Knife companies report lackluster sales as expected rebound isn’t.

Knife Sales are down 5% industry-wide. (Photo via SMKW)

KnifeNews marked National Knife Day with a bit of a dark cloud. While more Americans are able to buy or carry a greater variety of knives than any time in recent history, this hasn’t translated into sales as the industry was expecting following November’s election.

From KnifeNews:

But according to SSI Data, which tracks the sales of guns, ammunition, outdoor accessories, and knives across multiple channels, that simply hasn’t happened. In 2017, knife sales in the US remain stagnant, down another 5% even over 2016’s poor showing. “There was a period where folks were trying to feel out what the market was going to look like,” Odie Tucker of SSI Data tells us. “And it just didn’t shape up to much of anything, unfortunately.”

It’s easy to spot the symptoms of a struggling knife industry, but diagnosing the disease is a whole other matter. Maybe knife sales are just a reflection of a stagnating US economy. Maybe consumers have enough knives in their inventories already and see more value putting their dollars elsewhere. Or maybe it’s that knife companies, banned from advertising on search engines and social media, are being out shouted and drowned out by competing product categories that aren’t subject to the same restrictions. Maybe it’s some combination of all these factors or something else entirely.

I don’t know if it is related to larger economic trends or market saturation. I think that the increasing awareness of custom knives from television and social media and an increasing number of custom makers overall has led to cannibalization of the medium and high end production market. I am no longer buying much from the big production companies and am channeling my dollars towards the smaller makers who don’t register on the industry surveys the way that the production companies do. I am obviously an extremely micro-example, but as they say “data is the plural of anecdote” – and I have the feeling I am not alone in this. It is noticeable at BLADE Show as there is a wait-list for tables, but more big companies are pulling out, putting all their eggs (and product releases) in the SHOT Show basket.

What factors do you blame for the decline in knife sales? Have your personal purchasing patterns changed in terms of volume or value of purchases?


  1. Cadeyrn says:

    I suspect most of the TTAK readers are doing their part. However I wonder whether the data collection is accurate.

    I see a lot more knife tables at the local gun shows. Many appear to be small startups or foreign entities and sellers with no discernable US roots. They are clearly competing with local and well-established US names, but are their sales included in the data?

    How many of the knives being sold are made in China, Pakistan or India these days? I don’t think collectors are terribly interested in those, but just as Wal Mart shovels out cheap foreign goods to mass consumers, so too will foreign competition dump lots of mediocre work onto the market for whatever they can capture.

  2. Sam L. says:

    I have all the knives I need, and all that I really want, so I’m out of the market.

  3. stuartb says:

    Sam L – I said exactly the same thing 5 new knives ago!

  4. cmeat says:

    the majority of my purchases are pre- owned. this applies pretty much across the board, with notable but not worth referencing exceptions.
    i buy auction lots to get pieces i want (like playing rummy), and gift many of the redundant or less interesting (to me) away to friends and family.

  5. WuzNtMe says:

    I personally don’t think politics plays into it too much. You’re pretty much always able to buy any knife you want whether you’re allowed to carry it, or even own it, or not. So, if laws change in your area I don’t think you’re likely to go out and buy another knife just because.
    I really admire hand-made knives but find a hard time justifying the expense of them. I’ve been through plenty of cheap, crap knives so I don’t buy no-name crap any more just because it looks cool. I found I’m perfectly happy with big-name knives in the $30 area and I have plenty of those.
    There’s never really been any event, political or otherwise, that has ever influenced my desire to purchase a knife…

  6. Ourorboros says:

    Maybe another titanium flipper frame lock will get the market moving.

    Well stagnant wages are a reality, but that hits all products, not just knives. But the economy isn’t stagnant as such, as all data show the richest certainly have their income growing. But until the jobs market is saturated and companies really have to compete for workers, wages will stay flat.

    The reality has always been that high end production knives were competing with customs. And really if you are paying $300+ for knives, you’ll eventually want something not as mass produced. There really isn’t any reason not to get something tailored to your taste instead of getting something from a factory.

    Lack of advertising probably favors the large companies. Really for the average buyer from a big box store or local hunting/gun/hardware store what names do they know? Not Kizer or Moki. GEC probably means nothing to them, but Case sure does. Only the “Internet Knife Community” does the research and look for new things.

    I’m curious what the “competing product categories” are, beyond anything you can spend disposable income on. Because I can’t think of a good replacement for a knife beyond another knife. The phrase sounds like lazy research/excuse. They need to nail down what they are competing against. Nameless, faceless fears are for movies and politicians.

    As for myself, I do have enough knives for each of my defined niches. I’m looking at different traditionals and a couple of moderns that have caught my eye. But most new stuff doesn’t really catch my eye.

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Knife companies report lackluster sales as expected rebound isn’t.

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