While knife dealers reported significant growth in 2015, the results may not reflect market conditions in other channels of distribution. According to reports from Sport Scan Info, a data reporting service, the broader market for knives and tools is shrinking.
Sports Scan Info reported a nearly double-digit decline in dollar sales for the knives and multi-tools category between February 2015 and February 2016. “There are only a few small specialized knife categories that are actually increasing. Filet knives are up and we are also seeing a modest increase in multi-tool sales,” says Odie Tucker of Sport Scan Info.
The company aggregates point of sales data from over 10,000 storefronts and online retailers across the firearms, ammunition, fishing, optics, and knives and tools categories. The emphasis of Sports Scan Info’s tracking is stores where sportsmen shop including outdoor specialty, full-line sporting good, big-box outdoor retail, athletic specialty, outdoor chain, and sport specialty channels. But the data also includes information from more mainstream distribution channels such as major ecommerce, mid-tier department store, and discount/mass (excluding Walmart). The company does not currently track any online knife specialty dealers like KnifeCenter.com where knife enthusiasts are more likely to buy their blades.
“On the whole, outside of firearms and ammo most sportsman’s categories are down,” says Tucker. But Sports Scan Info’s data indicates that the knife and tool category has been the hardest hit. The company says that even changes in the weather can sometimes have an adverse impact on sales, but the reasons for the slump remain unclear. “The trend within knives is we are seeing a sharper decline in unit sales than total dollar sales because average selling prices are increasing,” Tucker elaborates.
Taylor Brands, makers of Schrade, Smith & Wesson Knives, Uncle Henry, Imperial, and Old Timer Knives, acknowledges the market decline but say they are thriving despite the troubling conditions. “We experienced double-digit growth in 2015,” says Jody Agnew, Taylor Brands’ Vice President of Sales. The company points to gains in distribution for their uninterrupted growth. Following a successful SHOT Show, the company says they are maintaining a positive outlook. “Our booth traffic was up and our meeting schedules were full, we’ve returned from SHOT Show with high optimism that 2016 will be another solid growth year for us,” says Agnew.
With widespread distribution already in place, the company is turning its attention to consumer marketing. “Now it’s time for focused marketing efforts to take our already strong pull-through at retail to the next level,” says Agnew. Taylor Brands just tapped Brothers & Company, an advertising agency and Dollahon PR, a public relations firm to deliver on the new focus. “[They] were introduced to us through recommendations and we did find them to be a good fit during our review. They are officially onboard and we’re off and running,” says Agnew.
Both agencies have expertise in working with top brands that cater to outdoors enthusiasts who are passionate about activities like hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and boating. Among Brothers’ clients are Remington, Mossy Oak, Carhartt and Bushnell. Dollahon PR has been instrumental in the return to prominence of fishing brands Lew’s, Gene Larew and Bobby Garland.
Knife featured in image: Schrade Sure-Lock