WeatherMaster turns 20
Cinde Ingram -- Casual Living, September 28, 2009
Laneventure is marking the 20th anniversary of WeatherMaster, which created drainable cushions and developed finishing techniques that pushed wicker furniture further outdoors. The combination helped build the momentum of outdoor living rooms and the popularity of deep seating collections.
When WeatherMaster cushions were introduced in 1989, the outdoor furniture industry was dominated by sales of slings and straps, Laneventure President Gary McCray recalled. “It was the first, and still is the only, drainable cushion,” he said.
Since then, Laneventure pioneered advances in the use of materials, finishes, fabrics and product marketing to support its dealers. Although designed for outdoor spaces, WeatherMaster blurred the lines between indoor and outdoor home furnishings from its start.
“Our strength, coming from the indoor side of the home furnishings business, was always seating over dining,” McCray said
A 40- x 6-ft.timeline in Laneventure's Chicago showroom demonstrated how WeatherMaster evolved along with the casual industry over the past two decades. The visual display also helped to show company leaders’ future forecast. Looking back, McCray described the journey as a 20-year ride for the company, taking it from an indoor wicker and rattan specialist to an industry leader focused on outdoor.
First appearing on its Four Seasons Collection and other natural wicker groups still in WeatherMaster’s offerings, its Ultimate Outdoor Cushion drew attention to functional outdoor comfort. A five-step latex finish on the wicker frame provided an increased amount of protection from outdoor elements. Fabric selections were limited for outdoor cushions in those earlier days, but fabric suppliers quickly began recognizing the opportunity to bring indoor fashion outside and developing their own innovations in the 90s.
In 1994, Laneventure acquired the marketing rights for the WeatherCraft synthetic wicker and rolled that into its WeatherMaster line.
“We happened to be at the right place at the right time,” McCray said.
Combining fully outdoor woven frames with its drainable cushions allowed conversations to turn toward the Outdoor Room concept. “Around 2000, we started to really see that accelerate,” McCray said. “We owe the fabric companies credit for helping to bring this to where it is today with the growth of deep seating. With Patty Frye doing our fabric design and buying, we continue to push the fashion part of the business.”
Through the years, the Conover, N.C.-based manufacturer has continued to tweak construction of its drainable cushion with the intent of providing cushions that are durable, easy to clean, weather-resistant and comfortable. Its most complex cushion has seven layers of fiber types, all of which are needed to perform the intended purpose.
During the economic downturn of the past 18 months, the company has concentrated on its facilities in a lean initiative move to offer increasingly competitive price points to dealers and consumers. “In my mind, value is king right now so we’ve done a lot of work internally,” McCray said.
Looking ahead, Laneventure has its focus on demographics as well as style trends as it tweaks its WeatherMaster products. “Our cushion’s always been pretty plush, but we’re going to introduce a firmer version with the same comfort elements – partly because of the aging population,” McCray said. “We’ve got to continue to innovate and keep our customers at the center of all we do.”