The show that fills a gap

An IGU might be an essential part of a window, door or conservatory but actually, the flat glass industry is a quite distinct sector, with glass far more than just another component. A new exhibition plans to reflect that. Glass Times reports.

It was just over a decade ago that replacement windows were brought under the auspices of the Building Regulations. Up until that time pretty much anything could be installed and often was. In the months preceding the introduction of ADL 1B of Part L of the Building Regulations, there was a great deal of speculation that the ‘double glazing’ industry would be decimated. So few fabricators appeared to be capable of manufacturing a window, and very few installers registered to install frames that complied with the new regulations, that compliance appeared to be virtually impossible. And yet today, compliance with that legislation is standard.

Until that point, glass for replacement windows and doors was pretty much regarded as a proprietary component, with the expression low-e having more to do with vitamins than glazing. But without widespread adoption of low emissivity glass, together with other key IGU manufacturing techniques, the average window system simply would not make the required standards. Many believe coated glass and advanced IGU technology saved the day for double glazing.

Since then, the industry has seized upon not only thermal performance as a sales weapon but also other added value that advanced coated glass brings to windows, doors and conservatories. Far from being proprietary, glass has become a key differential.

A cultural change has also taken place within the glass industry; for while housing – and especially home improvements – has always been the primary market for the flat glass industry, it is only in recent years that glass manufacturers have been prepared to more closely align themselves with window makers.

Arguably, the situation has improved with the uplift in the general professionalism of the double glazing industry, as it has shed the bad reputation earned in its earlier days.

Nonetheless, flat glass manufacture and processing remains a quite distinct industry – technologically and in terms of the broader markets it serves, which is perhaps why glass and related products and services remain relatively rare at the FIT Show.

Other countries have quite distinct glass and glazing shows, so why not the UK? Now, that will be resolved as the flat glass industry is to get its very own event, for the first time since 2005.

Launched by the team behind the FIT Show, a new event aimed at glass processing, and all of its subsectors, will take place alongside the 2019 FIT Show. And, while the event – to be known as Visit Glass – will be located within one of the three or four halls occupied by FIT it will be, the organisers insist, very much a standalone event.

“To launch a separate event for the glass processing and technology sector has been our intention since when we were confident that we had a successful, sustainable event for windows, doors and conservatories,” FIT Show co-founder Paul Godwin said. “Visit Glass is not a new idea but an event for which we now believe that the timing is just right.”

However, the launch of Visit Glass is backed by more than a hunch: “We were encouraged by visitor analysis from the 2017 FIT Show, which showed that more than 4,000 of those attending said they would like to see glass related products and services – that’s 40% of the total number, which was a clear indicator.

“And then what would the industry want? We put down a specification of what we thought it should be and our sales manager Freya [Humphries] then made a significant number of calls and did what we believe is the best way to find out – she asked people.

“Freya visited glass-related companies that had exhibited at the FIT Show and also a mix of big brands and others, including float glass manufacturers and leading processors. She came back with information that all said similar things: yes, they wanted a business-to-business show for the flat glass industry; that it should have its own identity and not simply a labelling exercise for FIT; that it should include its own seminar programme; and that we should target all glass sub-markets, including kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms, the furniture industry, interiors, and architectural glass.”

The team took the feedback from Freya and then set to work to produce a name, an identity, a floorplan, stand sizes and costs. Revisiting the companies that had said that they would back such a show Freya returned from most with a booking or reservation. From that grand tour Visit Glass became a reality, since when stand sales have progressed.

Looking at the floorplan (, Visit Glass is set within the confines of the FIT Show. So how will the organisers define a separate entity?

“The flat glass industry has been without its own UK show for far longer than windows and doors so we have used the FIT Show and its established reputation to provide Visit Glass with a host that will ensure the event feels substantial, while offering a virtually guaranteed audience,” Paul said.

“Nonetheless Visit Glass will be standalone – it will have its own dedicated entrance and visitors may focus purely on the glass content if they wish. It will have its own seminar theatre with a programme of presentations specific to flat glass for which we will engage the advice and input from experts. The seminars will be substantial and topical, and will be of the highest calibre; despite the quality of the programme all seminars will be free of charge.
“We have made an impressive start but we are able to grow Visit Glass for 2019 beyond the existing plan; the greater the support we receive from the industry then the bigger the show will grow – we will not be confined to the floor plan as it is now. That will be true for the future also; who knows how big it may become post Brexit, when a world stage will become even more important.”

A great deal of emphasis is also placed upon the development of visitor attendance from non-glazing specifiers and buyers.

“We will be spending a great deal of time and money aiming to attract a non-glazing audience to include markets such as bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens as well as the interior fit-out and furniture industries for example,” Paul said. “We are also interested in engaging with technical and architectural glass specifiers and designers. These are difficult sectors to penetrate but we are known to be bold in our marketing and willing to invest, so we will create a campaign to attract a mix of appropriate visitors. Also distinguishing Visit Glass from its neighbour, visitors will receive VIP status, which will include some tangible benefits.”

The detail and planning with which Visit Glass is being created looks impressive, and highly credible when one considers the success that its sibling the FIT Show has enjoyed. That event is based upon the organisers’ commitment to asking the market what it wants; that Visit Glass has been launched very much with that same philosophy should ensure its success and longevity, providing the UK glass industry with its own much needed forum.