You'll notice the question marks after "Trends"?
We've been in this business a long time. Long enough to know that no two paddling seasons is ever the same, and that consumer choices change constantly, and that regional trends are not always in sync with national or industry trends.
So, these are simply OUR observations of the shopping trends that we have seen here at Grand River Kayak over the last couple of seasons. In some cases, we are hearing from other retailers that they are experiencing similar results....but in other cases it's a completely different story.
Big winners here over the last couple of years have been Fishing Kayaks, Recreational Kayaks, and Day Touring (or Light Touring) kayaks in the 12 to 13 foot range.
Customers still seem to be choosing the lower cost of polyethylene kayaks over the lighter (but more expensive) thermoformed or composite options.
One of the most common concerns we hear from first-time buyers is that they don't want to spend "too much money" in case they "don't enjoy the sport".... While we can certainly understand the concern, there is such a thing as selling yourself short - not all kayaks are created equally, and a less-expensive kayak is going to have "less" of everything else (like COMFORT and PERFORMANCE).
The relative safety and stability of more basic kayaks also seems to be creating a false sense of security amongst consumers, and lack of knowledge when it comes to the basic safety gear (required by law) that goes with each kayak purchased. No matter how inexpensive, basic, stable, or "safe" you might think your new kayak is, and regardless of WHERE you paddle it, you are still required by law to have a lifejacket or pfd, a bailing device, a sound signaling device, 50 feet of buoyant heaving line, and a paddle..... as well as a white marker light when paddling in low light or low visibility conditions. Selling yourself short on the mandatory safety gear could cost you as much as $750.00 in fines....
We're not trying to be judgmental here, folks. If you want a basic recreational kayak to use the proper way in the appropriate conditions, and nothing more - then by all means go for it! But don't buy a recreational kayak and then expect to go out an paddle for a day on any of Great Lakes with it!
Likewise, sales of gear and clothing meant to extend the paddling season have declined greatly as more "fair weather" paddlers have taken over the market. Neoprene hand and footwear, drysuits, sprayskirts and the like have all seen a dramatic decrease (at least in our market) over the last few seasons. Hardly anyone we know continues to paddle through the late Fall, Winter and early Spring seasons. Of course, there are always exceptions. But the truth is, exceptions DON'T drive market trends..... that's WHY they're called exceptions.
The death of sea kayaking?
There's no denying that sea (touring, expedition, etc) kayaking at the local level has been on the decline, almost since we opened our business over a decade ago. Sales of sea kayaks have been on a slow, but steady, decline right from day one. We tried to fight this trend, but in the end the customer drives the "demand" side of the "supply and demand" scale. When there isn't enough demand for sea kayaks, retailers will naturally stop carrying them, and manufacturers will eventually stop producing them. Look at Necky Kayaks as an example - in the beginning they were almost exclusively a touring kayak manufacturer.....now, sales of the Rip series recreational kayaks and Manitou series day touring kayaks have dominated the sales (and therefore the manufacturing priorities) of their company. Hence the demise of the Chatham series of skeg-equipped sea kayaks.
They had a loyal, but too small, following that no longer justified to continued production of the series.
You don't have to look too hard to find further evidence of large-scale paddlesports brands putting moving their focus away from larger, more advanced touring kayak designs.
We've even heard from a couple of well-established brands that where they are trying to hold on to a line of touring kayaks, they are moving completely away from more expensive fibreglass and kevlar composites and are instead focussing their manufacturing on exclusively plastic boats.
Likewise, gear sales and lesson choices have slowly moved away from the more serious, touring-related and more towards the basics of recreational paddling. Getting out on the water an having fun is the number 1 goal, but safety and ergonomics should not be ignored.
The final big trend is the inability for people to leave their "tech" behind when they go paddling - so many new products on the market to help you keep your smartphones, cameras and other electronics protected and functional while you are the water.
Our favourite new electronic tech gadget has to be the DryCase "DryVibes" waterproof blutooth speaker - it sounds amazing, it's waterproof AND it floats!! Use the built-in suction cup to stick this amazing speaker to the deck of your kayak, connect it wirelessly to your smartphone or other device, and BAM! Music on the go for every paddler!
When you shop at Grand River Kayak, not only do you support a small family business, but you get the benefit of our experience and expertise to help you make the best choice for YOU! We are paddlers first and retailers second. We can confidently guide you through the maze of models and options to make sure you make the best purchase for your needs.
Let us help find the kayak, canoe or SUP board of your dreams!
Ed & Tanya Sullivan