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In a move that has some of us both stunned & skeptical, manufacturer Cold Steel has been acquired by GSM Outdoors. This transaction was announced on December 3, 2020. Cold Steel founder Lynn Thompson has created a video in an attempt to dispel skepticism, informing viewers that both he and designer Andrew Demko would be remaining on with the company.
Most people here have likely heard of Cold Steel, and perhaps many of you own at least one. For those who haven't heard of Cold Steel, the company is now approximately 40 years old, designing and manufacturing the most diverse range of edged tools, weapons, and other items, from swords to blow guns to pepper sprays to tomahawks to pocket knives. What is now known as the American tanto blade design was introduced by Cold Steel, & Andrew Demko is behind what is considered to be one of the strongest locking mechanism, the Tri-Ad Lock.
GSM Outdoors was purchased by Gridiron Capital from hedge fund Sentinel Capital Partners just two weeks before the purchase of Cold Steel. In 2005, Toys R Us was purchased by an investment group that almost immediately more than doubled the debt owed by Toys R Us by saddling it with debt from other entities owned by the new owners. Hopefully we won't see the same fate with Cold Steel.
Regardless, it is almost certain that we will see a reduction in product diversity from Cold Steel in order to focus attention on the more solidly selling items. Granted, Cold Steel could still have a respectable catalog if they reduced their products by half of what they currently manufacture. However, with this there will likely also be a downgrade of materials used to make the remaining products.
Lynn Thompson states that he will still be involved in the company, but it's hard to imagine he will react favorably to the cuts that are likely coming to the company that Thompson spent 40 years creating, & being his own boss the whole time. It's hard to imagine anything will get better for Demko either. While both of these departures seem inevitable, the most concerning are the layoffs that are most certainly coming for the employees who will almost certainly be cut when the product lines are reduced, all in the name of profits.
I know I'm putting a pretty negative spin on this whole thing. However, I can't imagine this going well at all, for anyone involved. I don't consider myself a "fan" of Cold Steel's knives, not exactly anyway. Their marketing has caught a lot of flack over the years, as has Lynn Thompson's outspoken character. But I have very much come to appreciate the quality of knives & other items Cold Steel was able to produce, especially at the lower & middle price ranges -- & I'm clearly not the only one to have noticed. I've liked every Cold Steel item I've purchased, and really liked some of them. But I've been able to rely on all of them, & that's not a small feat.
Not officially related but certainly not purely coincidentally, KnifeCenter.com is have a sale on all in-stock Cold Steel products through Monday, 12/7. This has definitely influenced me to make some purchases I wasn't necessarily quite yet ready to make. But I have also noticed a number of Cold Steel knives & other items selling out at various retailers over the weekend. Most likely I will be making a few Cold Steel purchases in the coming weeks. This is not an emergency situation, certainly, but it is potentially catastrophic for a what had come to be a fairly well-known quantity. At the very least, it is likely to be a bit of a bummer. As pessimistic as this article sounds, I truly hope the new Cold Steel will prove me wrong.
Not wanting to put a negative spin on things, but Cold Steel is a Sales company. While their products were pretty darned good, they were never a manufacturer. The majority of their products were produced overseas, and the very few US made Cold Steels were put out by Camilus, I believe.
He said Demko and himself were going to remain, but the video Lynn put out looked staged and quasi-rehearsed. I can't see this turning out well for the Cold Steel brand. They already changed the warranty to a 1yr limited warranty, then a day later, switched it back to a limied lifetime warranty. Plus, the video was released, then pulled, then re-released....this is looking somewhat slap-hazzard to me.