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.
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?