Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Sea Otter Fall-Out

Kona Ourobouros Image courtesy of Kona.
 Over the last four days of the previous week the Sea Otter festival happened. It seemed to go off without a hitch with several events and the gathering of the industry was had which was a cause for celebration. However; one sour note that was sounded there is probably the only thing people will remember from this edition of the event. 

That had to do with what at first appeared to be mysterious happening involving Kona Bicycles. Many of you know by now that Kona, owned by Kent Outdoors, a company more known in water sports, set up their Sea Otter booth on Tuesday of last week only to have it torn back down again on Wednesday with all the employees leaving the venue. No comment as to why was given at the time. 

Wednesday evening a statement went out to Kona employees that a "town hall" meeting would be held on Thursday of last week. News then came on Friday that Kent Outdoors was putting Kona up for sale, specifying "economic headwinds" as an issue for this legacy brand. Word on social media then came that several Kona employees were let go. 

This cast a pall over the industry gathering which became the headline for the week, despite Life Time, the owner of Sea Otter, trying its best to blast my email box full of overly-hyped news of racing and attendance for the weekend. 

To throw even more gas on the fire, Colorado Cyclist announced a 30% off store-wide "closing sale, which many believe marks the "end" of this longstanding retailer. Now, of course, these could all be isolated incidents and not indicative of anything in particular. However; the industry is on pins and needles wondering if, or when the fall-out of the historically high levels of inventory and flat to lower sales figures for the beginning of 2024 will begin to manifest as business failings. UPDATED 4/23/24 Evening:   Seeing Specialized is running a site-wide 50% off sale. Whoa!

 Without significant changes to the way the cycling industry does its business, I've thought for years that there are too many brands and not enough ways to slice up the pie to fulfill all needs. Is this the purging that I've thought might happen, or is it just random news that just came at a time when the temperature of the room is ripe for making people sweat? We will certainly see soon enough......

1 comment:

MG said...

I hope Kona can find a new owner that will help it once again achieve commercial viability. The ineptitude shown by its present owners is somewhat shocking.