Niche Outdoor Market Provides Ample Opportunity For Retail Growth
By Pat Covert
As a firearms retailer, you already know how important the outdoors market is to your bottom line — but are you overlooking a highly profitable niche? “Rustic outdoorists,” which also includes survivalists and bushcrafters, is a fast-growing genre of the cutlery and outdoor accessories market.
They tend to fly under the radar of many retailers because they’re not centered on firearms. As a result, there’s a lack of knowledge on where these outdoors aficionados spend their money. Let’s take a closer look for a clearer picture.
Debunking A Myth
Rustic outdoorists study and learn techniques of barebones survival such as shelter building, primitive fire starting and crafting tools or other aids by hand. Unfortunately, there’s a common misconception they don’t use firearms — when, in fact, nothing could be farther from the truth.
For more insight we spoke with Dan Coppins, the owner and founder of Battle Horse Knives, one of the country’s preeminent manufacturers of bushcraft and survival knives. Coppins was in on the earliest stages of the American Bushcraft movement and is also an avid hunter. (Editor’s Note: Battle Horse Knives was profiled in the March/April 2016 issue of American Handgunner.)
First, we asked Coppins about the myth rustic outdoorists are not typically firearms users.
“I’d dismiss the hype and do my homework on that claim,” Coppins stated. “Outdoor people learn outdoor things, and there’s a tremendous amount of crossover among all types. Everybody I know in the bushcraft community who trap and hunt has their choice of calibers they pick for whatever type of situation for both self-defense and outdoor scenarios. They use anything from small, lightweight .22-caliber rifles to larger ones for deer, bear, hog or moose — and for long-range self-defense.”
Coppins observed one product category appealing to this dedicated demographic.
“They buy a tremendous amount of ammo, as many are part of the prepper community. If I were a firearms retailer I definitely would not overlook these groups,” he said.
The Battle Horse Knives Pro Woodsman model is one of the most popular in the company’s lineup, and with a wide choice of blade grinds you can tailor your knife selection to your customer’s wants and needs.
As movements, Survivalism and Bushcraft differed 10 or so years ago when both started coming into their own — but the line has blurred significantly since. Bushcraft started with a focus on woodcraft, but now encompasses virtually everything Survivalism does. Bushcrafters originally preferred knife blades with short Scandinavian grinds due to their legendary woodworking abilities, but as the focus on other skills grew so did their appetite for various blade styles.
“I know a guy who uses a Scandi grind for skinning, while others prefer different grinds. We (Battle Horse Knives) offer five basic grinds: flat, hollow, Scandi, Sabre and chisel. Between all the variations a user can find one to suit him or her best. Handle shapes are also an important consideration as some are better at certain tasks,” Coppins shared.
The age group of those who participate in rustic outdoor activities has also evolved and become much broader as its popularity has grown.
“I don’t think there’s an age limit any more. We have ladies over 75 years old who buy our knives for outdoor use. I think most people who think about long-term survival are around age 30, but bushcrafters have a wider age range. The more unstable the world gets, the more people are exploring prepping and survival.”
“Hunters put back a lot of meat,” Dan adds, “which is a huge part of what we practice. You can put back all the food you wish but it doesn’t count for anything if you can’t defend it from animal or human predators. None of it works without firearms. Some people prefer to invest in gold or silver for bad times; I prefer to invest in lead because it will always buy those commodities.”
Products like the rugged FireDisc Cooker will appeal to your rustic outdoor customers. It cooks a wide range of foods, seasons well and is easy to clean with only water. The FireDisc cooker is portable, easy to operate and can cook multiple foods at one time on its large cooking surface.
Spyderco’s growing multi-tool category includes the ClipiTool Rescue. In addition to a fully serrated edge, the ClipiTool Rescue features a locking rescue hook and a non-locking, hollow-ground screwdriver blade.
Your Competition Isn’t Doing This …
Just because rustic outdoor practitioners use minimalist methods doesn’t mean they don’t spend money: In fact, they do. They just spend it on other types of edged tools and accessories than typical mainstream outdoors enthusiasts do, and this could mean profits for your business other stores aren’t getting.
Accessories for rustic outdoorists are another opportunity for sales. These include fire-starter kits with ferrocerium rods, prepared tinders, cookware/mess kits, compact wood stoves, canteens, compasses, field sharpeners, paracord, small first aid and fishing kits and portable lighting. If you already offer some of these in your store all you need to do is fill in the blanks.
According to Coppins, “Fire steels and sharpeners are two accessories rustic outdoor practitioners prefer. Many carry fire-starting methods and prepared tinders. You need a competent field sharpener or your knife won’t work to peak performance. Other accessories include camping cookware (especially lightweight titanium), and carry micro stoves for quick meals and/or weight savings.”
New for 2018, the Outdoor Edge ChowPal takes an innovative approach to outdoor eating utensils by incorporating multi-tool functionality. This two-piece set consists of a knife/spoon utensil and a fork that features a graduated wrench, can opener, bottle opener and flathead screwdriver.
We asked Coppins, who’s also a retailer, to tell us the best way to sell to rustic outdoors customers.
“We have a brick-and-mortar storefront where we sell all our products; we also attend gun and outdoor shows. Educating your sales staff is extremely important. You can’t sell anything effectively unless you believe in it,” he shared.
In a retail situation, Coppins recommends selling knives and accessories in the best location to similar products.
“If your store is large enough, you could fill a whole section with knives and survival products,” he continued. “We also keep educational videos and books available for our customers. Local shows are also very important because people get to see and handle the products firsthand.”
Are you getting your fair share of the rustic outdoors market? The profits are out there waiting!