By Derek Robinson
John Anderson, CEO of Riviera Yachts, Australia’s largest luxury boat-builder, warns that the marine industry is in a period of rapid change and businesses need to constantly reinvent themselves. “In our market—luxury boats between 40 and 70 feet—we are moving away from canvas and clears, as our owners want enclosed hard-top models,” Anderson says. “Our owners want more space under fiberglass; they don’t want to have to do more than is necessary. Our focus is on making boating easy.
Riviera is constantly working to develop new products to meet market demand now and into the future. “We developed our Sport Yacht in 2005 because we saw a move toward this relaxed lifestyle boat,” he says. “That line continues to evolve, and our need for canvas and other products to complement the lifestyle that these boats embody must evolve too.” Anderson sees marine fabrication evolving to include Mediterranean-style flybridges with large open areas. Coverings, sun lounges and bimini tops are essential for these craft.
“Open entertainment areas are what boating and relaxation are all about, so I see a bright future for fabricators here,” says Phil Baker, managing director of Craft Coverings in Queensland, Australia. “Luxury upholstery has taken on a completely new look over recent years. Still, shade structures are the number one priority in Australia.”
Baker says that Craft Coverings has always tried to simplify its methods and designs for all parties involved. “We see some good opportunities with exciting fabrics and materials,” he said. Anderson emphasizes the need for fabricators and upholsterers to work together with boat builders. “Sometimes boat builders think they don’t need new ideas from outside,” he said. “But fabricators are an important part of that input. You can support us by thinking of new applications for your products, and looking for new and innovative products that boat builders can adopt to solve problems for our clients,” Anderson says. “We can design these products into our new models. You should be coming to us, saying, ‘You can use this new product to improve your boats.’”
Anderson also called for fabricators to improve communication with boat builders. “Keep us informed about developments in your supplier markets,” he says. “If we sell more boats, you sell more products.”