ESCONDIDO — If the kite industry were anything like the fashion industry, BrainStormProducts, LLC would be the Coco Chanel of the kite world. In fact, the two industries are very similar in that every year the product changes — everything from design, to shape, to color — all based on what’s trending and in style.
BrainStorm, tucked away in a nondescript building inside one of Escondido’s industrial parks, has come to dominate the industry with their licensing rights in North America and by staying on top of the trends.
The privately held company, which has 20 employees that do kite design, testing and sales onsite, is the largest kite manufacturer in the U.S., according to Rich Brady, the company’s senior vice president of sales.
They are one of four kite manufacturing companies in the country.
While the kite industry doesn’t really collect information enough to give an idea on its size, according to Brady, the industry is in the millions of dollars.
The company has a factory in China that produces the kites to their specifications and delivers them to stores, as well as the big box stores Walmart and Costco, in every state in the U.S.
The kites tend to hit the retail floors in January and stay in stock all the way through Labor Day in some cases.
And this month is their peak season — April being National Kite Month — a celebration of all-things kites, which now extends into May.
The American Kitefliers Association and the Kite Trade Association have collaborated to put on events around the country and encourages people to get involved with the flying toys, explained John Lutter, president of the American Kitefliers Association.
He’s also a kite retailer.
Lutter has owned and operated his online store kitestop.com since 2002 and carries some of BrainStorm’s kites.
As a retailer, he said he’s been seeing a decline for the last decade or so with people buying kites, though he’s clear to point out that’s only anecdotal evidence coming from his personal experience.
“Kites were really popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s and then basically there’s been down trending since 2000 or so,” Lutter said.
“BrainStorm has been fortunate,” Brady said. “We started out in 2001 with zero part of the (kite) business. Today we do approximately 80 percent of all the mass business in the U.S. We’ve grown our business every year for the last 10 years.”
Lutter admits the kite industry is still competing against the (video) game systems, but what seems more promising, he added, was that a lot of parents and grandparents are still buying kites.
“They kind of harken back to when they were growing up and going out and flying kites and they want their grandkids and children to experience that as well,” Lutter said.
“The thing about kites is that they are unisexual,” said Brady. “And you have more girls flying kites today than you ever did before. And you have more adults flying kites than you ever did before.”
Brady attributes that to families looking for an activity they can do together and to try and get their kids away from the computers and get them outside.
Also, he added, flying kites is easy enough that anybody can do it.
Each week BrainStorm employees test out the kites to ensure that they perform well. Brady said that their kites can be taken out of the package and in the air within a couple of minutes.
“Kites are an impulse purchase,” he said. “Very few customers get up in the morning thinking they’re going to go fly a kite, but they’ll walk by a kite display and say, ‘Hey, that’s great. Something for us to do on the weekends.’”