Let me put this out and see what people think.
Is it right for distributors to sell kiteboarding equipment directly to the consumer?
I, myself don't like it. I know of two local shops that used to be doing very well several years ago. Now the owners are complaining about lack of business. Customers would come in to see what kiteboarding was all about and end up buying a kite, board + harness and signing up for a lesson. Now it seems like these same shops can't compete with the distributors that have their banner ads all over the place advertising huge closeouts on last year's stuff.
Car manufacturers don't sell direct. You have to go to the dealer.
If the shop goes out of business there go the lessons. What shop owner is going to cater to a customer who walks in with his brand new kite that he just bought on line but who doesn't know a thing about it?
Car manufacturers don't sell direct because that business model wouldn't
work out with the numbers. A huge percentage of all families in the
country buy at least one, often two cars. The model works just fine with
the current demand for kitesurfing equipment.
This whole idea that kite sales should be tied in to lessons is an artificial
construct that serves no purpose other than to justify the existence of
the ridiculous manufacturer/distributer/retailer model. What other item
do you buy from a specific dealer rather than a better priced source
because you expect the dealer to teach you how to use it. Certainly not
The argument that schools can't sustain themselves if they loose kite
sales should be a motivation for schools to come up with a new business
model of their own - not a justification to artifically bind two businesses
together doubling or even tripling the price of equipment. Aren't some
successful schools already claining they make next to nothing on kites
but make their most profit on accessories and clothing? And maybe
lessons wouldn't seem expensive at a price that could sustain schools
if the newcomers to the sport weren't expected to buy kites at a price
that can grease the three set of hands through which they traditionally
pass on the way to the customer.
The only real justification I can think of for local retailers is to offer demos
but if all manufacturers offered say a 30 day money back guarantee for
any reason (even dog-ate-your-kite
) then even that justification
Sure it would be a bad thing if schools really disappeared completely
because of a business model that better fits the actually business but I
doubt that will happen. If there is a demand for lessons someone will fill
that demand and find a way to profit from it. Maybe not as many people
as currently try to make a living from teaching kitesurfing but that will
probably be a good thing judging by the quality of some of the lessons
I see being sold on the beaches now.