The patriarch of kites may soon be usurped by its upstart high-tech offspring. Sales of 3-D parafoil kites by Jakks Pacific’s Clinton, Connecticut-based subsidiary Go Fly a Kite have been growing at a rate of 40% since they first came on the scene in 2000, says senior VP of specialty sales Jim Christianson. And their market share gains have meant major losses for the more traditional box, chevron and delta-shaped kites. ‘Other kite sales have been decreasing, so we know that 3-D parafoil products have started to phase them out,’ Christianson says.
Go Fly a Kite’s 3-D beauties have few or no struts; they’re basically just two layers of cloth with cells in between. When the wind blows into the cells, the kite is inflated like a balloon. Until about three years ago, 3-D kite technology was still in its infancy, and early kites were often too heavy to fly well. So most bigger manufacturers turned to outside designers for help. In 2000, Go Fly a Kite hired master kite designer Joel Scholz (former owner of Sky Delight Kites), who was able to meet a major product spec challenge: the kites had to be aerodynamically sound for a total manufacturing cost that would keep price points between US$20 and US$25. Since those early product pioneering days, the company has expanded its line from 12 to 40 kites, with plans to roll out another 12 this year. Being bought by Malibu, California-based Jakks last year opened the door to a stable of kid licenses (such as SpongeBob SquarePants), which figure prominently in the 2003 line. The first two Nick SKUs (borrowing the likenesses of SpongeBob and Squidward) have already shipped to retailers, along with a line of racecars bearing the Nascar standard.
Go Fly a Kite also penned a deal with Disney last month for exclusive access to the entire library of Disney character art, which Christianson says will grace product in spring 2004.