At least once a week I’ll get a phone call or an email and sooner or later the question comes up, what’s with Great Eastern Cutlery. Good question.
In the last year and a half the new releases from Great Eastern have really tapered off and the time in between has gotten longer. I know they run more of the SFO’s then they did in the past and it’s pretty common to see an SFO ride the coattails of a current production item. It’s kind of reaching the point where the SFO’s are more exciting then the regular production items! And there have been some nice SFO’s but I’m also seeing some of them sitting on dealers shelves.
It’s become apparent that the ‘bloom is off the rose‘. Visiting the various boards such as iKC and even GEC’s website, facebook page, etc, it’s really been quiet as far as discussion goes. The commentary has fallen to the level of ‘ya, I really like the color of the handles and I may have to try one out’. The level of excitement is really subdued across the boards.
My year has been up and down. June was the second best I’ve had in 10 years. March probably fell into the middle range. There have been a slew of new customers but that core of serious collectors seems to have really consolidated. There’s a growth in customers buying 2 or 3 knives where the norm used to be 8-10. Again, I attribute some of that to a reduction in new models (from GEC, anyway) Overseas sales are personally at an all time high. It’s just been a really strange year.
So what’s going on? Is everyone hungering for that next knife to replace the #23 or do we have all the knives we need? (not me). I’d love to see some of the innovation and fire we saw a couple of years ago. Remember 20011? 46 Whalers, French Kate’s, Drop Point Barlow’s, Conductors, Gepetto Whittlers, Ben Hogan’s, Calf Roper’s, White Owl’s, Bullet End Jack’s. Yah, hard to believe isn’t it?
And remember what followed it up last year? Farm Tools, Fish Knives and Boy’s knives in every color of the rainbow. We really saw that low price market get saturated. But we did see a heavy rerun of the 72’s and 73’s which was a good thing as they’re both solid sellers. I wish we could have seen some more 42’s in place of a couple of Delrin Bullnose’s personally. Better yet would have been more 440C.
It was great to see the Dixie Stockman come through and while it’s not really my style of knife, it was a pleasant change. That Drop Point blade was really a positive over the medium pen blades typical of the pattern. How about changing things up a bit and putting that Drop Point in another frame. Put it back in the Barlow! Put a Drop Point in the 73, 72 or 42. Let’s see a nice big Drop Point in a lockback or linerlock 23! That would make a helluva nice hunter. How about a nice mid-size Gunstock? I don’t know if there’s a belief that the higher end (as in $90+) buyer is gone or why so much focus was put on the Delrin, single blade, etc patterns. What I do know, is that it’s moving the higher end buyers to other brands.
Queen and Schatt & Morgan have taken up some of the slack. While I don’t anticipate them ever being as big a seller for me as the Great Eastern line was, it’s been good to see the Stag and short run Queens come through. The other advantage they’ve had is the price point. While they tend to stick with tried and true patterns, their collaboration with folks like Ruple and Kious keeps things interesting.
Hess has been another line that has been a steady seller. Not big numbers, but once you buy one, a lot of customers come back for more. Again, the guys at Hess have found the secret to putting out a high quality, great looking knife at an incredibly reasonable price.
So what’s going on? Are we just witnessing a major shift in the knife industry in general? Are we seeing GEC make a shift away from production knives ultimately into focusing on SFO’s and private label knives? Have we seen GEC start to peak out and the creative juices and enthusiasm inside dry up? Does anyone have an opinion or care??? All I know is it’s been disappointing. It sure would be fun to see someone back in there lighting a fire under folks again and maybe pumping up the volume a bit.