapped doors in Continental’s booth, however, it’s possible to utilize the same laminates for an exact match, Patermann points out. Meanwhile, aluminum doors are also suited to the commercial sector, allowing for crossover.

Aluminum is just one material that dominated conversations in 2018, but for different reasons: ongoing tariffs. This year, the topic of tariffs has noticeably died down—possibly as manufacturers have learned to navigate those challenges. But representatives for at least one U.S.-based company say they’re holding onto the benefits of tariffs for as long as possible.

“Once the tariffs took effect, we had customers coming to us out of the woodwork—some that we’d been working on for a long time,” says Randy Lawrence with Lawrence Industries, a company that manufactures window hardware from domestically sourced materials. Even if tariffs on Chinese goods are reversed, Lawrence says he doesn’t expect those same customers to venture back to their original providers. Meanwhile, with the last recession, Lawrence says his company shifted its focus from new construction to remodeling, where demand remained steady—proving that tariffs and slowdowns can be subjective.

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