Pssst... What to buy a kite?
by Tonia Farman
It’s time. You saved up the cash and are ready to go buy your first new kite. You’ve soaked up SBC product reviews, geeked out on forum gear discussions and listened to your friends rant and rave about their own gear. As if you made an announcement that you are ready to buy, you start noticing kiteboarding gear ads, offers, packages, and discounts everywhere you look. Even some dude at your local beach boasts he’s a rep, claiming he’ll “hook you up” with a deal from the back of his van. I call these shops-on-wheels “van brands.” But more about them later.
Everyone wants your business, but not everyone deserves your business. This economy is bringing out some creative efforts from brands and dealers to sell product, which makes it a fantastic time to buy kite gear. That said, consumers need to know how to weed through the marketing hype and even the flashy low prices to make the most qualified and informed buying decision. Here are some tips:
Survival of the Fittest (Customer Service) Brands
There are more than 40 kiteboarding companies who want your business. In a challenging economy, who knows how long a company will be around to warranty your kite. Make sure the company whose kite you are considering works with a network of brick-and-mortar retailers so you always have someone to go back to you if you ever have problems. A strong retailer network shows a brand’s support of their customers through valuable hands-on product demonstration, education and service. Brands that deal with local retailers also support the local kiteboarding community and events.
Secondly, ask about a brand’s customer service and warranty policy. The retailer selling that brand’s kite should know the company’s warranty policy. To take it one step further, a brand that truly supports their customers will stand behind ALL of their products for warranties. Customer service is crucial, especially if you’re new to kiteboarding gear. If a company doesn’t have it, move on.
Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it before, but really… Buy from a reputable dealer!
Why does everyone assume that your local dealer will be more expensive than buying direct or from eBay? Local dealers want your business. Here are some of the many advantages of buying from a reputable local dealer:
1) The Service A full-service retailer should be able to walk you through setting up your kite, even if it’s just in the shop over the counter. Should any problems occur after purchase, the dealer should support you by providing some sort of solution—whether it’s offering a repair service to fulfilling a warranty.
2) The Relationship Most kiteboarding retailers are small enough to remember their kite purchase customers. Buy a kite from that shop and there’s a good chance your benefits as a customer will expand to other purchases and services.
3) Access & Influence Shops play a very active role in creating and sustaining safe access for you to go kiteboarding. As you pump up at your local beach, you probably have no idea that a local shop is working hard to develop and foster relationships with local authorities, parks, ports, coast guards, lifeguards, and townships to keep kiteboarding not only legal, but seen as a valuable economic driver in the community. Furthermore, when cynics or local authorities question kiteboarding safety and access, shops have an influential advantage in that they help fuel local economies by paying taxes and employing locals. This, in turn, weighs much heavier in an access battle than a van that drives up to the local beach pawning gear.
4) Keep it local Support your local economy. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s cool.
You, the kiteboarding consumer, play a very important role in our sport. You are in the driver’s seat to affect the future of kiteboarding. When you’re looking to buy, be smart and beware. Avoid the “van brands.” The more “van brands” consumers support, the more service-based retailers that will end up out of business. When retailers go out of business, manufacturers lose their distribution, connection and support to their customers. The gear might be cheaper, but the outcome is costly for everyone. Don’t just buy off-price unless you are confident with the product and the level of service you will receive with it. Kiteboarding gear is a lifestyle investment. Purchase wisely and you’ll be happy and addicted for years to come.
Tonia Farman is the executive director of the AWSI and founder of KB4C.
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