Fine-Tuning Knife Sales

Become A “Go-To” Store For Cutlery Customers

By Pat Covert

Chances are you’re already selling knives and other cutlery-related items alongside your firearms, but are you maximizing your profits from them? Your firearms customers are likely knife aficionados as well, and vice versa — so why not take every advantage of this lucrative category? We asked some experienced voices in the cutlery industry to give SI readers insight on what they believe can help you get the most out of your cutlery sales.

We spoke with Spyderco Marketing Director Joyce Laituri, SOG Knives Marketing Director Chris Cashbaugh and ESEE Knives Cofounder Jeff Randall. These three professionals represent a broad spectrum of the knife market covering everyday carry knives, tactical blades and outdoor cutters. They highlighted several ways for dealers to boost their profits in knife sales — and although they differed on what they’d prioritize, some very common themes developed.

knife2

Brought back by popular demand, the Buck Knives Selector 2.0 features
three interchangeable blades: a drop point, partially serrated drop
point and a gutting blade.

knife6

DMT’s DuoBase with MagnaBase Adapter, released last year, expanded
the company’s bench stone accessory line to offer greater flexibility
and convenience when sharpening knives and tools.

“Tune-In” Your Staff

A knowledgeable sales staff is a major key to selling cutlery. Laituri suggests giving your staff hands-on experience with the knives they sell. “Encourage your sales staff to use the products they’re selling. Offer your employees the opportunity to purchase knives at a discounted price or check out loaner knives to use at work, home and the outdoors. The more informed and familiar your salesperson becomes with the knives, the better experience and service they can provide for your customers.”

Interacting with your customers is key, Randall notes.

“The dealers who do well are very interactive with their customer. Not just with the sale of the product, but teaching them how to use and maintain it. This means the dealer must understand the product well and be as much a user as they are a dealer,” he said.

If a manufacturer provides insight on education, your store should take advantage of it. “We offer our dealers educational materials, printed catalogs and online information regarding knife materials, blade steels, grinds, locking mechanisms, design philosophy, steel element explanations and more,” Laituri said.

Having an informed and engaged staff will translate into a better chance of a customer making a purchase, and a healthier bottom line for you.

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Variety is the slice of life for your cutlery customers. At top is
SOG’s Bladelight Hunt fixed blade, Spyderco’s Slysz Bowie is in
the middle and the ESEE James Gibson-designed JG3 is at the bottom.

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The 555-1 Griptillian features CPM-20CV steel, which is
latest addition to Benchmade’s portfolio of steels.

Keep It Fresh

In the cutlery world, variety is the slice of life. For your dedicated knife customers, buying is actually a form of entertainment — one they look forward to experiencing. Stocking fresh product is an important part of the equation.

“Add new items regularly,” SOG’s Cashbaugh lends. “We see increases in sales for dealers who rotate in new items periodically throughout the year. Retailers have regular customers who come into their stores, and by changing the selection of knives available they increase their chances of additional sales. Knives are a relatively easy impulse purchase and most knife owners own multiple knives, easily up into the double digits.”

Cashbaugh also advises retailers to maintain a broad spectrum of knives to cover their customers’ needs and budgets. “Vary your selection based on price and style. Knives are a very personal purchase, and also how buyers express themselves. They’re akin to watches in they’re a functional accessory to show off one’s style,” he noted.

Randall agrees, “I highly recommend offering your customers a wide variety. There’s nothing worse than walking into a store and only having one brand or style to choose from. Competition drives market forces. If the customer is limited to only one style or brand, force-fed the sale and finds out the product is not suited for their intended purpose, it will sour the customer on future purchases.”

knife4

Whenever possible, display your knife selection as openly and
securely as you can to boost its visibility. Most cutlery
manufacturers offer display aids, like the Spyderco 360-degree
view locking display case shown here.

Visibility Leads To Opportunities

Knives may be a secondary sale for you, but if your customers can’t see your merchandise, then the chance of a sale is drastically decreased.

“Product display and accessibility are crucial,” Laituri said. “Like all retail sales, selling knives is challenging in today’s retail environment where they need to be locked up for security purposes. Display your knife selection as openly as possible. Most cutlery manufacturers offer 360-degree view locking display cases. Add an attentive clerk with a key close at hand, and offer your potential knife buyer the ability to hold, evaluate, and breathe on the knives.”

“Allow your customers to be comfortable and confident in handling the knife, and understanding the features it has to offer,” Laituri continues. “Our experience shows offering a ‘test drive and handling session’ helps them find the right knife for their needs.”

For another option besides a case, you can display the knife on the counter cable-locked like you would a handgun. Most folders and fixed-blades have a lanyard hole at the base — perfect for threading in a cable.

Cashbaugh also recommends putting your knives out front and center and allowing customers to get a feel for their potential purchase. “Displaying and showing knives will help increase knife sales. If the customer can’t see or find knives in your store, they can’t buy them. Also, having a selection of knives available for customers to handle will help increase sales. Since knives are a very personal purchase, customers want to know if the one they’re purchasing will fit in their hand, be comfortable to use and easy to open, in the case of folders,” he said.

Though we’ve mentioned this tip before, it’s worth repeating: Place knives around firearms in your display cases. For instance, a tactical folder or fixed-blade knife should be around your self-defense and combat handguns. A hunting knife would be well suited around your long guns. This will help raise awareness of your inventory, and might just inspire a secondary sale.

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The Gun & Knife Care Kit from Flitz will appeal to your knife
customers who also have firearms. The kit comes with polish,
cleaner, wax and a microfiber cloth.

Become A “Go-To” Store

Just because you’re a firearms retailer, it doesn’t mean your store can’t become the “go-to” cutlery store in your area. It may not happen overnight, but showing you’re serious about knives — by having a great selection and knowledgeable sales staff — will go a long way to building business.

“All good brick-and-mortar stores will tell you the reason they stay in business is due to earning trust with repeat customers,” Randall advises. “Business should always be about a real mutual trust between the buyer and seller. Since brick-and-mortar stores have to price their merchandise higher than web-based stores just to cover operating expenses, making the transaction personal, informative and trustworthy is what makes the sale much more palatable to the buyer.”

All of the suggestions above can be done in-store with very little cost to you. Manufacturers typically offer countertop displays and signage (either free or drastically reduced) because they want to help you sell your knives. As for training your sales staff, keep in mind most are likely already knife users so putting one in their hands is a small price to pay for the opportunity to sell dozens down the road.

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