January 10, 2006
Kite Trade Convention

We’re traveling home today from sunny Florida where we’ve spent the past week at the Kite Trade Association convention and trade show. Sorry to be updating you a bit late in the week.

Early projections suggested that participation would be lower at the show this year. And as it turns out, we did indeed have fewer exhibitors, fewer buyers, and smaller booths. After watching participation trends decline, go fly cut their usual exhibit from twenty spaces down to ten. Premier and New Tech also downsized. And even GKPI cut back from six spaces to just two.

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What’s going on??

First of all, this was a challenging year for KTA. They hired a new management company who needed some time to come up to speed. And then weeks later, Hurricane Katrina whiped out the intended convention site in Gulfport Mississippi.. That meant all promotion stopped while a new location was finalized.

But the fact is that our formal kite industry is facing larger challenges than new management and bad weather.

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Do a Google Search for kite store, and most of the firms who pop-up at the top of the ranking are not KTA members. The majority of stores out there don’t see a value in joining or incurring the expense of the annual show.

Most mainstream retailers get catalogs early, get sales calls, get advanced word on new products, and even get Trade Show discounts without attending the Show. That discourages attendance. And people who don’t come often fail to understand that the face-to-face meetings, the head-to-head comparisons, and the networking and information exchange is the larger benefit of attendance.

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At the same time, KTA needs to better explain their worth and value. The kite industry has changed. Traditional stores are declining while online shops and mobile vendors are proliferating. The Association needs to better address the needs of ‘non-traditional’ retailers if we want them to get involved.

KTA also needs to do a better job of reaching out and including smaller manufacturers. Ten years ago, the Trade Show was overrun with interesting young firms and designers looking for a place in the market. Revolution came as a start-up in 1989. Ty Billings, Marc Ricketts, and Peter Werba had booths. Kathy Goodwind and Judy Neuger offered a variety of product, while European importers had special kites and offers.

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Seeing firms who were not large enough to make sales calls or send catalogs made the show interesting.

Many of those firms have gone away or merged with larger manufacturers. But there are still plenty of small players aching to grow a bit larger. So the challenge is to find a way to get them involved.

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The other option is for KTA to merge with a larger show – like the Toy Fair, the Hobby Show, or the Surf Expo. Costs would be higher and the buying market more generalized, which would make it harder for smaller or more specialized kite sellers.

Or KTA could find smaller industries and ask them to merge with us. The International Flag and Banner Association is a good example. Finally, some are advocating KTA hold their show in conjunction with the AKA convention, look for future businesses in the organized kite community, and open part of the show for fliers to come in, test the product, and take the excitement home across the country. AKA’s “early” date causes some concern with this alternative.

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So KTA has their work cut out to turn things around. New officers include Don Dixon of Kites Unlimited as President, Elaine Leitner of Second Wind as VP, Lolly Hadzici-Ryno of Revolution as Treasurer, and Chris Shulz of New Tech as Past President.

Other Board members are Ben Coleman of go fly, Jim Cosca of Premier, Jon Trenepohl of SkyBurner, Greg Lamoureux of Seaside Kites, and finally, a fellow named David Gomberg who was drafted by petition last week.

We’re visiting the Windfeather factory in Pensacola today and will fly home tomorrow. Check back next week for details on how we put the banners together, and for some special discounts.

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