Sunbrella solution-dyed acrylic fabric has been the standard for the boat builder, supplier and boating industry aftermarket for years for biminis, enclosures and various types of exterior covers.
But now it is getting some competition from Outdura fabric.
Both trademarked products are produced by North Carolina-based textile manufacturers. Sunbrella by Glen Raven Custom Fabrics LLC of Glen Raven, N.C., and Outdura by Shuford Mills of Hickory, N.C.
“Sunbrella is a great product so we knew we needed to make a product that’s just as good,” said Steve Bowman, vice president of sales for Shuford. “We wanted to give the boat market an alternative.”
Shuford entered the marine fabrics business during 2000 when the U.S. boating industry was near its cyclical peak. At that time, Shuford executives felt the marine market was growing fast enough to accommodate two major fabric suppliers.
Unfortunately, recreational boat sales have been flat to down slightly since then, but Bowman believes the industry is about to “return to normal times” of growing sales volume.
Meanwhile, Glen Raven is not standing still. It is extending its flagship Sunbrella brand into the boat interiors market for deck seating, window treatments, sun pads and other applications, said Paige Mullis, marine merchandising specialist for Glen Raven.
As is the case with the exterior fabrics, Sunbrella interior fabrics will be 100-percent solution dyed acrylics, but they are softer and less stiff than the exterior fabrics.
“Furniture-weight fabrics aren’t new to Glen Raven, but we are now offering it in styles suited for the marine market,” Mullis said. “Now, boat builders can coordinate their interior and exterior fabrics.
“You’ll see style and color trend changes as companies [OEMs and the aftermarket] try to differentiate themselves,” she added.
Sunbrella fabrics are sold directly to boat builders and to distributors serving boat cover fabricators and other aftermarket customers, Mullis said. Glen Raven also has an inventory stocking program that allows for speedy delivery of woven-to-order fabric, she added.
Meanwhile, Shuford Mills also offers its Outdura fabric in heavier, 9 1/4-ounce exterior and lighter, 8-ounce interior weights, Bowman said. “We are making some in-roads” in the marine market.
“We’re probably more established on the East Coast, but we’re trying to get established on the West Coast,” Bowman continued. “We feel there’s enough growth [potential] in the [marine] market to justify another supplier.”
Shuford Mills also does not sell to distributors, allowing boat cover manufacturers to order quantities of Outdura directly through the www.outdura.com Web site, thus providing a cost-savings, Bowman said.
Both Sunbrella and Outdura are water-repellent, which means liquids bead on the surface, but they will seep into the fabric over time. Shuford hopes to introduce a waterproof version of Outdura before the end of this year year, Bowman added.
The Sunbrella brand by Glen Raven Custom Fabrics LLC of Glen Raven, N.C., is the market share-leading marine fabric
the company claims. It is made from tightly-woven, 100-percent solution-dyed acrylic yarns for use in biminis, enclosures and covers. It can withstand extreme conditions of sun, wind and water, and it screens out 90 percent of the burning UV rays. Rich in texture and breathable, Sunbrella fabrics are water-repellent, color fast, durable, mildew resistant and easy to clean. Sunbrella is available in a broad range of colors, stripes and patterns and is covered by a limited five-
year warranty. Glen Raven recently introduced a softer, less-rigid version of Sunbrella for interior furnishings so boatbuilders could
coordinate their interior and exterior color schemes.
Outdura, the solution-dyed acrylic marine fabric by Shuford Mills Inc. of Hickory, N.C., has introduced new colors for its 2003 line of 9 1/4-ounce marine fabrics. The new colors range from the understated elegance of Linen to the bold Sunbeam, Sunset Tweed and Cardinal Red according to the company.
Shuford Mills also offers an 8-ounce version of Outdura for interior applications, and the company hopes to introduce a waterproof version of Outdura before the end of this year.
Outdura first was introduced to the leisure marine market during 2000 with the intent of providing boat builders, cover manufacturers and the aftermarket with a choice of fabric suppliers.
The Canvas Division of Ameritex Technologies Inc., Bradenton, Fla., supplies boat builders with canvas systems for bimini tops, camper systems, curtains and covers.
Ameritex says its manufacturing process includes CAD designed canvas systems, quality materials, certified master fabric craftsmen, engineering hardware components, stainless and aluminum frame systems, dielectric welded seams and designs and engineering to compliment the OEM’s boat.
DuraVent is a proprietary, waterproof, multi-layer fabric containing a micro-porous film by Kappler Inc., Guntersville, Ala.
It includes one or more layers of soft but tough polypropylene for covers to protect watercraft or aircraft, automobiles, golf carts and outdoor furniture from the elements.
DuraVent is lightweight, easy to handle and provides protection while allowing water vapor to escape after the storm passes. Its durability and UV resistance comes in variety of strengths, according to the company.
Softouch by Odyssey
Softouch by Odyssey is a laminated marine fabric designed for boat and travel covers from MarChem Coated Fabrics Inc., New Haven, Mo.It combines the outdoor performance of MarChem’s Odyssey III marine fabric with a soft, non-abrasive, non-woven backing that can be used where ever the most sensitive gelcoats or painted surfaces exist, according to the company.
MarChem, a unit of Dash Multi-Corp. of Maryland Heights, Mo., treats, coats and laminates its fabrics so that they also are fire, water, rot and mildew resistant.
Taylor Made Systems introduced earlier this year a power-driven convertible top similar to ones used in the auto industry.
“Car manufacturers have designed automatic power tops into their convertible models for years,” said Mike Oathout, vice president of sales and marketing for Taylor Made Systems, a unit of Taylor Made Group, Gloversville, N.Y. “We decided it’s about time the concept was introduced into the boating market.”
The power convertible top comes in a broad range of marine fabrics, types and styles. Taylor Made Systems also will design windows and doorways to each boat builder’s specifications.
The power convertible top is aimed at boats in the 21- to 28-foot range, Oathout said.
At the touch of a button, the sunpad opens and the hydraulically operated convertible top rises out of its compartment, he said.
Taylor Made systems also offers the patented FastBack pop-up boat tent that more than doubles the usable living space in a typical cruiser with over six feet of headroom.
Canvas enclosures manufacturer EZ2CY, Arnold, Md., and Swiss zipper manufacturer Riri have collaborated to develop the first zipper designed for the harsh marine environment.
This year, EZ2CY is including Riri zippers as standard on all of its enclosures.
The Riri zipper is eight to 10 times more UV-resistant than many of its competitors and the plastic slider is as strong as steel and will not chip or corrode, according to the company. The elongated teeth also create a better grip on the tape for more security and the zipper has a plastic pull with a stainless steel ring to eliminate metal-to-metal contact. The zipper is easy to clean, water repellent, corrosion proof and quick drying.
Trim-Lok Inc. supplies flexible PVC Upholstery Trim with aluminum clips inside for uses such as attaching seating fabric to the seat frame. It provides a permanent grip while the flexible leg on the trim allows almost any fabric to be sewn to the product.The Buena Park, Calif.-based company’s Upholstery Trim is available in black, gray and taupe.
Thumb Lock Fasteners
Fastening Solutions Inc. (FSI), Tarzana, Calif., makes Thumb Lock fasteners to hold items such as a TV or computer from being knocked-off a shelf when a boat is jarred by a wave. Thumb Locks are inexpensive, high-strength and easy-release fastening systems, according to the company, that come in a kit including four fasteners and two locking straps. The fasteners attach with 3M Marine adhesive pads or they can be screwed into surfaces not suitable for adhesive bonding. Thumb Lock kits come in three sizes to hold items ranging from a 13-inch to a 32-inch TVs, even refrigerators. Kit prices range from $10 to $30.