Paddle sports take shot at expanding market
August 6, 2010
Because watercraft are expensive discretionary items, the paddle sports industry has been hard-hit by the recession. Manufacturers still made a strong showing this week at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in the Salt Palace Convention Center.
David Costlow, a buyer for a store in Colorado, said much of the business comes from stores like his replacing inventory sold over the past two years.
Last summer, several retailers skipped the OR show for a variety of reasons and relied on existing inventory. Now, the inventory is gone so buyers are restocking, he said. That isn’t necessarily a sign of optimism. If stores only sold 10 boats last year, they’ll likely only order that many at the show.
Shane Preston with accessories producer Salamander Paddle Gear said his business was down 12 percent last year, which was better than most. If people were holding off on buying new kayaks and canoes, they still needed accessories and could afford the lower-ticket items. But many of his clients went out of business, he said.
Stand-up paddle boats created significant buzz at the show this year. The sport has been popular in coastal areas for the past four or five years, but has been gaining ground inland in just the last two.
Kat Guay with Boardworks said they’ve had stand-up paddle boards at previous shows, but this year was the first to showcase the item and one of the company’s biggest booths to date.
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She said the sport is catching on because it has mass appeal.
"So many people can do it at any age and any athletic ability. It’s not intimidating like a kayak and is a great workout," she explained.
Phillip Rainey with the company said the boats work in any kind of water, any depth. People are taking them out into ocean waves, or into a pond to fish from. Some people practice yoga on their boards for enhanced balance. They don’t need wind, waves or snow to work, he said.
"It’s the closest thing I’ve come to the feeling of walking on water. When the water is clear, it feels like you’re standing on it," he explained.
But some are calling it a fad.
Costlow said he thinks it will do well in places like California, but not in his market. They’re comparably priced to kayaks so too expensive for people to buy on a whim and are outside the niche of his market.
"Some people fear it’s just a flash in the pan," he said. "For some shops, it’s just not their soul."
Utahn Jake Jones was at OR with Cataract Oars. He agreed with Costlow and said the stand-up paddle boats are being pushed because there is a desire to offer something new as a strategy to battle slumped sales.
Jones said his company is doing better than last year, but is still down from prior to the recession. He said the industry is having a slow recovery, but is experiencing an upward trend.
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