Who Is Your Knife Customer?

Pinpoint Customers’ Cutlery Needs Through A Few Questions.

Most firearm owners are also knife owners. A knife is necessary to hunters for dressing game. For the survivalist or camper, it’s a must-have for building shelter and for countless field chores. Law enforcement and military users regard a knife as an everyday tool and an essential lifesaver. And for tens of thousands of Americans, a knife is a tool they carry as a part of their normal routines, in addition to being a means of personal-defense.

Most cutlery manufacturers offer sales aids, including brochures, point-of-purchase displays and co-op advertising programs, but if you’re not stocking the right knives for your customer base, these aids aren’t being used to their maximum potential. The truth is, no amount of inventory can be expected to fly off the shelf if it’s not geared to your target clientele.

Dealers, it’s likely you know who your gun buyers are through years of cultivating customer relationships. But have you spent time developing your cutlery customer? Large companies spend thousands of dollars annually to determine their target customers’ likes and dislikes, along with other information, such as budgetary considerations. The good news is you only have to spend a small amount of time — and no money — to acquire the same valuable information.

Sergeant Sonny Lovetto carries four knives and tools daily: a Benchmade Elishewitz
Auto, an Uncle Henry folder, a Boker Cop Tool and an original Leatherman multi-tool.


Caroline Raybon carries a Spyderco Dragonfly in her purse. Upon inquiring,
she revealed her next planned personal-defense purchase is a 9mm handgun.

Ask Some Simple Questions

You’ve developed a profile of your customer base over years of determining their buying habits, likes and dislikes, budgetary considerations and brand preferences. You can speed up the process of identifying your customers’ cutlery needs by doing your own free “focus groups.” All you have to do is take the time to ask a few questions.

Joey Powell is an avid hunter living in New Orleans, La., with a modest hunting camp in the Louisiana boondocks. He takes advantage of every hunting season, from deer and wild hogs to turkey and waterfowl. Which rifles and knives are Powell’s go-to favorites?

“The two rifles I use most are a Browning BAR semiauto in 7mm Rem. Mag. and a Remington Model 700 Custom BDL in .280,” he said. “I own seven different knives, all of which are used in my hunting and fishing activities. The two knives I primarily use are a Gerber Gator fixed blade and a Buck 110 folding hunter. I personally don’t carry a knife on my person when I’m not hunting. For my personal protection my choice is a handgun, not a knife.”

Caroline Raybon is a single, divorced mother who lives in a midsized town in southern Georgia. Protection for her and her daughter is one of her top concerns. Caroline carries a knife in her purse.

“The main reason I carry a knife is for protection, plain and simple,” she said. “I keep a fixed blade in my car, a Spyderco Dragonfly in my purse, and I keep another larger folding knife on my bedside table. I’m currently shopping for a handgun that is a good fit for me, most likely a 9mm. I have also set up time with an instructor to teach me everything I need to know about it — from learning to fire it with ease and accuracy to disassembling, cleaning and reassembly.”

Sonny Lovetto is a sergeant in the Birmingham (Ala.) Police Department, with 18 years of experience. While he ranks his sidearm as most important, a knife is an important tool in his arsenal.

“I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it,” Lovetto said. “I have about eight knives for various purposes, including a backup for self-defense, cutting webbing in case of emergency and day-to-day chores. I typically have four knives and tools on my person. My main knife is a Benchmade Elishewitz Auto, and I also carry a Boker Cop Tool, an original Leatherman multi-tool and a small Uncle Henry folder in my pocket.”
These three conversations took no more than a couple of minutes, but the consumers’ answers speak volumes about their buying habits and needs.

Debbie Davenport, co-owner of Southeastern Guns in Trussville, Ala., shows a
customer her wide selection of Benchmade Knives.

Avid hunter Joey Powell owns seven knives. The two he uses most frequently are a
Gerber Gator fixed blade.

Interpreting Buying Habits

Even though Joey Powell spends a great deal of time on his hunting ventures — more than average — his choice of guns falls in the mid-price range — not inexpensive, but not high-end either. The two knives he uses most have been on the market for quite some time, especially the Buck 110.

Buck and Gerber are solid brands for serious hunters like Joey who want to get the job done without an overt amount of show. In essence, his knives are a reflection of his firearm preferences. If your customer base is comprised of higher-end users, you will want to add more expensive brands commensurate with their spending habits — perhaps even some custom knives.

Caroline’s case is very interesting, and often overlooked. If she hadn’t been asked about her knife preferences, you’d never know she was shopping for a semiautomatic handgun.
Customers like Caroline often start with carrying a knife for self-defense before moving up to their first firearm. It’s clear Caroline is a prime candidate for a handgun purchase; she has already looked into a training program. By asking a simple question about knives, you might just get a bonus firearm sale.

Sgt. Sonny Lovetto is a seasoned cop who obviously likes his cutlery. Carrying a Benchmade knife signals he doesn’t mind paying for quality, and he went the extra mile to purchase an automatic. But what is really interesting in Sonny’s case is he hasn’t limited his cutlery options to just knives.

Cops pack tools such as the Boker Cop Tool and Leatherman multi-tool as part of their daily gear — and may even use them more often than their knives. This presents an opportunity for a secondary sale.

Buck 110 folding hunter

For L.E. and military customers, Southeastern Guns offers the Microtech UDT
automatic (top), the Benchmade Triage emergency folder (middle) and the CRKT M16 tactical folder.

Zeroing In On Preferences

Think of the information that can be gathered about your customers’ knife-buying habits if you and your sales staff spend just a minute or two asking questions of your customers. Have staffers do this informal interview with your in-store traffic over a period of one or two weeks, and at the end of your prescribed survey period, conduct a meeting to compile a list of your customers’ cutlery preferences. This will allow you to focus your buying for your customer base, and maximize moving your inventory.

Before long, you’ll be taking advantage of secondary sales, and even converting some of your cutlery buyers to firearms owners.
By Pat Covert

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SI March 2013

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