Cheap Marquees: A False Economy Or A Good Bye?

July 7, 2020
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Cheap Marquees: A False Economy Or A Good Bye?
Written by Alex C

The story of our lives is “so I’ve been buying the {insert brand name here} cheap marquees for the last few years now and I’m ready to buy something that will last”. 

We know cheap marquees for sale are a classic false economy where you might think their initial purchase will save you money, yet over a longer period of time, they result in more money being spent or wasted than being saved up front. 

This article will give an overview of the tactics of these cheaper brands, and an overview of what the marquee market actually looks like to help you make an informed decision when it comes to your marquee purchase.

Marketing Can Be Deceitful

The unfortunate thing about marketing is that anyone can say anything that they want with minimal repercussions. In most cases, businesses don't need to substantiate their claims. They tend to make generalised claims that may sound impressive, but in reality, they hold no weight to it.

In the marquee industry, commonly used terms such as “heavy duty”, “commercial grade”, and “high quality” have been diluted in their meaning. If you think about it, no one is going to sell their product or service and say it’s second class.

Their goal is to maximise profit, and they can do that by making their product sound better than it actually is, relative to what’s available on the market. Let's look at an example here of two quotes, a simple one, and one that's be puffed up with marketing buzz terms.

Simple Quote

2.4x2.4m Technishelter® Hero

Our marquee is a great addition to any camping trip, market stall, or event display.

Included

  • 1 x Marquee Frame
  • 1 x Marquee Roof
  • 1 x Roof Print Package
  • 1 x Carry Bag
  • 4 x Pegs
  • 4 x Ropes

Exaggerated Quote

2.4x2.4m Technishelter® Hero

Our premium, heavy duty commercial grade marquee is a great addition to any camping trip, market stall, or event display.

Included

  • 1 x Heavy Duty Commercial Grade Marquee Frame
  • 1 x Top Quality Marquee Roof
  • 1 x Roof Print Package with Long-lasting Full Colour Ink
  • 1 x Durable Carry Bag
  • 4 x 5 Star Rated Pegs
  • 4 x High Strength Ropes

Same photo. Same product. But I think you get the point....

The challenging issue with these terms is that they’re all relative, so there is no way to police them or make the vendors substantiate their claims.

For example, terms such as "heavy duty" are thrown around pretty casually when it comes to a cheap marquee. It's important to know how the vendor can support their claim of their product being "heavy duty". Do they make express guarantees? Do they have official certifications? If the product is engineered to the same specs as the market majority, then "heavy duty" really means "industry standard".

"Feature-Stuffed" Cheap Marquees Don't Always Mean Better Value

Sometimes, what you will also find is that some vendors include low quality versions of certain features to make their offerings appear more feature rich, and therefore, "adding value" to new potential customers.

But a cheap version of a feature included at the compromise of the improvement of the entire product is much worse than that feature missing all together. 

For example, a lot of cheap marquee vendors will include a “roller bag”, and people may consider it a valuable addition to the marquee package over a regular non-roller bag. However what these companies do is they make a lower quality bag to compromise for the "wheels", because it gives the appearance of convenience and practicality.

It is worth critiquing these features that you may not have even been looking for in the first place, as they are often there to grab your attention and influence your decision to purchase. If you can't get any information or guarantees on the quality of these features, then I'd raise that red flag.

For us, features only should be included if they genuinely help and assist the customer with their use of the product. There is no point putting a feature into a product just to make it sound better, if a) it doesn't help the customer and b) it's at the sacrifice of other aspects of the product.

So just because something has a certain feature, does not necessarily mean it’s better value

Breaking Down The Market

There is a huge range of different marquee products available on the market and they range from hundreds of dollars all the way to thousands of dollars. 

It’s easy enough to look online and think that everything is the same, because when you look at a photo online they do look very similar, but the devil is in the detail. The same as when you buy something online and receive and it’s significantly different, and consequently worse, marquees are no different.

“Retail Grade” Marquees That Are Built To A Price

The big box stores do sell marquees, but they are what we refer to as “retail grade” and are typically found in the price range of through to about 9 for a 3x3m marquee

These products are typically built for a retail environment and are normally designed with a target price in mind. For example, the retailer will say we need a marquee for 9 and then they’ll ask their factory to come up with a product that fits that price point. 

Collapsed Folding Marquees
Retail grade marquees are not very resistant in Australian conditions

Obviously in these circumstances compromises are made in terms of quality, materials used, longevity etc as you simply can build a long lasting marquee for cheap - that’s not how it works. 

The challenge with these products is that they don’t necessarily meet any type of performance target as they are designed to a price, rather than a quality standard. But as explained above, they will be marked as “heavy duty” or “deluxe” as a way to make them sound quality, but really, they are not designed to last. 

We always urge customers to think about how a marquee is actually a structural item; you stand under it, and it’s exposed to wind and all kinds of weather. There is a high risk using these entry level products because they post not only a safety concern, but risk anything you have under the marquee to be damaged (like stock, electronics, etc).

A cheap marquee might provide upfront savings, but by the time you replace this type of marquee multiple times, you may end up spending more in the long run than buying a Technishelter from the start.

Brands Selling Designs From An Overseas Factory

The next step of marquees you typically find are those that are designed by an overseas factory, typically found in China, and they are simply retailing those products in Australia. 

The way they foray into marquees is basically these companies see them as a profit opportunity, and therefore start selling marquees. A typical situation is that a factory in China will contact a random company and say “Hey, this is a hot selling product, you should sell it” and they jump on board and start selling them. 

Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen many new players enter the market based exactly on this strategy. At the same time, we’ve also had a lot of customers that have come to us after buying a cheap marquee saying they’ve received poor advice about the applicability of this marquee to their needs, and also mediocre post-sale service. 

As these products are not designed by Australians, for Australian conditions, we find they don’t go the distance in Australian conditions. 

Top-Shelf Companies That Design Their Own Products

We design our own frames, our own roofs, develop our own fabrics, and test all of them in Australian conditions, both in regards to weather and wind, but also UV and durability. 

3x6m Folding Marquee
A Technishelter being used in a high wind environment at a beach

Our marquees are manufactured to our specifications, and this is why we’re able to offer such outstanding quality promises like our “Brand Promises” program. We understand what customers expect from a marquee, and we build ours to match that need. This is why our frame is rated to 110km/h. This is why our fabric doesn’t fade for 5 years. This is why we back our products with a 20 year warranty. 

The Difference Between Cost And Price

A lot of people confuse the two terms price and cost. They are not the same thing. 

Price is a one time payment, but cost is a lifetime of payments that add up to a price. This takes into consideration all the maintenance, repairs, and the life expectancy of the product. 

A lot of marquees in the market are lower in price to a Technishelter, but they are not lower in cost when you consider the total cost of ownership. A lot of people can beat us on price, but nobody can beat us on cost because we focus on durability, quality, and longevity in our products.

The main purpose with marquees is that it’s not about buying something that’s suitable for 99% of the time, it’s actually about buying something that’s suitable for that 1% of the time when something unexpected occurs, otherwise you end up with a damaged marquee and in need of a new one. 

Consider The Total Cost Of Ownership (T.O.C) Calculation

Total cost of ownership is a financial measure of not only the base cost of an item, but also includes all the maintenance or running costs associated with it, along with a consideration of the product's expected life span, where these costs are divided across it’s total life span. A cheap marquee may do the job at first, but have a short lifespan, and if you require it for a long period of time, in the long term it may actually end us costing more than a quality offering like our Technishelters. 

So let’s do some maths about how a cheap marquee compares:

  • Purchased a $199 cheap marquee
  • It gets used once a month (monthly market)
  • It needs to be replaced every 1-2 years as the materials & components are poor quality
  • And isn’t covered by any warranty/guarantees that are worth their ink 

This means that in 10 years, you’ll have spent a minimum of $199 x 5 = $995 or more. Plus not to mention the environmental waste and landfill of these cheap marquees that are part of a throwaway culture. The lack of durability in these goods leads to a significant increase in landfill which is terrible for our planet.

Now let’s do some maths on a Technishelter. For less than $995, $795 to be accurate, you can buy a 3x3m Technishelter:

  • It has a 20 year warranty on the frame
  • It has a 5 year warranty on the fabric - with an expected lifespan much longer
  • It has a 5 year no significant fade guarantee on the fabric (so you’ll look as good as the day you bought it)
  • Plus it’s better for the planet, because you’ll use it for longer

So not only is it cheaper over the first 10 years of life, but because the product is designed with much better materials, and much more durable components, it’s life should really be 20 years, or more. And at that point, it actually turns out to be half the cost per year!

Service > Price

We have been in the industry for a long time, and we have seen a lot of misconceptions about marquees and how they can be used. It doesn't help that a huge portion of the market is flooded with cheap marquees that don't meet the demands of it's consumers.

This is something we at Technishelter have set out to change. We don't want to just sell you a marquee, we want to show you how to use it to it's full capacity and potential. We have realised that if our consumers understand the product, then they will know how to make it last longer.

Our customers have not purchased through us for the best price, they have purchased a Technishelter because we have their backs 24/7.

If you have never used a marquee before, or plan on repurchasing a $100 cheap marquee yet again, we would challenge you to stop and think about what it is you are buying.

Increased Lifespan With Spare Parts & Replacements

We get calls almost every, single, day asking to buy parts for other brands of marquee. This is because a cheap marquee is often considered disposable, rather than something that should be fixed and have it’s lifespan extended.

Another way we reduce the T.O.C of a Technishelter is by carrying a full range of spare parts for all our frames and accessories. Our range of spare parts and replacements is extensive. We carry parts from our models from 15 years ago because we believe that if it can be fixed, it should be fixed, and not replaced. 

We don’t however carry parts or spares for other brands, because we are our own brand, and make our products. We are not a retailer, we are a manufacturer. 

We Are Always Improving

As the marquee industry has stagnated over the years, we have committed to continually upgrade our Technishelters. Once a prototype has been tested and approved, we back it up with our Brand Promises and serviceable guarantee.

One example is our recent development of the NextUV material, as an alternative to the industry standard polyester.

We sell polyester roofs/walls through our Canopy Outdoor brand, and have for 15 years, but if you’re intended to use your marquee with any regular frequency of use, they are not up to the task. 

We sell our NextUV roofs and walls with a 5 year no significant fade guarantee, and 5 year no significant strength loss guarantee. And they only retail for 30% more on average than polyester. 

Before releasing our NextUV fabric we had a customer from Alice Springs do some extended outdoor testing for us. Instead of supplying her with an industry standard polyester roof, we supplied her with a NextUV roof with polyester sides to do a direct comparison of fade over time. 

In addition, sidewalls typically experience the effects of UV much less because they are not directly perpendicular to the sun's rays. Here is an example of fade in less than 4 months of constant outdoor exposure. 

“Thought you may be interested in these. We had a storm so unfurled the side window which had been rolled up since just after shade erected. The colour difference was stark to say the least but the roof remains unchanged.” Kerrie Stevens - ARRCS Mutitjulu Aged Care (Alice Springs)

Outdoor testing of NextUV at Uluru
Having been supplied in October 2019, these are the results of a permanent set up by January 2020. The roof looks fantastic but the polyester walls have already faded significantly

These examples are just a few small details between retail brands that manufacture to a price point, and more professional manufacturers that produce products that are designed to last the test of time, especially under the toughest Australian conditions.

Conclusion & Summary

Sometimes a low price can be an attractive entry into a marquee, but once you consider the product's ability to withstand Australian conditions, and it's life span, the total cost of ownership can make the overall spend far exceed the price of a Technishelter. 

This is how a cheap marquee can be a false economy. You may begin with a minimal spend, but over time you are likely to end up spending more money in repairs, maintenance, and replacements, compared to buying a Technishelter from the beginning. 

We are in the marquee business for the right reasons, and we are here to create value for our customers. We want to ensure we build products that go the distance and satisfy our customers and their needs. We hope you’ll consider all factors when buying a marquee, not just the initial price as the deciding factor.

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