2005 KTAI Trade Show – Day 1

Welcome to the Kite Trade Association’s annual trade show!  I know we’re a day early on our daily reporting, but we’ve experienced enough so far that it certainly warranted sharing with our readers.

I arrived early Sunday afternoon, and spent the day cruising “The Strip” to get a taste of Las Vegas while I’m here… Even enjoying an incredible buffet at the Bellagio hotel with my friends Scott and Theresa from The Kite Shoppe.

Monday afternoon marked the beginning of registration when many of the exhibitors (manufacturers and distributors) arrive for check in, as well as a fair handful of retailers. I really enjoyed getting reacquainted with many of the people I spent a fair amount of time flying with in the early 90s including Billy Jones, Rick Kligman, Ray Wong, Jim Cosca and Chris Shultz (just to name a few) who are all now working for or running various kite businesses and are not often seen at festivals these days.

In the midst of some well-deserved hugs and handshakes, I slipped into the convention hall to observe the exhibitors who were getting an early jump on setting up their booths… Check out the progressive shots!

Now, this morning we headed back to Primm around 9am to join in on the annual retailers meeting and roundtable where stores from all over the country (and a couple from overseas) exchange ideas, discuss pressing issues and address the current state of affairs in kiting promotion.

To give you some idea of what these people consider and contend with through any given year, here are a few of the recurring themes that came up.

  • An increasing trend towards toy/gift items in shops, due much in part to the declining sales that are being experienced in store fronts nationwide… Along the same lines, a number of shops have expanded or combined their stores to include larger selections of these items.
  • How to approach the changing trend in youth interests, who seem to be focusing less and less on family interactivity, exercise, outdoor-oriented hand/eye coordination, and other expansive activities… Instead, they seem to be very enraptured by what I refer to as “instant gratification” endeavors such as video and computer games, the internet, indulgent music (yes, this from a 29 year-old!) and other pastimes with less potential for inner growth as well as physical, family and social development.
  • The significant decline in shops putting on regular informal or local flies (such as clubs do) which might bring in more new fliers… The question was asked “how did all of you get into kiting?” and easily 90% of those present were enticed by SEEING someone else doing it, or being introduced by a friend.

Some very interesting statistics for you:

  • Roughly 20% the shop owners present have flying fields close by.
  • Perhaps 20% of that 20% actually put on such flies, or have store pilots flying kites in front of the public on a regular schedule.
  • Now, about 85% of this actively flying group were doing well as a result of it… Make sense?

Only about 15% of the whole room seemed to be focused on building kite communities in their area (through clubs, fun flies, store presence, etc)… And the majority of them seemed to be trying to reach out through advertising of various kinds.

Again, a surprising number of “brick and mortar” stores are instead increasing their frill products such as wind socks, flags, cheap single line kites, wind chimes, trinkets and toys.

About 50% of the retailers attending this year’s show are actually involved in organizing kite festivals in their area, and only 10% of those are taking advantage by sending press releases to their local media in advance.

I myself posed the “Got Milk?” concept, wherein every member of KTAI might consider paying into a central fund (managed by the organization) which could be applied to a national television campaign (targeted in certain areas) in an effort to reeducate the public and more accurately change their perception of kiting through honest, exciting and impactful imagery and choreography… While there was an immediate and rousing round of applause in agreement, the concept seemed to fade out very quickly in their minds which may very well be indicative of their own self-perception and what they believe kiting can realize as a community.

Some other great ideas include getting involved with groups that specialize in physical therapy, troubled teens, and other organizations which could very well benefit from what kiting has to offer… Also, perhaps expanding our efforts to gain exposure on the PBS stations, much with the same idea: Health, happiness, outdoor activity, art, family, sport and true enjoyment.

Some of the common advertising that retailers seem to be utilizing, with varying degrees of success:

  • Local cable television ads.
  • Radio spots.
  • Newspaper ads.
  • “In-house” TV channels in hotels.
  • Pre-movie screen ads in theaters.
  • Marketing in areas where their tourist base is traveling from,
    by gathering zip codes with purchases.
  • Attraction cards, such as you’d find in hotel lobbies.

Fact is, they seem to be relying heavily on these ideas rather than going back to their roots and recruiting directly, which I truly believe was much of the reason for kiting’s relative success when I started flying during the early 90s.

Other major points of concern included the occasional “fly by night” kite shops who undersell on the web, thereby devaluing the product that we all thrive on whether it be as a flier, retailer or manufacturer, countered by the fact that such stores generally do not last long, do not take care of the customer in the long run, and provide poor service on average… To all of you, please make an effort to support the stores that you know are working FOR the community, will genuinely care about your experience with them, and conduct fair business.

Also a hot topic, the ongoing idea of combining the KTAI show with another larger toy/gift trade show which has been prompted by a decline in attending members, and the potential increased market that manufacturers might find… The main concern with this idea is that we (the kiting community) would easily be lost amidst such an impersonal and expansive industry, also cutting down on the time and access that we would have to address the business that we all love… Kites!

A show merger is not currently scheduled, but is certainly being discussed as a possibility.

“Heavy” business topics aside, nearly everyone seemed to turn into kitefliers again when the meetings ended with a very familiar circulation of friends and colleagues sharing and having a good time… Quite a few meandered into the casino for a bit of entertainment until the dinner and indoor fly which was scheduled at 6pm, including my own brief stop at the Blackjack table with a couple of other fliers for a bit of measured fun.

Come 6pm, we all wandered back into the convention area of the Primm Valley Resort for dinner, cocktails and an indoor fly in the spacious ballroom… New products in this range included the Trick Wren by Jeff Howard, UFO (Ultimate Flying Object) by Lee Sedgwick soon to be available in your kite stores, baby inflatable ladybugs from Dave and Sue at Gomberg Kites, as well as a few popular existing kite products such as the original indoor Wren, the Air Yo from New Tech and the iKnack (sp?) from Skyburner Kites (one of my personal favorites).

Fun was had by all during the 3 hours or so that we had the ballroom, very much resembling a mini kite festival! As you could see from the American flag pictured further up on this page, winds were KICKING with gusts approaching 40 mph… We’ll hope for better conditions on demo day.

Tomorrow marks the official start of the trade show, and I will personally get the inside scoop on the latest 2005 products that will soon be available, maybe some gossip, and certainly WAY more great photos of your favorite kites and people.

Good day, and to all a good night from Nevada!

John Barresi