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Rise of the planet of the 'niche'

it starts with the makers

For those that are deeply entrenched in the kite community for the past decade or so, we have seen the etchings, the engravings, the prison paragraphs, the prophetic predictions, the writing on the wall. The winds are changing, and the kite industry is ... well.. this hurts to say... it is not keeping up. Perhaps that is not the best way to say it. As with all things, there are natural cycles and waves. We had a heavy flood into the kite industry from both a manufacturers perspective and from participation of enthusiasts. The numbers were growing, and with that, more companies could enter the market. More boutique builders could go fully professional and large scale. More companies could branch out and grow.

With that growth comes the infrastructure to support it. As a company becomes more invested in A PATH, they lose something that is at the core of the boutique companies: a sense of freedom and opportunity to jump or change paths. The cost to change what is being produced in the home shop is not nearly the same as changing a production line at a manufacturer.

First let me say that these companies, the large manufacturers and the legacy stores, have been the ones that have held the torch for the kite community for sometime. They are the ones that have kept things aloft, they are the one that kept the shelves stocked, and kept the kite enthusiasts active. I have a lot of love for them and consider several of the owners and employees of these companies friends of mine.

Everyone seems to have a different idea as to why there has been a lull in the Western Kite world. For the past few decades this has been tirelessly debated with no single culprit being to blame. (Perhaps it is time we let that argument die... :) ) The end result is the same, the numbers are not there to support the once robust kite industry. The manufacturers and stores are not only feeling this, but showing it. Where there was once several hundred kite stores in the US, there are now only a dozen or so.

I am writing this with an idea that has been rolling around in my head during the long conversations about the 'death bells'. Perhaps... this slow down is opening up room for the little guys to take over again. Perhaps.... it is time for the grassroots to grow and build something different and special. These boutique builders and mini makers are much like craft brewers and small batch distillers in the liquor world. It is time for them to rise, time for them to grow and dictate what the future is going to look like. The stage is set for them to rise up... the stage is set for them to shape the future however they want.... One of the advantages of these boutique builders is that they can focus on the niche. They can pour their attention and effort into specialized avenues, vice trying to hit a broad spectrum.

One look at our liquor cabinet at home (and those of our friends... those beloved 'millennials') shows that we take interest in the special and the niche. A gin made with locally sourced botanical's, a special vodka made from specially grown Skagit Valley Potatoes, a small batch whiskey from heritage rye grown in the Palouse region. The wine was made at a friends house! You get the picture, the point is that if I look at my microcosm of the 'world' and the 'economy', I see that my peers place value in the niche and the special over that of the mass produced....

So... perhaps... it is time for the Boutique builder to rise once again!!

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