January 22
KTAI Convention

Think of the biggest kite store you have ever seen -- one that has everything from every manufacturer. That's what the Kite Trade Association Annual Convention and Trade Show is all about. The only problem is that you can't get in!! It is only for retail stores to buy product that they can sell to you.

I'm writing this on the flight home from Prim Nevada. What a trip!

Susie and I see pictures of ourselves at these things and wonder why we look so awful. Puffy faces, bloodshot eyes, and sagging posture. But then we remember the early breakfast meetings, scrambling to set up our booth, running to workshops and programs, talking and selling nonstop all week, gorging ourselves on snack food, and "working" the bar until late at night. Our voices are hoarse and we ache from head to foot from standing all day and hardly sleeping at all.

To feel this bad, you really have to be having a wonderful time!

KTAI Show

The Kite Trade Association Annual Convention is the premier gathering of kite designers, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers on the planet. This year, 60 exhibitors filled 100 booths. But the numbers are misleading. Our little booth alone represented GKPI product, Windfeather Banners, Martin Blais painted kites, Peter Lynn, and LOGO of Hamburg. Some distributors had products from a dozen sources. So easily 200 manufacturers were represented at the show from firms from across North America, Europe and Asia.

It is amazing to watch an empty exhibit hall slowly transform into Kite Mecca. Most exhibitors went to work on Tuesday while retailers gathered for a series of information exchanges. Owners of stores sat down to share ideas on what was selling well around the country or how to better promote the industry. Later, a "Retail Boot Camp" was scheduled for businesses to learn more about marketing, getting the most from National Kite Month, and the basics of selling and promoting kite surfing and buggies.

Wednesday morning, members attended the annual business meeting where the Board reported on activities, finances, and programs. Elections were held and Brian Smith of Active People was re-elected as the president. Immediately afterwards, the Show doors opened.

Stepping into the huge hall of kites is an awesome and intimidating prospect. Its awesome because there is so much to see. Its intimidating because buyers only have three days to examine the products, meet with exhibitors, and place orders. Store owners work late into the evening reviewing catalogs and narrowing choices.

Obviously, the Show is closed to the public. The focus is solely on manufacturers selling to stores.

Working my own booth, I had little time to really examine the other exhibits. But I did build general impressions talking to buyers as the week unfolded.

The major manufacturers -- Go Fly, Premier, Spectra, and New Tech -- continue to dominate the retail market and most stores were focusing their purchases with those suppliers. The majority of retailers are selling to first-time, less serious kite consumers so it made sense for them to concentrate their orders with the "big four". Buyers could count on the quality and availability of product, and could earn discounts by placing larger orders.

Booth Views
Booth Views
Booth Views

The unfortunate side-effect of an industry dominated by several large suppliers is that stores begin to look more and more the same and offer less and less to the more advanced consumer. Similarly, it becomes harder for smaller manufacturers to survive. We simply can't compete with the prices offered by distributors that import product 10,000 pieces at a time.

Another interesting observation is that the larger firms are now beginning to produce more serious kites. Reza Genkis, Randy Tom Roks, Stanfield Eddies and Joel Scholz designs are now being mass produced. This has the benefit of bringing a larger variety of designs to the market at more affordable prices, but also increases pressure on the smaller producers. And of course, quality suffers when the kite isn't actually made by the artist.

That's the way business works. To be competitive, you have to be smart.

Gomberg Booth

GKPI just competed our best year ever. We continue to be the leading source of line laundry, ground bouncers, baskets, balls and bols. We also have the largest selection of more serious single line kites including our big SkyFoils, larger Codys, and signature kites personally made by Shannon, Blais, Schwiemann, and Lester. We are the exclusive distributor of Peter Lynn single-line inflatables. Our particular market is relatively small, and larger firms don't have the ability to produce custom colors with the quick turn-around we offer. Our other advantage is that we actually fly the large kites we sell. We have a good niche and we know it well.

Best Web Page

The most evident trend was in power, traction, and boarding. A dozen new or improved "engines" were on display stretching across the trade show airspace. An afternoon workshop on Kite Boarding was standing room only as retail stores scramble to learn the new market and begin to compete with the wind surf and surfing stores.

Friday evening, the annual award banquet recognized the best industry achievements of 2000. High Flyers in Rhode island was named best Retail Store and Prism Design as Best Manufacturer. AKA's Kiting was chosen as the best magazine, reflecting the many changes that Roger Chewing has implemented over the past year. Into the Wind was again named for the best Retail Catalog. GKPI was named best web page. And Susan and I were honored a fourth time with the Checkley Award for Most Significant Contribution to the Kite Industry.

Checkley Award

Winds came up on Saturday and we drove into the nearby desert for a demonstration and test fly. Then with a night finally free, we joined MaryAnn and George from Into the Wind, and Jeanne and Ray from Cobra/Flexifoil for a drive into Las Vegas and a wonderful night at Cirque du Solei.

Next year, KTAI heads back to Clearwater Florida.

For those retail stores who say it is too expensive, I say that the Show is an important investment and that they need to be there not just to see the new products, but also for the discounts, the personal contacts, and the sharing of information. You can't afford *not* to come.

And for you fliers frustrated that you aren't supposed to come, the good news is we have all of the newest and coolest products in the market right ehre for you!

Extend Wing War Kite

We are extending the discount announced last week on our imported Codys. I have a dozen of the 8 foot wide Cody 35s. The normal cost of these stunning kites is $475. Through February 10, we'll sell them for $400. We also have a few larger models and a really cool black and red Sauls barrage kite. Here is what we have in the 8 foot model.

  • Black with Red topsail
  • Yellow with Black topsail
  • Red with Black Topsail
  • Purple with Black Topsail
  • Blue with Black Topsail

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