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Gun Dealers Can Boost Their Profits By Adding Knives To Their Business Mix

Gun dealers who include Knives in their inventory have an edge over those who don't. Why? Knives are hot sellers. Unlike many segments of the gun industry, the knife business, which picked up significant momentum a few years ago, continues to see impressive growth, overall. Knife sales also help build a gun dealer's customer base.

Market research, conducted by Bench-made Knives, shows that their typical retail customer is 18 to 40 years old, has money and is familiar with most of the specialty knife brands. Sounds like the ideal "gun shop" customer, doesn't it?

These knife customers are going to buy knives, often expensive models, somewhere. Why not at your gun shop?

Maximizing Knife Sales

Every knife manufacturer recommends placing cutlery displays at the front of a store, since many knife sales are spur-of-the-moment transactions. The cutlery display should also be complete. Whether a dealer chooses to sell one brand or several, the customer wants to see the complete line.

While this can present a challenge, since some knife makers number their styles in the hundreds, companies group their products into manageable packages. Plus, they offer dealers compact display stands or cabinets. In general, a complete lineup of knives does not require a lot of floor or counter space.

A smart way to determine which knives are likely to sell in an area is to attend trade shows, consumer hunting shows, gun shows and, in some areas, knife shows. A potential knife dealer can research thousands of knives and talk to factory representatives and other retailers. Distributors and reps are always eager to explain the selling points of knives to interested dealers.

Manufacturer's representative Mike Bergeron handles Spyderco out of his headquarters in Michigan. One marketing technique he recommends is to create a knife-sharpening service near a cutlery display. When a customer enters the shop, ask if they have a knife that needs sharpening. A dealer, with the right equipment and a little practice, can perform the service in a few minutes. It builds good will and provides an opening to show the customer new knives.

Quality Hallmarks

Benchmade is one of the most highly recognized names in the industry and has been honored for its knife designs and quality craftsmanship. The company has received the Knife of the Year Award from the Shooting Industry Academy of Excellence an unprecedented three times, all in the past three years.

"The awards Benchmade has won have had a real impact on our sales, especially to our military, law enforcement and security customers," said Greg Mooney, Benchmade's vice president of sales and marketing. "The recognition has opened up the market for sporting goods and firearms dealers who carry knives in their stores."

Benchmade was one of the early players in the production of popular tactical folders. Now, nearly every knife company has one or more tactical folders in its line. This year, Benchmade introduced the Model 690 Elishewitz, designed by custom knife maker Allen Elishewitz. The 690 features black carbon-fiber bolsters, Rosewood color-stabilized wood handles and sapphire-blue anodized double-titanium liners.

A unique feature of Benchmade's upgraded Website is the Credit-My-Dealer program. When someone buys a Benchmade knife via the Website, they have the option of designating which Benchmade authorized dealer will receive the retail profit.

Brand Loyalty

Green Top Sporting Goods of Glen Allen, Va., has long had a thriving knife business. The shop carries knives from Benchmade, Beretta, Boker, Browning, Cold Steel, Gerber and Spyderco. Green Top's best sellers, however, are from Buck Knives.

"Over the years, Buck Knives has been our best line," said Barry Hopkins, of Green Top. "Our customers know the brand, and most know a lot about many of the knives we sell.

"We know that many of our hunting customers carry at least one knife at all times, perhaps more than one. Our other (non-hunting) customers need some sort of pocketknife, so we have plenty of selling potential. We keep the knives at the front of the store where our customers will see them when they first come inside."

Buck offers its dealers a choice of several cutlery display cases and cabinets -- classic, contemporary or even custom designs. In addition, Buck has a new booklet, "Helping You Sell Knives," that answers many questions customers and dealers ask. A 15-minute instructional video is included with the booklet.

Firearm Tie-Ins

Many dealers will find that selling guns and knives with the same brand name makes a great tie-in for additional business. Beretta has a full line of pocket knives, hunting knives and skinners, large pocket-clip folders, and high-end collecting and using knives.

Browning, in addition to guns, clothing, boots, safes and other outdoor hunting products, has a full line of knives and plenty of marketing help for the dealer.

Classic Designs

The W. R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co., one of the better-known, old-line knife makers, is most known for its many pocketknives and larger folders, most with a classic design. Case also has benefited from the resurgence of knife collecting.

Cold Steel Cutlery is best known for its long, fixed-blade knives. The company also has a variety of folding models that range from large tactical folders to classic pocketknives. Cold Steel has several marketing aids, including videos, catalogs, specialty clothing and display stands.

Columbia River Knife & Tool Co. (CRKT) has developed a large, loyal following of knife buyers. In addition to their own designs, CRKT has worked with some of the top custom knife makers. Known mostly for its folders, CRKT also has several sheath knives.

Gerber Legendary Blades has hundreds of models of knives and multi-tools. The company offers dealers a variety of display racks and other marketing aids.

One of Gerber's newest tactical knives is the Spectre, a one-handed-opening pocket/belt-clip knife. The handle is made from G10, a high-pressure, fiberglass-reinforced epoxy laminate; the liners are 6AL-4V titanium; and the shallow drop-point blade is made from 154CM or ATS-34 stainless steel.

Specialty Knives

Kutmaster's Mountain Quest line includes an extensive group of multi-tools, several with functions specifically for bowhunters, anglers or shooters. In particular, the Hunter's Combo Pak contains a pruner and a folding saw, all in a nylon belt sheath, ideal for any hunter -- rifle or bow.

Many of the Mountain Quest folding knives feature laser engravings of distinctive outdoor hunting scenes on the handles. The new Hi-Tech series of Body Lock and Liner Lock models feature titanium-coated blades, stainless-steel liner locks and 400 series stainless-steel blades.

Meyerco's speed-assisted Rascal folder is now joined by the speed-assisted Sting Ray. Designed by Blackie Collins, the Sting Ray has a streamlined shape to complement the blade's opening features. A gentle nudge on the ambidextrous blade stud, and the knife's special design quickly opens the blade. An adjustable blade stop allows for fine-tuning the blade in the open position to ensure a positive and solid lockup. Closing the Sting Ray is simple. Depress the locking button, and the blade closes inside the handle.

Schrade Cutlery features longtime favorites such as the Old Timer line and, like many manufacturers, new designs from custom knife makers. Last year, Ron Lake, Michael Walker and D'Alton Holder designed knives for Schrade.

For 2001, Holder designed the Schrade D'Holder 3, a sheath knife. A younger custom maker, Van Barnett, created an "art knife," the Schrade/Barnett. The knife's steeped handle is genuine bone, and the bolster features an engraved leaf pattern of 24K inlay on a blued background. The ATS34 blade and the back of the knife have an intricate file pattern.

Schrade has also introduced a futuristic high-tech folder, the Avatar, featuring a tear-drop shaped opening hole on the 3-inch blade, along with a handle that is "co-molded" of TRP and aluminum.

Spyderco pioneered the blade thumbhole that revolutionized the opening and closing of knives. The company also was the first to add a pocket clip as a convenient way to carry knives. Many of the designs come from Spyderco's president, Sal Glesser, but the firm also collaborates with many custom makers/designers.

One designer, James A. Keating, created the idea for the new Spyderco Clipit C63 Chinook. The knife's upswept, modified Bowie-style blade is made of CPM-440V steel. The 3 3/4-inch blade has a substantial belly and breadth for skinning and field dressing.

United Cutlery Brands carries a vast number of knives, including brands and products from Colt, Rigid, Gil Hibben fantasy knives, Asian and European swords, and martial arts weapons. United also has knives customized by the Navajo artist David Yellowhorse, as well as several special Harley-Davidson commemorative knives.

Given the vast popularity of NASCAR racing, dealers will find United's NASCAR collectible series an easy sale. In addition, United has numerous novelty knives.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Combs, Roger
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Mar 1, 2001
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