When they put up their new 2017 calendars, many in the knife world breathed a sigh of relief. Election years are often the most challenging for the industry. There were exceptions, but for most knife manufacturers and retailers five consecutive years of growth came to an abrupt end in 2016. Not only did a heated run for President steal knife buyers’ attention, but its unique circumstances precipitated a shift in sales from blades to bullets.
2016 was also a year to forget for many custom makers. Demand softened and prices took a hit as cautious speculators and collectors transitioned from buying to trading. 2016 caught many off guard, but the events came as little surprise to Anthony Sculimbrene of Everyday Commentary and the Gear Geeks Live podcast. Sculimbrene, who has been tracking the knife world since 2011, warned that growth would subside and the seemingly unending rise in prices would soon be coming to an end. The market for custom knives was in a “bubble,” Sculimbrene said. As it turns out, he was exactly right.
So with a look ahead, we enlisted Sculimbrene to help spot some trends that are expected to change the knife world in 2017.
What’s Old is New Again
“I think we have not seen the top of the new traditionals market,” Sculimbrene reckons. The secondary market has slowed, but the modern traditional category, lead by GEC and Bark River, is still avidly collected, traded, and sold. Where are traditionals headed in 2017? “I think we will see a lot of stuff in this area, perhaps even some midtech traditionals,” Sculimbrene says.
Crowdfunding to Get Crowded
Sculimbrene tells us that Kickstarter could emerge as a major distribution channel in 2017. 2016 saw modest growth in new Kickstarter models on the heels of DPx’s successful crowdfunding of the HEST/F Urban folder in late 2015. According to Sculimbrene, in 2017 we could see the flood gates open with a veritable Kickstarter gold rush. “Kickstarter knives are coming, it’s just a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if,’ ” he says.
American Manufacturing on the Rise
Sculimbrene also believes we’ll soon see even more new made in the USA blades. A possible tariff and concern about the value of US currency contribute to greater risk facing importers and the growing appeal of domestic manufacturing. “The prices are coming down thanks to expanded capacity, and with folks like KAI completely filled up for years of production, the Millit Knives and Halpern Titaniums of the world will step in and fill the gap,” Sculimbrene says.
> > Keep your folders awesome. Grab a Pack of 5 Microfiber Blade Sleeves for $8.99 < <
Fewer Limited Editions
In 2016, Spyderco impressed with exotic steel sprint runs like the burnt orange HAP40 series, and Zero Tolerance released a dozen variants of popular models. But Sculimbrene says limited run products will become more, well, limited in 2017. “The notion that companies can just continuously pump the cash machine with limited editions is wrong. I think we will see less of this and it will make the releases that do happen feel more special.”
Knife featured in image: GEC #98