Missing Persons: Where Is Everybody?
One might have gone into the National Auto Glass Conference in Orlando this week thinking that the big topic of conversation would be the Belron acquisition of Safelite and what Belron's future plans are.
While, indeed, this has generally come up in conversation, the question heard first and as often if not more so is: Where is everyone?
It might be called National Auto Glass Conference Lite.
Simply put, a lot of people who have always attended auto glass conferences aren't in Orlando. In prior conversations and postings on the AGRR Magazine Message Forum people had said they would not be attending the meeting as they had in the past because of the expense involved-hotel, registration fee, etc., and the four-day length with the tabletop exhibition scheduled for Friday evening from 5 to 7 after a four-hour free-time from 1 to 5.
The attendee registration list contained approximately 220 names. Dropping suppliers and other non-retail companies, as well as speakers, the attendee list falls to 76 AGRR business owners and employees. Deleting Belron, Safelite and Diamond Glass Cos. brings the list to 57 attendees from AGRR companies.
It is probably possible to see wider implications for the state of the industry in the attendance in Orlando this week, but for those in attendance there was no doubt that it was "light."
And that brings us back to Belron.
The company has made no secret that it is not through making acquisitions yet, and there were plenty of dance partners (or potential acquisitions, if you will) at the meeting. But as one owner said, "I'm not waiting for Belron to call me. I've called them. And you can't get through to anyone and have them return your calls. Maybe they just don't want me. Or maybe they're waiting until the Safelite acquisition is absorbed."
One piece of advice garnered in Orlando: Look for Belron to make moves in areas where it is not currently represented or is weak, such as New England and the South.
During the executive panel that opened the morning education program, Rich Harrison, chief executive officer of Belron Inc. said that the company is definitely looking to continue to grow through organic and acquisition. "They will be strategic," he confirmed. "We look for good people and strong brands. More important today is profitability. We look for companies that have financial success."
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