Treading Water -- Insiders weigh in on the state of the paddlesports market.

Trends: Paddling -- Insiders analyze the state of the paddlesports market and where it's headed in 2008, and beyond.
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It’s the afternoon of March 7 and the Canoecopia consumer paddlesports show, put on annually by specialty retailer Rutabaga, is about to swing open its doors, ushering in the season’s first gauge of the health of the year’s paddlesports market. But before the show’s doors open, several executives emerge from a pre-event, closed-door meeting hosted by the industry’s two trade associations, the Paddlesports Industry Association (PIA) and the Trade Association for Paddlesports (TAPS). The good news is they’re smiling, not scowling—a sign that talks concerning a long-sought-after cooperative marketing program are finally bearing fruit.

Though the co-op program is 20-percent shy of its original goal of $150,000, the two groups have fi nally united to create a web-based promotional campaign designed to grow participation in the sport. Including a website called LetsGoPaddle.com, the campaign targets families, in particular women in the 25- to 45-age range who have kids. “The first phase was to get the campaign launched,” said Michael Pardy, executive director of TAPS. “Now we’ll start developing its infrastructure.” The associations are earmarking 100 percent of funds raised to the program, with TAPS pledging an additional $7,500 in support.

Though the co-op program won’t solve all the industry’s problems, it’s a stroke in the right direction with the two groups acting as a team to push the industry forward. “It’s a great fi rst step,” said Darren Bush, owner of Rutabaga and a PIA board member. “But there’s a lot more that can be done.”

At least it’s a solid start for an industry that has sometimes been divided in its efforts to promote itself—and has, therefore, been left treading just fast enough to keep its head above water. Manufacturers told SNEWS® they remain cautiously optimistic about the cooperation and where it could lead. “It’s encouraging to see the associations engage in a joint marketing effort,” said Legacy Paddlesports’ President Andy Zimmerman, whose company is one of several supporting the endeavor.

“Look at what (the) Go RVing (marketing campaign) did for that industry.” Any effort may be just in time. As industry members wring their hands and wonder how the economy will affect it over the course of the year and beyond, those in the paddling market are also dealing with a long list of issues, ranging from lagging growth in participation and

eroding margins to cutbacks and the effects of market consolidation....

Click here to download the magazine Trends PDF from the SNEWS Summer Outdoor magazine: "Treading Water" -- Insiders weigh in on the state of the paddlesports market.

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