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.
Maybe, but it could take a lot of balls for the first of the established
manufacturers to make a move in that direction. One former "big name"
paraglider manufacturer (FreeX) tried it and it all but destroyed their
sales in the USA (and, I believe, in many other countries too)
They started selling direct to the public in Germany (their home country)
and Austria and any other country that was not, at the time, served by an
established FreeX distributor. Almost immediately they were ostracized by
dealers in counties where they did have distributors (such as here in the
US) as those dealers perceived that buyers could now easily work around
the their distributor/dealer network to get huge discounts (which someone
who traveled to Europe, or knew someone travelling there could easily
Now with the dealers (and schools) not only withdrawing support for FreeX
but actively working against their reputation the one remaining US distributor
(in Colorado) gradually went under and it became all but impossible to get
a FreeX glider in the USA even if you wanted one.
This example may not 100% reflect the Best Kiteboardin situation as
paraglider most pilots relaly have a requirement for local support for
things like annual inspections and lineset replacements (you don't want to
have to ship it overseas every year) and FreeX was formerly a 'conventional'
operation which changed over to direct marketting - not one that started
marketing direct from scratch.
Since I've never flown LEIs it is hard for me to get a feel for how big of an
impact not having local support for kites would be ( My G-Arcs are pretty
much a DIY type deal as far as repairs--and even performance upgrades--
) but if that's not too big of an issue then the fact that Best
starting out with the direct approach may favor their success - but I
wouldn't hold your breath for other manufactureres following suit anytime