Embrace new design materials with knowledge and caution.
by Sigrid Tornquist
“Customers are always looking to us, the materials manufacturers, to guide them on trends while bringing new innovation,” says Warren J. McCrickard, executive vice president, sales and marketing for Dothan, Ala.-based Infinity Luxury Woven Vinyl™. “If it is cool to the touch, easy to clean, durable and long lasting, then they can settle on the color or pattern that suits their unique style.”
“I usually wait and see what other people are using and whether or not there are problems, such as if there’s a failure and the company doesn’t stand behind it. I usually wait and see and let everything wash itself out a little before I jump in,” says Faith Roberts, owner of Banner Canvas in Ham Lake, Minn.
As Roberts is weighing whether or not to take the plunge with a product, she relies on other trusted marine fabricators to help her with the decision. “With the great network of marine fabricators out there, if there’s a problem with something, it’s going to crop up in a forum somewhere—and I’m acutely aware of that,” she says.
For early adopters, such as Cibele Aisquith, owner of Overboard Designs LLC in Buford, Ga., a good warranty helps ease fears about potential product failure. “I’ve always been a sucker for the new stuff,” she says. “Customers love new products and want to use them right away. Product manufacturers that offer stronger warranties have a competitive advantage over the value products.”
But once a new product gains traction, there are sure to be knockoff versions that cost less—and often deliver less. “There are a lot of imitation products now out on the market that look like the real thing,” says John Kelly, ASID, interior designer and president of WBC Design, West Berlin, N.J. “But in terms of wearability and durability, using the real thing is better because of longevity and maintenance.”
To help marine fabricators navigate its flooring products, marine flooring innovator SeaDek® Marine Products has built a global aftermarket network through which it trains end product manufacturers on how to design projects and install its product. “We have dedicated teams and all they do is work with designers and boat builders, both on the phone and in person,” says Jason Gardner, vice president of global marketing and advertising for SeaDek in Rockledge, Fla. “We realized the knowledge we have has a lot of value for our customers, so we pumped in research and development dollars, and training and installation videos have become part of the package we can provide.”
The bottom line when trying a new product? Do your research and expect manufacturers to stand behind their products.