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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 5:49 am 
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Given the sad news about Klepper, I wondered if any of the other big folding-kayak names were in trouble?

Can anyone shed any light on how the global economic turmoil has hurt the other big names in folding boats?

Also, any ideas of how many boats FC, Folbot, Longhaul and Nautiraid sell every year? At its peak, Klepper was making 90 boats a day and employed 3000 people - but that must have been a long, long time ago.

I guess Long Haul, Folbot and FC are small (tiny?) sharply-focussed companies. Still, you have to sell boats to stay in business, and the recent Folbot announcement that it is rationalising its line-up indicates that times are still tough in this business.

Would be keen to hear your views on this.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 3:53 pm 
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Last I heard Klepper was down to around 300 boats a *year*. Nautiraid is all but gone from the North American market. I don't know what Folbot does, but they're probably as big as the other major makers put together.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 5:14 pm 
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I think its bleak, for kayak manufaturers in general. The place to market now is China. Manufacture there for the Chinese market.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:30 pm 
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No one in China is yet making high end boats ala Long Haul, Klepper and Feathercaft. If Klepper makes the mistake of outsourcing their designs- which have no patent protection- to China, they'll learn what a lot of other outsourcers have discovered the hard way- they'll just be teaching the Chinese how to compete with them.

I recently learned something interesting: Dr. Henning Isbruch, Klepper's Chairman, doesn't actually own the Klepper name. I'm not sure who is the owner, but Klepper has to pay a royalty on every boat sold. A smart CHinese manufacturer could probably license the name just as easily.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:49 pm 
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mje wrote:
Last I heard Klepper was down to around 300 boats a *year*. Nautiraid is all but gone from the North American market. I don't know what Folbot does, but they're probably as big as the other major makers put together.

I'm curious: Do you (or anyone else) have any insight into Folbot's finances? I'm sure you know, they just eliminated 3-4 models. It's my understanding that when a company "restructures" in such a way, it's at least partially because they are having financial issues. The Folbot fanboys have adopted a more optimistic perspective that it's just smart business and the company is fine; time will tell who is right. [Folbot's recent change of ownership/management probably doesn't bode well for the future, but again, time will tell.]


tsunamichuck wrote:
I think its bleak, for kayak manufaturers in general. The place to market now is China. Manufacture there for the Chinese market.

I think the market for hardshells will probably be fine; they're pretty ubiquitous. The market for folders has always been more dicey. On the one hand, more people are living in cities with limited space, and folders are their only option; on the other, kayaks certainly aren't essential: While they certainly provide mental and physical health benefits, they're essentially elaborate toys. [Please don't disparage me for this; I'm just being honest. As much as a love kayaking, it's not certainly not a necessity.] When the economy is strong, the market for well-made adult toys generally does fine, but when the economy is tenuous, most people tend to focus on essentials.

It's difficult to quantify the level of interest for folders, but if the number of persons who post here is any indication, it's probably fairly limited. There are only about, what, 8-10 of us who post here regularly? We're certainly not the only ones, but it does indicate there probably aren't all that many of us.

I can only imagine how difficult it most be to run a company in such a highly competitive, fairly limited market. I suspect/hope we'll begin to see more customized, limited-producer who do it more as a side business. Again, only time will tell the future...


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 3:18 pm 
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Folding kayaks are a distinctly small sliver of the total kayak market. They have been slowly displaced by hard shell boats for all but the person seeking...God knows what we are seeking. The market for folders has been mostly in highly industrialized societies where people have time and money and space for what is a big toy. The two biggest markets have been Europe and North America, both continents in economic stress at the moment. As has already been pointed out, in times like these generally people do not spend as freely on toys. Hong Kong, the largest market for Rolex, is not a likely next big market for folding kayaks, although it certainly is a place where a kayak would be a lot of fun to have. Mainland China does not seem like a good market either as the majority of young people have migrated to the big cities and are not making enough money to have flats big enough for an extra pair of shoes. Too, China is BIG and it would then take hours to transport one's self and folder to a place of use.

Bill


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:41 pm 
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Location: Coastal New Jersey
Folding kayaks are, for sure, a niche market in the universe of paddlecraft and it's not difficult to understand why: folders are fiddly, fussy little boats that don't invite casual use as in, "let's put the boats together and go out paddling for a couple of hours" And they're relatively expensive and also require a certain amount of maintainence. When I return from a day's paddle in my fiberglass Caribou, I slip on a cockpit cover, wheel it around to the back on its cart and park it under some conifers until next time. Wouldn't do that with my new/old K-Light. Still, I think there is some reason for optimism for the future of the folder. There seems to be evidence that there is a population shift going on toward urban centers and this demographic could provide the folding/inflatable kayak owner of the near future. Feathercraft's new Kurrent, small, light weight and easy [?] to assemble seems to be a boat designed especially for this group of potential paddlers. A few small manufacturers may be able to make a go of it. Folbot's recent changes in their product line-up seem to reflect the need to keep things small and simple in this niche market.
So for the paddler who needs the portability and storage efficiency of a folder or who simply enjoys the way a folding kayak feels as it moves through the water or who has certain masochistic tendencies, the future of the folding kayak still looks fairly benign.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:52 am 
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bstevenson wrote:
Folding kayaks are a distinctly small sliver of the total kayak market. They have been slowly displaced by hard shell boats for all but the person seeking...God knows what we are seeking. The market for folders has been mostly in highly industrialized societies where people have time and money and space for what is a big toy. The two biggest markets have been Europe and North America, both continents in economic stress at the moment. As has already been pointed out, in times like these generally people do not spend as freely on toys. Hong Kong, the largest market for Rolex, is not a likely next big market for folding kayaks, although it certainly is a place where a kayak would be a lot of fun to have. Mainland China does not seem like a good market either as the majority of young people have migrated to the big cities and are not making enough money to have flats big enough for an extra pair of shoes. Too, China is BIG and it would then take hours to transport one's self and folder to a place of use.

Bill


Took me about 45 minutes by public transit to get to a put in in Beijing for a long paddle and about 10 minutes by bike to the Olympic Forest Park. There is a concessionaire there who rents kayak (Warren Light Craft) and Warren is manufacturing a 11ft and 14ft singles for the Chinese market. China also has a sizable coast as well as many lakes and rivers. The people in China who have lots of money are the 35-65 crowd and most sea kayakers are over 40, not new high school and college grads. From what I have seen in Beijing, parents are getting their child involved in sports like paddling. The interest I have received while setting up a Feathercraft or inflating the Innova is enormous. Recreational cycling has taken off in the Beijing area. Space is a premium but there are good sized residences in the cities that can easily store 3 folders.
The Chinese government is already pushing for its manufacturing output to be aimed for the domestic market. Whoever can effectively market kayaks there is likely to do quite well.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:08 am 
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Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 12:03 am
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As regards Folbot -

I'm wondering if the Yukon is next to exit their line-up.

I say so because it appears they've pared down to two "jigs" {as it were}.

One at 24" beam; the other set at 34" beam. The Yukon is the odd-man-out with a 30" beam. Perhaps they need a Tweener; I don't know. But it seems by setting the beam as the crucial measurement, standardization to that degree would enable those remaining products to offer a balance of appealing model range, thus providing the buyer some options, while netting the needed cost-containment such that they can remain afloat (pardon the pun) for the next year or so. Noteworthy, also, is the reduced unit prices for the now limited product range.

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Last edited by kenton on Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 5:08 am 
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mje wrote:
Last I heard Klepper was down to around 300 boats a *year*.


That's almost one boat a day. For a small operation with a couple of employees and a firm hand on costs, 300 Klepper-quality kayaks a year (which to say boats at Klepper prices), that could be a solid little business indeed.

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Feathercraft Airline Java
Nortik Trekraft, awaiting the river's embrace
1960s Klepper Aerius II, now gone be the star in a Special Forces movie
Folbot Greenland II, now at a new home on the Southern Cape coast


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 5:16 am 
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Jake wrote:
Folding kayaks are, for sure, a niche market in the universe of paddlecraft and it's not difficult to understand why: folders are fiddly, fussy little boats that don't invite casual use as in, "let's put the boats together and go out paddling for a couple of hours" And they're relatively expensive and also require a certain amount of maintainence.


Price is key. The fascination people and other paddlers exhibit when I am setting up my boat is widespread and enduring. Until the inevitable question: "How much is it?", at which point the shutters come down.

If Klepper (or any of the manufacturers) could build a quality boat at a reasonable price (Ha! "You can have it good or you can have it cheap") the market would expand significantly, IMHO.

But I fear the fiddliness will always be a put-off too. Not just the setting up, which is a bother for people raised in an age of instant-everything, but the cleaning and drying and caring ....

Ah, well, for those folks there is an almost infinite supply of bloats :lol:

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Feathercraft Airline Java
Nortik Trekraft, awaiting the river's embrace
1960s Klepper Aerius II, now gone be the star in a Special Forces movie
Folbot Greenland II, now at a new home on the Southern Cape coast


Last edited by CanvasClipper on Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:03 am 
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CanvasClipper wrote:
Jake wrote:
Folding kayaks are, for sure, a niche market in the universe of paddlecraft and it's not difficult to understand why: folders are fiddly, fussy little boats that don't invite casual use as in, "let's put the boats together and go out paddling for a couple of hours" And they're relatively expensive and also require a certain amount of maintainence.


Price is key. The fascination people and other paddlers exhibit when I am setting up my boat is widespread and endutuing. Until the inevitable question: "How mufch is it?", at which point the shutters come down.

If Klepper (or any of the manufacturers) could build a quality boat at a reasonable price (Ha! "You can have good or you can have it cheap") the market would expand significantly.

But I fear the fiddliniss will always be a put-off too. Not just the setting up, which is a bother for people raised in an age of instant-everything, but the cleaning and drying and caring ....

Ah, well, for them there are an almost infinite supply of bloats :lol:


I think folders appeal mainly to those of us without a personal vehicle and/or limited storage space. One of the reasons they cost so much is that they are produced in such small quantities, and yes price is a major issue. The higher quality new folders generally cost at least $2700, and some cost over $3K: It's possible to buy a decent used car and a decent used hardshell for around $4K, so unfortunately it doesn't make much financial sense for most paddlers to spend $2700K+ for a folder.

It really is a very limited, niche market.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:18 am 
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"The Chinese government is already pushing for its manufacturing output to be aimed for the domestic market. Whoever can effectively market kayaks there is likely to do quite well."

Chuck,

Thanks for your reply and insight. There is nothing like boots on the ground to get a sense of what is going on and I am glad to learn that there is a chance that all will be well. Folders in particular should do well in a country like China as they lend themselves to the crowded space and need for many people to use alternative modes of transport to reach the water. Money is being made there and a lot of people (even a small percentage is a lot of people) will have the means, so I believe your perspective is correct. A wood frame with canvas skin design would rest on the strength of Chinese manufacturing too.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 12:15 pm 
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Wow! A symposium on the future of bagboat markets right here on the FKF! Seems that the two manufactuers in North America most likely to "prosper" are Feathercraft and, especially, Folbot. Folbot seems to offer a high quality product at about half the price of FC. Add to this a lifetime warranty to the original owner and continued product improvement [new hull material from Dupont that is supposed to be tougher than hypalon] and a boat that is easier to assemble and you've got a company that will be around as long as there is a market for the folding, skin-on-frame kayak. But I still want a Feathercraft Kurrent.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:09 pm 
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The biggest barrier to folding kayak sales is that there are very few places to take test drives. Newbies aren't going to pay a thousand (or thousands) of dollars for a boat they can't even touch beforehand. Unless you're lucky enough to try a boat with a friend, you're simply not going to be able to sample it without going to Vancouver or South Carolina, or one of a tiny number of active dealers. Because of their fragility, nobody rents folders out to potential buyers either.

Purchasing isn't so difficult: the manufacturers mostly sell online and there are quite a few boats available second hand. EMS now claims to sell Folbots and REI offers Pakboats. But few stores have any in stock when I've looked. EMS in New York had two Folbots hanging from the wall and told me they weren't taking them out for rides (but they were otherwise very helpful).

By contrast, you can try out or rent a variety of hardshells. Dealers stock them. Boat clubs typically have a whole range of boats its members can sample. This allows the buyer to become informed and find the right kayak.

Perhaps the remaining folding kayak makers should work together to establish a sales network. Or maybe us enthusiasts should form specific clubs that promote folding kayaks.

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