Kitedude wrote:looks to me that they have cut two trade levels, retail shops and international distributors,
This approach is really only cutting the retailer out of the picture though. A 12m from a leading brand retails for $1000-$1100. Dealer cost is $600-$700. So you can get your 12m Best at around dealer cost. Makes sense since Best is doing the distribution themselves. It's a lower overhead compared to separate distributors in every major market but some of that is certainly offset by shipping individual kites and boards all over the place. Makes sense for a small(er) outfit that cannot hope to sucessfully compete with established brands for retail shelf space and dealer endorsements and a good option for consumers. This will be interesting to watch.
I think old school retail practices for a lot of products could eventually fall victim to the streamlined direct based model. Look at Dell computers for example, they are the most successful desktop computer manufacturer because they sell direct (and the discounts they offer aren't nearly as significant as the ones that Best is offering in this case.)
I think the whole "Retail provides a value added service" mantra is a joke, especially when it comes to kites. Sure some might say:
What about safety? ... Make people call and talk to a veteran kiter who can gauge the would be customers' knowledge before you hand over a kite that could cause harm in the wrong hands. I don't particularly find the guys working in retail in any of the shops I've been in any more qualified to make this decision than someone could over the phone... and how many even care? My guess is the retailer is most interested in getting rid of the kite. Sure if they have an affiliation with a local training outfit they will push you to go that route, but I've never heard of someone refusing to sell somebody a kite. Does this ever happen in the used market? I bought all of my kites used so far, and nobody ever refused to sell me a kite even when I had no experience.
What about product support? ... Most people go back to the manufacturer for warranty stuff anyway. You won't get much help from retailers here.
How will people find these brands? ... Magazines, Internet, sponsored riders... Sure some people just show up at a store with no idea of what kite they want and after talking to the 15 year old working there get persuaded into one brand over another. But I think any experienced kiter already knows what he/she wants before they ever show up at a store.
What about all the overhead of shipping all those kites everywhere? ... Might be a big issue if this was groceries or nails or some damn thing where millions of units get shipped simultaneously (and thus there is savings.) But how many kites even get sold from a retail shop? Every time I go to the local kite shops, it seems like I see the same kites that were there weeks ago. Keep in mind that when you are paying the $500 dollars on top of what the retailer paid for the kite, part of what you are paying for was all the time that the kite sat on the shelf and made no money for the retailer. The retailer still has to pay his bills though, so the price gets set high enough that even if it sat on the shelf for weeks, or he has to clearance it out, he can still make money off of it. A kite manufacturer has one stockpile of kites, if they get a lot of orders and start to run out, they make more.
The biggest reason that the retail market for kites could fall, is that its already too damn expensive! Anyone I've talked to who doesn't know about kiteboarding, can't believe it when I tell them that these giant pieces of fabric cost $1000+. If you can cut that number in half, you've just opened up a whole new segment of customer. Majority of kiters today are either fairly well off (financially), or are spending every last nickel they have on their new quiver. With cheaper kites you open yourself up to people where cost was the prohibitive factor.
My guess is the retail market will never go away completely, but I bet we see a trend develop where more manufacturers who feel their name is good enough to stand on its own without retailer support, break away and start selling direct. Certainly those of us who are in the know (probably everyone reading these forums) can take advantage of these companies, and not rely on a retailer to tell us what to buy. It was a long time ago that a retailer was able to give me more information about kites than I already knew from my own experience and research.