Diversifying Into Window Tint

Window tint application is a natural progression for wraps shops

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For a wraps shop looking to diversify its business, window tinting could be a natural fit. While there are some differences between wraps and window tinting, wraps shops already have most of the skills and techniques required to take on this new service, and they don’t have to stray far from their established customer base. In a tight marketplace, window tinting could be the service that differentiates one wraps shop from another.

When adding window tinting as a service, wraps shops are especially at an advantage because they already have the required floor space and clean environment, says Paul Loner, a template designer and wrapper for Tint Tek 20/20, a window tinting and wraps company in Shannonville, Ontario. For the best wrap installation, the area must be free of contaminates that could get trapped under the film for proper adhesion, and this requirement is no different when it comes to window tinting. In fact, given the translucency of window tint film, a clean environment is even more important for this application.

“When you’re wrapping, your environment is controlled, and you have personnel with some experience in keeping a clean area,” Loner says. “On a window tint, anything underneath the tint can be seen, so having a cleaner environment definitely makes a difference.”

With window tinting’s high profitability, making the transition is often appealing to wraps shops, as well, Loner says. Initially, the higher profit may not be realized until the wraps shop can expertly apply window tint film, but once the process is learned, the return is greater in comparison to wraps.  

“Like any new application, there’s a learning curve,” Loner says. “You will waste material in the beginning, but once you are proficient and able to accomplish a good window tint, you can make it happen pretty quickly, and people will pay you well to do a good job.”

In fact, for a wraps shop new to window tinting, hiring an expert in the field could be a worthwhile investment, says Jason Christopherson, store manager for Tintmasters, an automotive customization shop in Fargo, N.D. With an in-house window tinting expert, there is little – if any – downtime for taking on new jobs. While the expert trains other employees on proper window tinting techniques, he or she can also handle the jobs that come in the meantime.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to make a lot of silly mistakes in the beginning, but if you have an installer who knows what to do and can show other employees how install window tint, it will save a lot of money from the go,” Christopherson says.

While it does take some practice to master window tinting, the two processes are similar enough that a wraps shop should be able to easily make the transition. Window tint film, which is made of an inflexible polyester, requires soap and water to position the film and is then applied with a squeegee, says George C. Benoit, inventor of film-cutting system ComputerCut for SolarGard, an automotive window film manufacturer in San Diego. Meanwhile, wraps can be applied dry or wet.

The hardware and software required for window tinting are also similar to wraps, Loner says. There is software specifically designed for window tinting, but nearly every plotter on the market should be able to accommodate this application. Special blades are available for cutting window tint film while the rest of the installation tools cross over to wraps. Overall, Benoit estimates that the financial investment to add window tinting is under $500.

Even when it comes to finding a customer base, wraps shops don’t have to look far, Christopherson says. Wraps are ultimately about creating an aesthetic look for brand promotion, and window tinting is the perfect complement to a sleek appearance.  While wraps shops can certainly offer window tinting services to new clients, they already have an existing customer base ready to go.

“People who wrap their vehicles just want a new, unique look,” Christopherson says. “You’d be hard pressed to find vehicle that’s cool looking and not have tinted windows. It happens, but it’s not very common.”

With cleanliness being so important for a proper window tinting job, great care should be taken when prepping the windows for installation. Christopherson recommends removing all moving windows to ensure every inch of the glass is clean and the film fits as it should. All fans should also be turned off during the application to keep contaminates from floating onto the installation surface. From the start, the environment should be maintained because there’s no fix to a contaminated window tint film.

“There is no turning back once you’ve creased, contaminated or damaged your window tinting film,” Christopherson says. “There are a lot of techniques in the wraps industry where you can use a heat gun to come back from a mistake, but window film is completely different. Once you get a fingerprint on it or it’s contaminated, it’s time to start over.”

While a wraps shop may already have an existing customer base for window tinting, it also has a low-cost option for expansion with guerrilla marketing, Benoit says. By simply leaving every vehicle that visits for a wrap with a brochure on new window tinting services, it reminds them of other vehicles or architectural windows that could benefit. Benoit has even built a successful window tint business that over time transitioned into a window tinting and sign business by using guerrilla marketing.

“Every one of those customers lives in a house or works in an office that can be a potential job,” Benoit says. “It might not be a job right away, but some day they might have a sun problem in their house or office, and as long as they were treated well and are made aware that they can have it done by you, they will come.”

With little investment, a wraps shop can use its existing skills and tools to diversify its business with window tinting. Many of the customers are already in place, and new clients can be found with a simple marketing strategy. 

* From the 2014 issue of WRAPS magazine.

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Amanda McGrory-Dixon

Amanda McGrory-Dixon is a Denver-based freelance writer. 

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