Issue 34: AKA Corner

Elsewhere in this issue, I’ve written about the annual gathering of the Kite Trade Association and the excitement of new products and old friends at the Trade Show. Having just returned from a week focused on kite business, it seems appropriate to consider the special relationship we enjoy between the manufactures, designers, retailers, and fliers of all these different kinds of kites.

There is a joke in the industry that if you want to make a small fortune selling kites, start with a large fortune. And the fact is that life in the industry is getting tougher and tougher. We’re seeing fewer firms making kites, certainly fewer small cottage manufacturers, fewer bricks-and-mortar kite stores, decreasing margins and price points, and intense price competition online. My response on behalf of the AKA is that, if you want to make a small fortune in the kite industry, start with the serious fliers.

AKA has more than 150 Member Merchants listed who offer all Association members a 10% discount on kite and accessory purchases. Keep in mind that 10% of gross equals 20% of net — before overhead and operating costs. In other words, these retailers are offering you fliers a huge piece of their profit. I hope you are showing your appreciation!

Smart merchandisers support the serious kite community because they know that every experienced flier is also a teacher and a salesperson. We demonstrate the product, show other people how things work, and help spread the excitement and joy of each product line. I know stores that don’t have regular local fliers and pay people to fly each afternoon. Now there’s a great summer job! But the point is that the flying community takes care of this task gladly and in return for that 10% edge.

Successful stores and successful local clubs work closely together. The clubs often organize festivals, flies, workshops or exhibitions, The stores provide meeting space, help cover expenses, buy advertising, or make product donations. Both benefit from the cooperation and each rely on the other to help pursue distinct goals.

Manufactures also play a big part in the success of clubs, festivals, and events. My own company receives an average of five solicitations a month asking for donations of product for raffles, auctions, or prizes.  We support as many as we can because we know those events are crucial in drawing new enthusiasts to the sport.

Most manufactures also include AKA membership forms with their products. They see AKA as an important ally, helping turn occasional customers into committed kite addicts. The Association magazine, store directory, insurance, calendar of events, manuals, web page, competitions, and convention all help support the industry in ways that would otherwise cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. New kite fliers want to see other people flying as well and to know they aren’t the only crazy one out there…

Perhaps the best example is National Kite Month — a joint project of both AKA and KTAI.  The goal of NKM is to bring kiting to a wider audience. We do that by asking members and stores and clubs to organize local events and register them as part of the national program. This year our “month” runs from March 27 to May 2nd and we hope to include 1000 festivals, fun flies, workshops, exhibits and school programs. That’s more than 25 organized and public kite ‘things’ happening each and every day! The results are good for kite fliers and good for kite clubs too. Because all of us want people to sit up and take notice of what kiting is and has become.

Want to help??

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No one I know is getting rich in the kite industry. Some people are doing better than others — usually because they work hard and work smart too. And they do it in cooperation with local fliers.

And the fliers — they get to play with newer, more interesting, and more expensive toys when they work closely with a store or manufacturer. So everyone wins.

Bottom line — if a manufacturer is supporting your club or festival or local fliers, let them know you appreciate the support. It may be motivated by enlightened self interest. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good thing for all of us.

David Gomberg