By Pat Covert
The 2019 BLADE Show is in the books (held June 7–9), and the cutlery manufacturers have graced us with a host of new offerings. No matter whether your retail store is focused on outdoors, hunting, tactical, EDC — or all of the above — there are knives to be sold and profits to be made! We’ll take a look at some the hot mid-year releases here and provide tips on how you can make new inventory blow out the door and keep customers coming back for more.
Tactical & EDC
These are easily the largest segments of the cutlery market today — with an abundance of crossover between the two — and there are always exciting mid-year releases to drive your cutlery sales.
Spyderco’s new Native Chief, a larger version of its bestselling Native model, hits the door running with a CPM-S30V stainless steel blade and a handsome, black textured G10 frame. MSRP is $240.
Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) has paired the award-winning Austin McGlaun Clever Girl fixed blade into a folding knife, and incorporated an all-new deadbolt locking mechanism into the frame design. MSRP for this slick new folder is $160.
For sheer dashing design the KRUDO Knives Feroce, with its cool copper and carbon fiber handle inserts, is sure to standout. MSRP for the Feroce is $132.
Two other folders that should turn out to be sweet sellers are the futuristic Kershaw Decibel (MSRP $ 59.99) geared toward the youth market, and SOG Knives’ curvaceous and highly affordable Escape FL with an entry-level MSRP of only $19.95.
The burgeoning hunting and outdoor cutlery market, which also includes the survival crowd, represents a lucrative market for firearms retailers.
The bushcraft movement has also given this segment a boost, bringing in many younger enthusiasts. The new ESEE AGK (Ashley Game Knife) — designed by hunting guide Ashley Emerson — is a game processor’s dream. The AGK is 8.25″ in overall length, with a 3.5″ black oxidized blade and sports a Micarta handle optimized for grip in tight quarters. MSRP is $166.
If you’re not on the cutlery train yet, now
is a great time to hop on with selection
and profits at an all-time high.
TOPS Knives debuted the Fieldcraft 3.5 at the show. This all-purpose knife is a smaller 8.25″ version of the extremely popular Fieldcraft original and should be every bit a leading seller. MSRP is $145.
Bushcraft all began with the Scandinavian puukko design, and Benchmade Knives’ modern version is sure to please the woodcrafting crowd. The Benchmade Puukko has a Scandi-ground CPM-3V blade with a grippy green Santoprene handle and checks in at $145 MSRP.
Finally, every hunting and outdoors enthusiast needs a multi-tool, and the new stainless steel handled Leatherman FREE P4 comes through in spades with 21 tools and an attractive price of $139.95 MSRP.
Bring The Heat
Should you treat hot new knives any different than your regular stock? The definitive answer is YES! Just like with your firearms customers, a good percentage want the “latest and greatest” and will open their wallets to buy.
We spoke with Mike May, public relations representative for Sinclair Communications, who has a lot of experience in marketing new products. May currently handles cutlery giant CRKT’s public relations and has worked with large outdoors-related manufacturers in the past, including Gerber Gear, Timberland, Old Town Canoe and Yeti Coolers among others. Mike knows how to launch new products.
We asked his recommendations for launching new steel.
“Consumers these days are savvy and tuned into the brands they favor, what new releases are coming and anything causing a stir in the marketplace. One of the first things, in my opinion, is to make sure the staff on the sales floor has a keen understanding of the products the shop is bringing in — how they perform and their features and benefits. It may sound elementary, but knowledge really is power and if your staff has succinct and clear answers to a customer’s questions, you’re going to sell more product.”
At the end of the day you want to be considered
the prime local resource for cutlery — one your customers can trust and rely on day in and day out.
Mike MAY, Public Relations Representative
“Display is key,” May continued. “A knife that remains behind glass is going to stay there, but POP displays optimized for your store space and invite your consumers ‘in’ — combined with an engaged and educated staff — are going to move significant product.”
May also expresses the ever-growing importance of online presence.
“Online consumers are the ultimate comparison shoppers, so giving them the information they’re looking for early — and easily — is important. Be sure to be clear on specs, pricing, recent awards, and call out new products so viewers have this information top of mind. Of course, social media plays an ever-increasing role in day-by-day marketing so peer-to-peer reviews are a great way to provide social proof of a product to your audience. Offering reviews and rankings on the product page can help individual SKUs stand out,” he advised.
Build Momentum Through Co-Op Advertising
There are very few brick-and-mortar cutlery stores nowadays, giving firearms retailers a distinctive edge in selling knives. We queried May on how to become the go-to store in your area.
“At the end of the day you want to be considered the prime local resource for cutlery — one your customers can trust and rely on day in and day out. Know your stuff, and equally as important, your audience. Engaging your customers and listening to what they want will help greatly with sell-through.”
Taking advantage of the cost-free help available can also give you a leg up on the competition.
“Manufacturers and their reps can help with sales training for store employees, either on-site, online or during face-to-face meetings on the trade show circuit. I’m also a firm believer in a healthy marketing mix, so advertising, especially co-op opportunities if they’re available, are great. That, combined with a brands’ earned media efforts around the products you carry, is something the top brands out there invest in. It helps build awareness to start with, and as consumers move further down the purchase funnel it can eventually translate to sales.”
May also has some tips on inventory management: “Personally, I favor diving deeper with fewer brands. You don’t have to limit the SKUs you carry this way; rather, offer a wider array of product from the brands carried.”
Need another reason to boost sales with hot new knives and older proven sellers? How about markups ranging from 25–50% to sweeten your bottom line? If you’re not on the cutlery train yet, now is a great time to hop on with selection and profits at an all-time high.