January 13, 2008
Kite Trade Convention 2008

We’re just back from the 20th Annual Kite Trade Association Convention.

Twenty years. It is remarkable to look back on where we started and where we have come to.

In the early years, a small group of builders, entrepreneurs, and dreamers began to meet during the AKA convention. They had a notion that we might be more than a few sellers of kites, but an actual industry.

Gomberg Booth Gomberg Booth

The Association was formed in 1983 and held their first independent convention at San Diego in 1988. Go Fly and Top of the Line were dominant merchandisers. A number of independent designers like Joel Sholz, Kathy Goodwind, and Reza Ragheb offered their wares. Flexifoil, Action Kites, and Hyperkites were on site. And a new company with an odd four line kite bought a booth and introduced the name Revolution.

GKPI didn’t display but we made the trip down to promote our new book on Sport Kite Flying.

Prism Booth Flying Wings Booth Into the Wind Booth

Over the next dozen years, the KTA grew and the show offered more than 100 exhibitors. Larger players like Premier, Spectra Sports, New Tech, and Mile High emerged. What’s Up imported kites from designers in Europe and Asia. Larger off-shore manufacturers exhibited and a good number of overseas retailers attended. KTA became KTAI – Kite Trade Association International. At one time, we had five magazines vying for advertising and circulation.

Those were the “boom” years we all remember fondly. Since then, we’ve seen some retrenchment. Many independent designers began to work with larger manufacturers. Kite stores in tourist destinations diversified into toys and apparel. Smaller shops struggled. Kite surfing centered in surf shops rather than kite stores. The internet spawned a new retail sector which often focused on price and drew advanced fliers away from local vendors. Some wondered aloud about the health of the industry and the future of the Association.

HQ Booth Signature Revs Premier Booth

KTAI today is smaller and tougher than ten years ago. Twenty- five exhibitors offered products to about 50 buying firms at the convention last week in Portland, Oregon. The good news is that’s a 10-15% increase over 2007. Those that survived the “boom” are smarter, better business people, and provide products, service, and support that is much superior to what we saw before. The show focused as much on networking and education as on buying and selling.

New Tech Booth AKA Booth KiteLife Booth

Major awards for Best Retailer went to Unique Flying Objects in Wisconsin. Best Manufacturer was Premier. Best Promotion was Team I-Quad. And the Checkley Lifetime Achievement Award went to George Emmons of Into the Wind. I was elected President for a fourth time.

In the Breeze Booth Great Winds Booth Revolution Booth Warm Winds Booth

Next January, KTAI heads to Florida and will be making some serious choices of whether to stand-alone or try to merge with a larger trade show. The kite industry continues to evolve. The options are provocative and the results interesting for those that buy kites rather than sell them.

Susie’s Birthday Trip for 2007 was re-scheduled for January 2008 so we could get the frequent flier seats we wanted. We’re off for ten days on the 20th. I hope you’ll find the results interesting.

And speaking of interesting, check back next weekend so some surprising news on how I plan to spend this coming week.

Last week's Bag Sale was a huge success. But we still have a number of larger pieces available. Don't miss a chance to score a slightly used kite for a majorly discounted price. Take a look at the Update for January 7.

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