BREAKING NEWS: Customs Officially Backs Off

Late this afternoon CNJ was notified by Doug Ritter of Knife Rights of this good news. Below is Doug’s email-

Doug Ritter founder of KnifeRights.org

Doug Ritter founder of KnifeRights.org

Customs Officially Backs Off

In a letter to Representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Customs and Border Protection has officially backed off their proposed revocations and rulemaking in recognition of the Amendment that was passed by the Senate which would add a new exception to the Switchblade Act covering assisted and one-hand opening knives, at least until the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill is acted upon in Conference Committee.

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Hunting ain’t no fun when you can’t find the game

liarHow many times since you started collecting have you heard fellow knife enthusiasts say they love “The Hunt?”  You immediately know they are referring to the time spent diligently searching for the next knife to add to their collection. Well, I’m here to tell you, if you don’t know it already- they are lying through their teeth.

Yes, I’m going to tell a dirty little secret. And one that none of the others have the manhood (s0rry ladies) to admit-

Hunting ain’t no fun- not at all.

Don’t get me wrong, they love to find a knife to add to their collection, and I do too, but that ASSUMES we do in fact- find it. In my mind though, “the hunt” is over at that point.

There are only a few things I enjoy more than getting a new knife to add to my collection. You know, you get home with it. Carefully unwrap it. Then sit there gazing over it like it is the Hope Diamond or something. Not even wanting to open and close it too much, so it doesn’t wear. Then gingerly placing it in the display, like hanging a trophy mount on the wall.

hunterSure, the kill, if you want to call it that- the bagging of the knife- is fun, but we had to find it first, so maybe we best break “hunting” down- I guess we can call the first part, “the hunt” and the second, “the kill.”  I enjoy bagging the object of my desire just as much as the next guy, but it is the hunting part I hate.

I’m not talking about just casually out looking around and happening to see a knife to buy here. Nor am I talking about simply window shopping as if any knife will do for the next kill. No, I’m talking about hunting for a specific knife. A particular knife that I have already decided to buy…..if I can just find the doggone thing. To me nothing is more frustrating than to have already mentally bought it (and spent the $$$, at least in my mind) and then not able to find the sucker. There is no way knife guys and gals enjoy this part, unless they are into pain, so they mask how they really feel by telling us, “Oh, I love the hunt.”

In case you are wondering what set me off today. Well, I’m starving- that’s where I am right now. I’m “hunting” for a knife that I’ve got months into and still can’t find one. I keep hitting dead-ends. I’ll get a lead on one and then run it down only to find it already sold. I scouted the entire 8 hundred- million square feet of Blade Show. I’ve posted at iKnifeCollector and knife forums, saved the search on eBay with email notices, emailed dealers and looked at more “dealer” websites that I care to admit. At this point, I simply don’t know what else to do. I think I’m going to pass out from malnutrition.

skeletonwgunIf I was hunting to eat, I’d be major skin and bones- probably eyeing my fellow hunter ’bout right now too.

So, let’s all come clean….if for nothing else, but to make me feel better anyway.

And please don’t tell me I’m just a impulsive compulsive knife collector who is too preoccupied with finding knives to enjoy knife collecting.

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I’ll leave it at this- the next time one of our fellow collectors comes strolling up to me telling me how much fun he’s having out hunting for his next trophy knife, you may be reading about me jumping on him right then and there. The next day’s headlines will read- “Knife collector goes berserk and attacks fellow collector.”

Photo credits: redstatepapa.blogspot.com; clothedwithscarlet.typepad.com; chromatism.net

Times change and knife companies’ sales methods must too

I’m intrigued with knife company history, as you probably know. While I wasn’t much of a student of history back in school, now that I can relate it to something, I love it!

History is not everyone’s cup of tea and I recognize that, but today we need to take a bird’s-eye view back regarding knife companies and their sales methods to see how things have changed….and continue to.

Quick Look Back

Union Cutlery Co saleman's case

Union Cutlery Co saleman's case

In the mid to late 1800s knife companies used jobbers and traveling salesmen (drummers) to peddle their knives. Then large wholesalers and retailers came into the picture. These firms often promoted different knife brands in their catalogs- often boasting over a 1000 pages. Eventually, the traveling salesmen died out and then came the age of advertising & merchandising. Local hardware and general stores were also primary sales outlets for the knife companies.

Even today, you can still find the local general or hardware store scattered around the country. These retailers and dealers still represent, for several knife companies, their primary sales channel. Next time you travel and run through a small community stop in- you will often find several brands available, like Case, Old Timers, Buck and Gerber knives, to name a few.

Times changed

Wal-MartFor many of the knife companies gone are the day of having thousands or tens of thousands of local sales outlets. Today Big Box Stores- the Wal-Mart, KMart, Home Depot, Target and Lowe’s- monopolize sales. These national chains have tremendous buying power too, providing them significant leverage when negotiating with the knife companies.

The speciality knife stores, like Smokey Mountain Knife Works, are the exception rather than the rule. There are very few stand alone knife stores out there today.

Big Box vs. 20,000 dealers

With fewer mom and pop stores across American many knife companies are faced with the dilemma of courting these Big Box Stores

buckknifecLast week, we saw a revealing article about Buck Knives in the Wall Street Journal. C. J. Buck was interviewed about his decision to relocate their company in 2004. The bottom-line was Buck’s move was an effort to lower operating costs, and thus allowing them to maintain their pricing (in other words, they were faced with potentially needing to raise their prices due to their costs).

Mr. Buck points out- “We (had gone) from having over 20,000 small cutlery dealers like Don’s Hardware store and some chains to a few big accounts like KMart, Wal-Mart, JCPenny and Montgomery Ward. We saw tremendous volume increases… But price became a big factor and our margins began to get squeezed.”

Knife companies like Buck, who use the big accounts as a way to volume sales are directly impacted by lower margins, while the companies still relying on the small dealer network have higher overhead to facilitate thousands of accounts and these dealers are being directly impacted by customers pulling in their spending reins. Many of these stores are now struggling to stay in business.

Online Knife Sales

Today, the World Wide Web plays an important component in knife sales too. Most every small retail and hardware store at least promotes their store online. The majority of them have some aspect of e-commerce too- allowing their customers to order direct from their site. Their challenge is, however, in order to command any measurable web sales they either have to have a very loyal customer base or continued marketing. Moreover, these stores simply can’t get the page rankings to compete online against the big boys- Amazon, Wal-Mart, etc. And at times their online stores compete with their physical location.

mainstrsupplystore

Here’s an example- Main St. Supply Company-  a 100 year old general store. Its web site offers hundreds of products, in addition to knives from Case, Buck and Old Timer.

Then what about each knife company’s own website? I can’t think of a single knife company without an online presence today. They realize the benefits of online promotion of their firm and their knives and yet, they are faced with the decision of whether to have direct online sales from their websites or to remain loyal to their existing distribution network- their dealers and retailers- by not competing directly against them.

Interestingly, a quick review of 16 top knife companies, nine offer direct online sales. Of the seven that don’t, they point buyers to their dealers list provided from their site.

Business Model Changes?

Are the knife companies in the middle of a paradigm shift (sorry to use that worn out phrase) from the tried and true dealer network of physical locations to more web oriented sales? The majority can’t count on landing a big box account or national retailer.

Wouldn’t you be interested in seeing the total number of online knife sales compared to the total sold for the last few years?

I would guess that number is going to increase to a point over time. Does that fact, coupled with higher profit margins for direct to the pubic sales, influence knife companies to increase their direct online sales efforts? And if they do, is that move helping or hurting their dealer network? Only time will tell, but the majority of knife companies already do. The question then becomes, will they keep their dealer networks?

Closing Point to Ponder

Recently I asked one of the most popular knife companies about whether they would allow a dealer to only have an online store. The answer was “No. We require our dealers to have a physical location.” … sounds like a bit of 1980s thinking, now doesn’t it?

Photo Credits: Buck Knife – The Wall Street Journal; Main Street Supply Co.

What are you doing with your parked savings?

savingsratejune09Government reports have us substantially increasing our savings rate right now. Is that true? Probably. I don’t know about you but when parts of our financial system began collapsing back in Oct 08, I started pulling back and we are into this for what, 8 or 9 months now? So the question is- Where do you have your money parked? I’m talking about money set aside as savings.

Safety is one thing and overcautiousness is another. Now it is time to evaluate our investment options. Do you go back in the stock market? I don’t think we are out of the woods yet. Our banks are under tremendous strain from non-performing loans right now. One of our largest banks is on the verge of failing as we speak. Unemployment is going to continue to inch up at least for 6 more months. I could go on, but better stop here otherwise, I’ll get labeled as “gloom and doom.”

INVESTMENT OPTIONS

savingsA  financial advis0r is going to recommend diversifying your investment portfolio. Depending on your age and cash needs, some money is put in moderate to high risk investments, while other portions are more conservative investments.

The stock market is out for most folks because of its volatility right now, so what about CD’s (certificates of deposit)? Have you checked the rates lately? They are terrible. I’d only put short-term money in a CD right now.

Knives as Investments

voylesauction42dec08Let me ask, have you thought about stocking a portion of your savings into knives? No, I’m not talking about running out and buying $5000 of Spyderco or Benchmade over the counter knives. Instead, I’m talking about doing your homework and seeking out objective opinions from knowledgeable collectors and dealers as to which knives will hold up in tough times and likely increase over time. I’m not talking about a quick flip either.

Many folks caution us against buying knives as investments. I’ve read those opinions since I started collecting. Sure there is an element of risk associated with buying knives when seeking a return on those dollars, but I didn’t say bet your farm.

Another reason knives need looked at really hard right now is the increased likelihood that over the next year high quality knives will come into circulation as collectors reallocate their collections or sell-off knives that are outside the heart of their collection.

While my suggestion here is subject to pot shots, putting a portion of your mid-to-long term money in collectible knives just makes sense to me. If anyone is able to have a feel for which knives, makers or patterns “ought” to be the right choice- it is us. It’s not like someone told you to buy ink pens or glass bottles. After all, we are knife collectors.

Additional readings on the subject:

20 Investments: CollectiblesInvestment Grade Blades (Part 1)- Tactical diversity in your art portfolio.

Photo Credit: Bruce Voyles Auctions

Leading Knife Companies Hold Gigantic Knife Auctions

Now that it appears the immediate threat to the Knife Manufacturers is well in hand, these companies’ focus is back to the business. Yes, before the recent scare about the Customs and Border Patrol redefining a switchblade, the knife makers had a more pressing problem- very sluggish knife sales.

Knife companies, like other manufacturers, are trying to balance production against sales orders. Unfortunately, knife companies are out there with a high level of knives produced before the severity of this current economic slowdown was clear.

In the past, knife companies found themselves in a similar dilemma, that is a substantial inventory on hand and insufficient demand through their normal channels to absorb it within a reasonable period of time.

Knife inventory represents precious capital.

J P King Auction Did you know cutlery history provides us examples of knife companies actually cooperating together during tough economic times to sell off their respective knife inventory?

Knife companies joined forces to hold gigantic knife auctions.

gavelA large two day auction of pocket knives and other cutlery was held on February 13 & 14, 1877.  John Russell Cutlery Company, Meriden Cutlery Company, Lamson & Goodnow, Frary & Clark, Beaver Falls and Chicago Cutlery contributed inventory. The New York Times reported “..the prices obtained were extremely satisfactory, being well up to current market prices. There was a very large attendance, including representatives of the leading houses in Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago, Baltimore, and even San Francisco.”

gavelAlso another very large 4 day sale conducted in New York that same year. The knife inventory was contributed directly from the manufacturers. Buyers came from all over the country, including 156 wholesale and dealer firms, as reported in the August 13th 1877 edition of The New York Times. The articles also notes, “Prices ran well, and the sale is said to indicate that there will be a good demand for cutlery this fall and that prices will be stiffly maintained.”

gavelThe next year another auction was held for “large quantities of hunting knives, pocket knives, skinning knives, sticking knives, and other similar articles.” The two day auction was held July 24 & 25, 1878 and was reported by The New York Times. The article states, “Bidding was spirited and fair prices realized.” And while a lot might contain a single knife or dozens of knives, in all 2481 lots were offered.

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With the advances in technology, compared to the late 1800s, the auction bidding could be simultaneously offered online and “live” right from the auction room. The firms with inventory in the auction would be allowed to set up booths outside the auction ballroom to promote their firm- much like a huge knife show- but the difference is the real purpose behind the event would be the auction, unlike today, where the auctions are but a side note to the knife shows.

Wouldn’t it be exciting to attend an auction of current production knives represented by all the top knife manufacturers?

It would be hotter than the Blade Show and the SHOT Show combined!

Photo credit: J P King Auction Company

Success in the Senate to protect our knife rights follow-up

As promised, here’s a more detailed explanation of the Senate’s passage of Amendment 1447- the act removing the broadening of the Custom & Border Patrol’s definition of a Switchblade.

Instead of attempting to reword and characterize the action, please allow me to provide Doug Ritter’s detailed explanation. Doug is the founder and chairman of Knife Rights- an knife advocacy organization that has been at the forefront of this effort to prevent the proposed ban.

Explanation of Amendment 1447

If you’d like more information on Knife Rights and Doug, please dial into Cutlery News Journal’s exclusive Audio Interview Series featuring Doug (it’s a podcast and can be listened to directly off the web). CNJ Audio Interview Series- Doug Ritter of Knife Rights

BREAKING NEWS- Knife ban blocked

topstories320x240We have confirmed reports of success in the effort to stop the broadening of the definition of a switchblade. I’ll save all the legal mumbo jumbo and maneuvering for an update coming later today.

This combined effort to move quickly and squash the move by Customs was most impressive. Kudos to all you who made phone calls and sent letters to Customs and the members of Congress. More details to follow.

Published in: on July 10, 2009 at 9:36 am  Comments (1)  

W R Case lays off 45 additional associates

caselogoReporting some knife collector news is not fun and this “news” is one of those. Last week, Case announced its third round of lay-offs this year. As reported in the Bradford Era, last Thursday Case laid off an additional 45 associates.

The culprit of the 154 layoffs is the current economic conditions we are in the middle of here in the US. Folks have tightened their belts and are holding off on buying non-necessities, even to the point of purchasing fewer knives.

“Reducing our work forces is an unfortunate outcome of the current economic environment. We will continue to evaluate our staffing needs until the economy regains strength.” said Chief Executive Officer Tom Arrowsmith in the release put out by the company the end of last week and as reported in the Bradford paper.

Case is continuing to develop new knife offerings to stimulate sales and hopes it will be in a position to bring back these associates in the future.

Published in: on July 9, 2009 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Washington’s end-around is a national knife law

endroundThe end-around is one of the more tricky plays in college football. If done correctly, the offense typically makes a big yardage gain, as the defense is caught totally off guard. Basically, it keeps the opponent focused on the wrong player or part of the field.

Right now, we may be set up for the end-around by the folks up in Washington on this knife ban issue all of knifedom is worked up about. (more…)

A Radical Thought in a Civilized Society

We’re a civilized group of folks. We don’t eat dogs, or worse, people. We brush our teeth. We don’t go ’round shooting or beating people up, just cause we can- like they did in the early days of the Wild West. No, we are now a civilized society.

We have come of age. We have our daily routines- all of which are very civilized. We wake up in our nice house, have our morning cup of coffee, go to work to earn a day’s pay, come home and then enjoy the fruits of our labor. (I won’t even get into how we allow ourselves to be hypnotized, or better yet- propagandized, watching TV each evening as we “unwind from a hard day’s work.”) When we aren’t at work, we enjoy our recreation. These are civilized activities of our civilized lives in a civilized nation.

Over the recent years we have witnessed our rights being taken away. Each time a little more is taken, it is all supposedly in the context of- the right thing to do for our country. Sometimes, the taking of these rights is so subtle we can’t see it until many years later. Other times, we can see it clear as day, right before our eyes. And right now we are faced with a clear one- our government is attempting to take more rights away and this effort is so blatant it turns my stomach.

Today, we are approaching a monumental crossroad in the history of our country. This moment is disguised as a step forward in our civilized nation.

Our government is taking overt steps to disarm its people. Forget the reasons, for they don’t matter. I think they are trying to keep us from hurting ourselves, or anyone else. They have deemed us civilized, therefore we don’t need knives and guns. Plus, these weapons kill people.

We are in the process of being violated. Plus, the majority of the “We the People…” are too civilized and comfortable. We are allowing this “ruler” to take away the rights given to us by our founding fathers. And these rights are the basis of our identity. We also know knives and guns don’t kill people- people kill people. But civilized people don’t kill people, so, says the government, the weapons must go- one at a time. First it was the easy ones, the switchblades. Now it is the majority of the others.

So, you want to hear a concept that will stir up this civilized nation of ours? It is one that strikes me as a really radical thought, and yet is a foundational principle of our great country.

Thanks to orions7s for reminding us in his recent post on CutleryNewsJournal’s YouTube Channel in response to Help Us Defend Your Rights video-

“The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

Thomas Jefferson


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