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Clear tents are trending

Feature | October 1, 2016 | By:

Many clients specifically request clear-top tents after seeing them on social media, says Sam Purdon of Purdon’s Rental & Sales, Lexington, Ky. Installation by Purdon’s Rental & Sales. Photo by Adam Padgett Weddings.
Many clients specifically request clear-top tents after seeing them on social media, says Sam Purdon of Purdon’s Rental & Sales, Lexington, Ky. Installation by Purdon’s Rental & Sales. Photo by Adam Padgett Weddings.

Clear tents are a profitable inventory item for tent rental companies that want to offer clients the perfect setting for distinctive events.

Dramatic. Unique. One of a kind. Personal. These are just a few of the words that top the inspiration boards of tent rental clients. As more end users look for that fresh, distinctive and special outdoor event experience, tent rental companies are meeting those desires with clear-top tents.

As a manufacturer, Eureka! has seen a marked increase in production of clear-top tents. Clear tents are no longer an inventory item that rental companies feel “stuck” with due to limited rentability. Whether clients are looking for something a little different from a standard white tent or simply want to bring the outdoors inside, clear-top tents are a unique and profitable niche market for many rental companies.

Finding inspiration

Clients are searching out photos and event ideas on social media and sharing sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, which has helped fuel the demand for clear tents. Seeing photos of tented events using clear tops in a variety of outdoor settings and with full decor and lighting gives many clients the ability to visualize their own event and begin planning their personal event experience.

Clear-top tents offer a more open-air feel than a traditional white tent, an attribute many clients love. Photo by Adam Padgett Weddings.
Clear-top tents offer a more open-air feel than a traditional white tent, an attribute many clients love. Photo by Adam Padgett Weddings.

“In our market, and I’m sure across the country, Pinterest has completely changed how our clients find items and what they are looking for,” says Sam Purdon, owner of Purdon’s Rental & Sales, Lexington, Ky.

Because so many clients use these sites for ideas, they come to the rental companies asking for clear-top tents. “Most of our clients simply call and ask if we have clear tents,” Purdon says. “I found that before we stocked them, customers would be told ‘no’ and we lost many of them from that point on.”

For some rental companies, being able to offer their clients something new and dramatic gives them a competitive advantage. Ryan Gibson, manager of Gibson Rental, Orange, Va., sums it up: “Clients either come in asking for the clear tent, or it’s something unique and special in my inventory that helps me win jobs against the competition. When clients see pictures of the clear tent and I’m up against a standard white tent, it’s a win.”

Edison-style string lights are a simple finishing touch to a clear-top tent. Installation by Purdon’s Rental & Sales. Photo by Adam Padgett Weddings.
Edison-style string lights are a simple finishing touch to a clear-top tent. Installation by Purdon’s Rental & Sales. Photo by Adam Padgett Weddings.

Mark Farrell, manager of Big Top Rentals, Exeter, Pa., reports similar experiences. “Clear tents have a special allure to them,” he says. “Most clients specifically ask for them.”

Handle with care

Clear tents are a beautiful option for protection from light rain while still allowing guests to feel as if they are enjoying the outdoors, but Farrell cautions that they aren’t always the right fit. For a daytime event, especially on a sunny, hot day, a clear tent isn’t appropriate, as it acts as a greenhouse, heating the inside of the tent quickly. “Clear tents are especially suited for early evening and nighttime events, where you are looking to capture an intimate, open-air feeling,” he says.

Clear tents are no longer an inventory item that rental companies feel “stuck” with due to limited demand. Photo courtesy of Eureka! The Tent Company.
Clear tents are no longer an inventory item that rental companies feel “stuck” with due to limited demand. Photo courtesy of Eureka! The Tent Company.

Sun and heat are concerns not only for the event but also for the clear tent fabric. Exposure to high temperature and direct sunlight can cause the fabric to become more pliable and stretch, especially if exposure includes heavy rain or wind. As with most tent fabrics, once clear fabric stretches it will not recover the smooth, tight finish.

Cold temperatures can also affect clear tents. In cold conditions, the fabric is less pliable, which can inhibit installation, especially on keder or slide-in tops. And in very cold or freezing temperatures, the clear vinyl can actually crack or shatter.

To strengthen the tops, especially on keder or slide-in tops, solid white vinyl is used as reinforcement and edging. In addition, Eureka! uses a white blockout fabric wherever metal framework comes in contact with the tent top. This helps alleviate any metal-to-vinyl abrasion and scratches on the clear fabric, and from the outside of the tent, it covers the frame, resulting in a spectacular and stunning event venue.

Clear fabric requires more careful handling than traditional white vinyl, but it also offers a dramatic look that can make a tent rental company stand out among competitors. Installation by Classic Events & Parties, Des Moines, Iowa, and Ultimate Events, Plymouth Minn. Photo by J Johnson Photo.
Clear fabric requires more careful handling than traditional white vinyl, but it also offers a dramatic look that can make a tent rental company stand out among competitors. Installation by Classic Events & Parties, Des Moines, Iowa, and Ultimate Events, Plymouth Minn. Photo by J Johnson Photo.

When working with clear tops, crews need to be careful not to damage or mark up the clear portion. To keep clear fabric free of debris, scratches and dirt, always use a clean drop cloth and never pull or drag the top across the ground, even on grass. (This is an important practice for all tent fabric, not just clear tops.) Crew members should also keep close watch as the tops are installed to ensure that no portion of the clear material gets caught on a pin, bracket or purlin. Finally, tops must be clean and dry before they are stored.

“Even though they have to be handled very carefully, they are still somewhat durable, and keeping them clean is important,” Farrell says.

Purdon adds that clear panels surrounded in white vinyl offer a little more durability. “With the clear tent, you can’t avoid the fact that the client and guests will be looking closely at the tent,” he says. “Any dirt, grass or water spots will stand out. For cleaning, we simply use clear water and microfiber mops.”

Finishing touches

Clients find that clear tents help them achieve the perfect setting for their unique event. Finishing touches such as lighting, florals, fabric swags and table settings are ideal upsells for rental companies to enhance the outdoor, open-air event experience that is in such high demand today.

At night, a party under a clear-top tent is a party under the stars. Installation by Purdon’s Rental and Sales. Photo by Adam Padgett Weddings.
At night, a party under a clear-top tent is a party
under the stars. Installation
by Purdon’s Rental and Sales. Photo by Adam Padgett Weddings.

When beginning to invest in clear tents, Farrell recommends starting with just one or two clear sections of a sectional frame tent. The clear sections can be installed over a dance floor or head table. “It adds a level of awesomeness without giving up all the protection from the tent, and the clients love the finished look,” he says.

Whether an event has a rustic shabby chic theme, sophisticated Gatsby-inspired decor, or a modern, colorful lighting display, clear-top tents are the perfect, profitable solution, no matter where the event is located—urban, country or backyard.

“People are in awe when they first arrive on site when everything is finished,” Purdon says.

Carol Lee Cundey, CERP, is marketing manager for Eurkea! The Tent Company, Binghamton, N.Y. With 18 years at Eureka!, Cundey is an active member of IFAI’s Tent Rental Division, MATRA and ARA. Contact Cundey at ccundey@johnsonoutdoors.com.

Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook are just a few of the online sources that clients use to gather ideas and populate inspiration boards for planning their events. Big Top Rentals of Exeter, Pa., uses its website and Facebook page to get feedback from their client base on new products. The company had a few smaller clear-top tents, but were considering larger clear tent purchases. To test the waters, the company posted photos and information on its website and Facebook page. Many repeat clients and wedding venues responded with “YES!” and Big Top was able to expand their product offering to larger frame tents and quad-end tents.

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