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But few businesses navigate only in calm waters. Today, Bending Branches (formally Branches LLC) and other North American paddle-makers are facing a new challenge: China.
China got into the paddling craze in the late 1990s, and Kicker said the impact on the industry has been dramatic. Because of low wages and production costs, it’s difficult for American companies to match prices with the Chinese.
Nowhere have the Chinese made more inroads than in paddles for stand-up paddle boarding, the hottest trend in paddling today. There are more Chinese stand-up paddle makers than domestic manufacturers.
Still, Kicker is optimistic.
“There’s a surge back to U.S. manufacturing,’’ he said. “And there’s a leveling of the global market. China is no longer the lowest cost [in wages].’’
Meanwhile, sales of paddles for stand-up paddle boarding have surpassed canoe paddle sales, Kicker said. The allure of stand-up paddle boarding: “You can see the world, and you can see into the water,’’ he said. “It really gives you a different perspective than sitting in a kayak.’’
Said Andrew Stern, the company’s marketing specialist: “It’s more of a workout, the cost to enter the sport is less, and it’s easier to transport a board [than a canoe or kayak.]’’
A new sport that should propel paddle makers.
Doug Smith • 612-673-7667
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