Monthly Archives: October 2017

Weekend Update 10.16.17

I participated in the Fergus Falls Show over the weekend and as a result, missed posting an update on Friday.  So this week, we’ll have a ‘weekend update’!  It wasn’t the biggest show they’ve had but it was a decent turnout.  Knife sales were good and I learned a few things.  Not a bad weekend!

But first, a quick review of last week.   It was a short work week for me as I spent 4 days in Trestle Pine Country.  This was the last camping trip for the season and we picked a fantastic time to go.  The weather was gorgeous and the leaves were really at their peak for color.

Every trip always seems to have it’s highlight and this time was no exception.  While we were cruising the back roads 3 timber wolves crossed the road in front of us.  The first one slowed down to check us out and two more came through behind him.  We’ve seen more timber wolves up there in the last 3 years than we saw in the prior 40!  It’s fun to see them but from talking to a few local residents, they’re also causing problems with livestock and pets.

I got back on Wednesday, just in time to pack up for the weekend show.  Now I play catch-up this week and get ready for a pheasant hunting trip next weekend in North Dakota and one last crack at the prairie dogs.  Then…. I’m done for a while.  Life is good!

Knives, let see, the first of the Northfield Churchills arrived last week and went out as quick as they went in the store.  The Smooth Yellow Bone is always a good seller and this one was no exception.  There are a couple more Northfields that will be showing up this week.

Northfield #35 Churchill Yellow Rose

The knife news that really caught my attention last week was the announcement of the GEC #43 Oregon available after the first of the year.

I’ll admit I’ve been pretty bored with the recent releases from GEC.  The Barlows have been beat to death.  While the small knives are popular, there’s an abundance of them in the marketplace.  We haven’t seen many big knives in a while from Great Eastern and this looks like a winner.

The first thing I thought was it looks like a large version of the #73.  The 73 was one of my first GEC’s and I really liked it.  The #43 is going to be a full 1/2″ longer at 4.25″,  so should put it in the size class of the #23 which measured 4.5″, or about a 1/4″ longer then the new #43.    My bet would be in the future we’ll see a locking version and possibly a 2 blade as well.  It sounds to me like it should be a great ‘work’ knife that’s not going to be overly heavy in the pocket.  Now, if we could just get GEC to upgrade it to a premium steel…..

 

Delayed Shipping and a Gun Show Coming Up

There were a couple more notes I meant to add to yesterdays update regarding delayed shipping and the upcoming Fergus Falls, MN Gun Show.

I’m going to be out most of next week so there will be a brief suspension of shipping.  First, i’m going to spend a few days in the northwoods enjoying the fall colors and just kicking back.  It’s not often I get to go up in October and am really looking forward to it.  Summers are special in that part of the world and Fall can be gorgeous.

As soon as I return, I start packing things for the Gun Show in Fergus Falls the weekend of 10/21 thru 10/22.   THE SHOW IS 10/14 THRU 10/15!! There will be one day to unpack from camping and get things sorted out for the show.  The show is at the National Guard Armory and I’ll have 4 tables of necessities you can’t live without.  Randy, Muskrat, Jim and all the rest of you I hope you can drop by.

It was a quiet week for new knife arrivals with GEC shut down for the week.  They’ll be back to work next week and I anticipate they’ll be working on the Churchills with a few knives going out next week.

The main addition to the store this past week were the Hess fixed blades.  Don and Andy Hess are getting busier then ever and extended delays between placing and receiving orders is becoming the norm.  Its a great line at a terrific price and more people that spend time in the outdoors are finding out about them every day.

I finished cutting the wood slabs for the Trestle Pine Gunflint just over a week ago.  That was shipped and should be just waiting to be applied to the knives.  With any luck we should see the finished knives in the near future.   The new curly maple is great looking and i can’t wait to see it on the knives.  Another wood that was a shocker to me is the Hawaiian Mango.  Wait till you see it!

Weekly Update and Some Business Changes 10.5.17

I’m moving the weekly update up a day as there have been inquires about some business changes I’ve made regarding the Auto knife portion of TSA Knives, LLC.  If you haven’t noticed, they disappeared from the store yesterday.  Let me start by giving you some background.

I’m well past retirement age and through the summer I struggled with a decision to retire, scale back or just keep going as I have.  Business has been outstanding and growing steadily.  It’s hard to walk away from a successful business but at the same time you really want to have more time to spend doing the things you really enjoy while you can.  This summer I spent more time doing some of those things and ….. it was great.  At the same time, I still enjoyed the business side of life but on a more limited basis.  I didn’t answer the phone every time it rang.  I backed off on some of the quantities of product I brought in and in some cases, skipped new releases completely.  Amazingly, it didn’t negatively affect the bottom line $$.  I picked up several substantial collections, did more sales off line than I have in the past and saw the Trestle Pine Knives get some traction.

A year ago, I decided to carry the new Auto’s from Queen and due to Minnesota’s archaic switch blade laws, I rented office space in North Dakota (switchblade friendly) to stay within the law.  All the proper filings were made to establish a legal presence in ND, sales tax numbers and LLC requirements fulfilled.  Not only was it an additional expense, it was, on occasion, a pain in the ass.  Every now and then, orders were shipped to the wrong address and it’s a 100 mile, 2 hour round trip to visit that office.   When you get there and find out the package isn’t, kind of ruins your morning.

While numerous states have made switchblades legal, Minnesota is still dragging their feet in revising the law so going forward, to continue operations the only option was to retain the North Dakota location.   When I evaluated the time and cost of selling the autos, I made the decision to drop the line of switchblades and not renew the lease on the ND office.   What aided the decision was an opportunity to move all of my remaining inventory in a single transaction.

So what happens going forward?  I plan to really look at the business and make a few more changes to make things a little easier while still keeping my fingers in the business (probably not the best analogy based on my stitch count).  While I have a lot of inventory that’s still not in the store, I may look at scaling back more of my purchases, only pick up the items I’m really interested in, work on cleaning up more of the odds and ends and maybe look at some different items that are less labor intensive.  Getting a shipment of 50 or 60 knives, shooting the photo’s and getting them listed takes more than a little time and effort.

The Trestle Pine Knives is one area I’d like to concentrate on more.  There’s a new model coming soon (the Gunflint) and I’ll be bringing out more of the fixed blade Buddy’s toward the end of the year.   I’ve got another idea or two in my head for the first part of the year.

AND,  I’d really like to spend more time acquiring collections of old obsolete ammunition, used gun parts, scopes, and other hunting and shooting items.  It’s just fun (for me anyway) to deal in that old stuff.   I’ve never advertised it in the past but I’ve made a number of trades for used rifle scopes, gun parts, reloading miscellany and such for knives.  That’s something I’m always interested in.  In fact, one of the early transactions I made a number of years ago with a well known customer involved a rather extensive collection of Colt parts for some cash and a knife or two I believe.  And more recently, another really good customer took around 30# of miscellaneous parts off my hands.

Anyway, the main point is I’m not going out of the knife business but I am making some business changes.  Other then the disappearance of the auto’s, you probably won’t see many other startling changes happen overnite.   But as opportunities arise…..who knows???

Are Knives Starting to Cool Off?

I didn’t get a chance to get a blog post up on Friday.  There was rain moving in for the weekend and this time of the year we have to start winding up some of the outside work while you can.  So, boats came out of the water, another round of leaves were cleaned up, etc.  The wet weather kept me inside over the weekend and gave me some time to look at sales for the year so far.  It was interesting and makes me wonder if the ‘collectible’ knives are starting to cool off a bit.

The first half of the year was absolutely fantastic for sales but I did see things start to slow up significantly in September.  While it’s not necessarily unusual to see things drop off for a few weeks or even a month, I like to try to understand if there’s a reason.  Sales patterns will change due to the holidays, prime vacation periods, economic upturns and downturns, exciting or boring product releases and so on.

Great Eastern has always affected my sales up or down to some degree based on what they release.  When they were on a roll with interesting new designs on a regular basis, as soon as most items went in the store they were sold out.  This past year, they increased the size of their runs and increased there focus on the SFO’s.   You can’t blame them as the SFO’s are a guaranteed sale for GEC and takes a lot of financial pressure off from the factory.  If they build 1500 knives and 900 are SFO’s, they’re absolutely guaranteed 60% of the production is sold covering the bulk total production costs before a single blade is cut.  Good business decision for a manufacturer.  IN spite of reducing the number of GEC’s I carried, my sales figures have been the strongest in 15+ years of online sales.

Queen has done a great job coming up with new knives and started using unique handle materials that have been well received.  They also started using more of the ‘modern’ steels giving people an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a super steel in a traditional folder.  They played a big part of taking up the slack from GEC.

The Trestle Pine line has done better then I had hoped for and working with Sven Kinast at Messerdepot has moved me into wholesaling the line.  Sven, Julian Holzberger and Stefan Schmalhaus (among others) have posted some fabulous pictures of the Trestle Pine’s on Facebook which has really helped spread the word in Europe.  Many thanks!

Hess has been a steady selling line that can’t be beat for quality at the price.  It’s just a fine knife.  With Fall upon us sales will pick up there and stay firm until Christmas.

So in spite of this relatively positive news, why was September such a soft month for sales?   Why do I wonder if knife sales could be cooling? That led me to do some digging on the internet.

MAP pricing (Minimum Allowable Pricing) has been around for years, it’s typically affected franchise operations.  While it’s rarely prosecuted in the courts (I don’t ever recall a case), I’ve always considered it to be a ‘gentleman’s’ agreement between manufacturer and retailer to respect the minimum price that the retailer wanted their products advertised for sale.  What you sold the item for behind the scene was entirely up to you and there are a lot of ways to skin a cat.  Usually if a dealer got caught selling at a lower then MAP the manufacturer would ask you to cease and desist but there wasn’t much force of law to punish you.  The greatest risk is having the manufacturer refuse to sell products to you in the future (which I haven’t seen happen either!).

The point behind MAP is to protect the brand.  If a popular product gets discounted at every turn (which we see more and more with the internet and Amazon in particular), it can start a race to the bottom to see who can sell the most the cheapest.  Unfortunately, not only is it an effective way to chase off your retail competitor, but you can end up devaluing the perceived value of the sale item.

I personally saw this happen on a large scale when I had the B/M sporting goods store back in the early ’80’s with Remington firearms.  Remington tied in with Kmart and Walmart ending up in a major price war with the independent sporting goods dealers.  Over the course of less then a year the independents all but completely dropped the Remington lines in protest and Remington lost a lot of ground which they never fully recovered for years.  For a while consumers associated Remington a discount brand and we saw prices on the secondary market fall through the floor.  If someone came in our store with a used Remington shotgun, we wouldn’t consider taking it in on trade unless it could be had for a fraction of the discount price.  It was the same with virtually every other dealer.  Ultimately, Remington started going out and having group meetings with dealers to try and mend fences and come up with a new marketing strategy.  While there wasn’t MAP pricing involved, it was a great lesson in what can happen when deep discounting takes place and a handful of discounters end up controlling the market.

Great Eastern, Queen, Victorinox and scores of other knife manufacturers have MAP pricing on some if not all of their products.  Not that unusual.  What I found interesting was that a few weeks ago Victorinox sent out a fall promotion that they were suspending MAP policies on some of their knives.  Watching Ebay, there were a few dealers thumbing their noses at MAP policies of other mfgr’s and blatantly advertising/selling below MAP.  In a rather bizarre situation, I was asked to maintain MAP pricing while two other dealers were exempted.  But the BS detector went off when a dealer publicly announced they’re going around the MAP policies to reduce prices because it gives them too large a profit margin?????  I’m obviously on a different wholesale price schedule!

In the past few weeks I’ve had a couple of calls that people asked if I would either match lower prices on some of the MAP items or beat someone’s price.  I wouldn’t do it.  So far, I’m still abiding by what I feel is a gentleman’s agreement… so far.  There’s always been competition and price cutting, but it seems to be growing.

All of this tells me either the market is heating up with growing competition for a larger piece of  market  share through lower prices.  Or is everyone just competing for a larger share of a shrinking market? I really got interested after doing a little research on Ebay.

Since they came out, I’ve watched the prices of the TC Barlow skyrocket from an issue price under $100 to prices on the secondary market of $200-300 and even $400+ dollars.  (The TC’s have been the bellwether of current collectible knife $$.)  This was happening literally overnite.  I don’t think many of us really believed that was sustainable.  Now I’m wondering if we’ve finally seen them top out and start to retreat.

Pulling up Ebay “Sales” here’s some interesting numbers.  Figures weren’t available for the full month of August so all I can do is compare the full month of September against the final 13 days of August.  If you compare the last 13 days of August to the last 13 days of September, the drop in sales and prices is even more dramatic.

In the last 13 days of August, approximately 22 TC Barlows were sold totaling $5385 with an average sell price of $245.  Only 1 went for less then $200 and 3 were over $300.  Several sold at a “Best Offer” price which wasn’t available.

In the ENTIRE month of September, a total of just 31 TC Barlows were sold totaling $5573  with an average sell price of $180.  That’s roughly a 25% price drop from August.  None sold for over $300, just 6 were over $200 and 25 were under $200.  Again, “Best Offer” sales aren’t included.

A brief look at Worthpoint shows that some of the older GEC’s from 2006, 2007 have steadily increased in value and didn’t got through that hyper-inflationary secondary market.  But a fair number of the older, more collectible GEC’s have actually sold at what I’d consider to be pretty reasonable prices such as a Tidioute #73 Chocolate Bone that sold on Ebay just over a week ago NIB for $78.  Other then the highly desirable stags and a number of very limited handle options, some of the older knives are trading close to issue price in some cases.

So does this mean the sky is falling?  Hell, I don’t know.  I doubt it.  Time to exercise a bit of caution?  Probably.  What I do think is that we may be seeing some of the insane prices finally slowing down and maybe retreating to a more reasonable level for this specific item.  This absolutely isn’t an overall analysis of the entire collectible market but combined with the other issues I can’t help but wonder if maybe there’s a bit of softening starting to occur.

There’s a big batch of American Jacks coming through Great Eastern and it’s going to be interesting to see what the reaction is to all of the available options.  9 SFO’s, and 12 production knives.  While I’m not a huge fan of the spear blade, I think they’ll sell well as it was a popular pattern when it originally came out.  Let see what happens to the secondary market when the speculators put them on Ebay.

Maybe people are getting a bit more introspective and questioning the ‘why’ a pocket knife is worth so much.  I learned long ago that the anticipation can be 10 times more fun then the accumulation.