January 18, 2009
21st Annual Kite Trade Show & Convention

I have to admit that I wasn't entirely optimistic about KTA this year. And that is a strong statement considering that I was the Association president. But with the economy hurting, kite stores struggling, production costs going up, and the weather turning brutally cold, I just wasn't expecting a big turnout. But in the end, the show was much better and much more successful than expected.


The Board did everything they could to offset negative trends. They hired top notch business consultants to present educational programs to attendees. They dropped registration fees. They sent out wave after wave of invitations and reminders. And they reached out to garden and gift stores with mailers, phone calls, and even pay-per-click in Google.

In the end, attendance was reasonable with the largest, best organized and most proactive stores on site. Those were the kite stores that understood poor economic times made it even more important to attend and share ideas, trends, and strategies with fellow business owners.

The convention was held at the Sandestin Resort in beautiful Destin Florida.

Susan and I flew down last Sunday and Jim Martin drove in from North Carolina to help us.

GKPI Booth

Major spaces were filled by New Tech, HQ, Premier, Prism, Revolution, Flying Wings, Go Fly, DynaKites and SkyDogs. The "Dogs" are a new company led by Jim Christensen (formerly of Go Fly), Jim Cosca (formerly of Premier) and with consulting help by Dodd Gross (recently affiliated with New Tech).

Into the Wind Prism New Tech

Other exhibitors offering related products were In the Breeze, William Mark, ArrowCopter, and Cohasset Imports. It is worth noting that for most "bricks-and mortar" shops, kites are now less than half of the product mix. The most successful stores are augmenting sales with specialized toys, apparel, flags, and garden art.

The economy was on everyone's mind and a serious topic of discussion.

Premier In the Breeze Flying Wings

Many manufacturers were also concerned about new federal regulations going into effect in February which require products designed for children to be tested for lead content by an independent laboratory before being approved for import. The rule was implemented less than six months ago and no one knows what the standards are, who can do the testing, or how the government (Customs and Consumer Product Safety) will implement it.

Revolution HQ Go Fly

An additional topic of discussion was the counterfeit kite issue reviewed here in the Update last week.

KTA has been through major changes in the past three years.

Membership categories were reduced to three - Retailer, Wholesalers, and Other. Dues were dropped to just $100. The Board was streamlined to six members, and budgets completely re-designed. And the show itself was compacted to three days in order to cut participation costs.

The changes have added new life to an organization that was faltering.

Sky Dog Kites

The KTA web page is garnering increased traffic and adding benefits to participating members. Sponsors are featured in scrolling ads that generate links and clicks to commercial web pages. The online directory describes each member company in detail. "Info Central" allows manufactures to promote new products or stores to request out-of-stock products from all other members.

Ten years ago, KTA had 250 members. Now we have about a hundred.

That change reflects declines in the industry and stores that choose not to join. But it also reflects a paradigm shift in the wholesale arena. Ten years ago, we had a number of small, cottage manufacturers, designers, and producers. Now those people are working with larger firms. (Think Joel Sholtz, Randy Tom, Dodd Gross.) The result is that many of the same people are in the room but representing fewer firms.

At the end of the Show, members gathered for a closing banquet and to hear the annual KTA awards announced.

New President Elaine Leitner
Retailer of the Year: Into the Wind
  • Manufacturer of the Year: Revolution
  • Best New Kite: Giant Star by HQ
    • Best Retail Promotion: Into the Wind Catalog
    • Best Wholesale Promotion: Premier Catalog
    • Best New Product: William Mark
  • The Checkley Award for Lifetime Contribution to the Trade: Bill Dual - In the Breeze
  • I stepped down as President and Elaine Leitner of Second Wind in Bodega Bay California was elected. Then we all headed for the bar or the airport.

    Packing Up

    Smaller shows are more familiar. You can buy kite at the New York Toy Show or the Atlanta Gift Show. But there, you compete with thousands of buyers and get little real attention from sellers. At KTA, you get real, quality time with each manufacturer. You also get to interact with other "specialty kite stores", sharing ideas, and information. Shops actually swap leads on hot products and problem solving.

    To new comers, it probably appears a bit intimidating. People all know each other and the industry runs as much on relationships as on products and prices. But the group is easy to penetrate and even in a short show, first timers quickly become part of the community.

    In closing, I should mention the work that KTA's Executive Director, Maggie Vohs, does for the group. Iíve worked directly with Maggie for ten years - either in KTA or AKA. And without her, KTA would have collapsed years ago.

    Susie and I are home for a few days to sort orders. Then we are off for the annual Surprise Birthday Trip next Saturday. We'll be home the 29th with news of our latest adventure.

    G Kites Sale

    The Birthday Trip means the Birthday Sale!!

    This is one of our biggest and broadest sales of the year. Just go to GKites.com. Place your orders and on check-out, write "Happy Birthday Susie!" in the comment section.

    We'll take 20% off whatever you purchase. And orders over $80 qualify for free shipping too!

    This offer is only good until we return on the 29th and applies to anything listed on the GKites site.

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