Late Saturday night, Susie and I returned to the snow and rain. Our week in Florida had been a non-stop whirlwind of business and friendships. Isn’t it great when you can combine the two!
Each January, the kite industry gathers for an exhibition of all the newest and most interesting kites and accessories. The manufacturers convert an empty hall into the most amazing kite shop in the world. And then store owners come to look over products and make buying decisions for the year. Sorry — but you have to be in the ‘trade’ to get through the doors.
This year, about 40 manufacturers filled about 100 spaces. Go Fly dominated the main entrance with eighteen booths. Premier bought ten and New Tech, eight. The other big “footprints” were Nova/HQ and our own GKPI with six booths each.
While the number of booths was fairly constant, there were actually fewer manufacturers than we saw last year in Nevada. Even larger and more established firms are slipping away and smaller ones struggle to remain competitive.
Specta, Flexifoil, and Catch the Wind were conspicuously absent. Caribbean, Proma, and Coast showed last year, but not this year. And more and more, we see designers like Joel Scholz, Kathy Goodwind, Martin Lester, and Randy Tom are working with larger firms rather than independently. All of this reflects changes that are taking place in the industry.
We also saw fewer buyers in attendance. This may be a reflection of the economy, bad weather, or resistance to $120 hotel rooms. Similarly, most big manufacturers now ship catalogs to stores in advance, extend show discounts to non-attendees, and send sales reps to visit larger buyers. All of those trends are good business practices but tend to reduce attendance. And if attendance continues to fall, we may see the Show slip away. That would be a bad thing — especially for smaller firms that are challenged to reach the broader market.
Our new product line – G-Kites was the buzz of the show with lots of new low priced kites, tails, and laundry. We’ve long been known for making larger, more expensive pieces, but G-Kites was actually able to price comparable (and sometimes copied) products at price points lower than our main competition. For the first time, GKPI was nominated for Manufacturer of the Year — quite an honor when Go Fly, New Tech or HQ is on the floor too.