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Hello all, my name is Terry, and I recently opened a knife shop online. I opened the shop to support my own "Knife Addiction," which my wife wishes I would seek treatment for!

My goal is to offer great factory, as well as custom knives. I am looking for suggestions from knowledgeable members, as to what types and brands of knives I should sell, as well as the custom knife makers I should pursue.

I live in White Plains, New York, and I am also looking for knife shows I should attend or sell at. I really appreciate any and all suggestions, and thank you for your time!

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First and foremost...BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR PRODUCT!! I have seen many many companies and individuals ruin their reputation and business by not being truthful about their products. Condition, origin, availability...these can destroy a business if misrepresented. The knife world is very unforgiving when it comes to this. Make sure your custom designs are not copying someone else's work. If your knives are Pakistan in origin, be sure to divulge this and price them accordingly. Claiming something is in stock and then making the customer wait weeks or months will not help your business. Production knives are not easy to make much of a profit on, as there are sooo many knife sites and sellers, both on their own webpages and on Facebook. Ship quickly and provide tracking. Be sure you put the responsibility for knowing local knife laws on the customer, so you are not shipping and taking back knives due to illegality. Find tradeshows and craft shows in your area and get a table. They are usually pretty cheap (much cheaper than knife shows) and can really pay off.

Above all...don't expect to make millions. It is tough to get ahead in selling knives. I have done it for a while now, about 4 years or so, and it is mainly a hobby for me so I can go with the wife to craft and trade shows. Knife shows can be very expensive to get a table, and if you have lower end products, it can be tough to move your knives when people are buying the top-end stuff. It also really depends on where you are. If you are trying to sell at shows in places with an abundance of knife stores, you might find business a tad slow. Engage everyone that walks by, even if just to say Hi. No one wants to see someone plunked down on their butt and ignoring everyone that goes by. Smile, talk and engage. Signage is also important, as well as having lots of business cards on hand. A nice display idea helps to bring folks in too. Maybe some extra stuff as well as knives? Flashlights, fire starters etc.

Thank you for this advice Steve. I have a long way to go, and your advice is solid.

Steve Scheuerman (Manx) said:

First and foremost...BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR PRODUCT!! I have seen many many companies and individuals ruin their reputation and business by not being truthful about their products. Condition, origin, availability...these can destroy a business if misrepresented. The knife world is very unforgiving when it comes to this. Make sure your custom designs are not copying someone else's work. If your knives are Pakistan in origin, be sure to divulge this and price them accordingly. Claiming something is in stock and then making the customer wait weeks or months will not help your business. Production knives are not easy to make much of a profit on, as there are sooo many knife sites and sellers, both on their own webpages and on Facebook. Ship quickly and provide tracking. Be sure you put the responsibility for knowing local knife laws on the customer, so you are not shipping and taking back knives due to illegality. Find tradeshows and craft shows in your area and get a table. They are usually pretty cheap (much cheaper than knife shows) and can really pay off.

Above all...don't expect to make millions. It is tough to get ahead in selling knives. I have done it for a while now, about 4 years or so, and it is mainly a hobby for me so I can go with the wife to craft and trade shows. Knife shows can be very expensive to get a table, and if you have lower end products, it can be tough to move your knives when people are buying the top-end stuff. It also really depends on where you are. If you are trying to sell at shows in places with an abundance of knife stores, you might find business a tad slow. Engage everyone that walks by, even if just to say Hi. No one wants to see someone plunked down on their butt and ignoring everyone that goes by. Smile, talk and engage. Signage is also important, as well as having lots of business cards on hand. A nice display idea helps to bring folks in too. Maybe some extra stuff as well as knives? Flashlights, fire starters etc.

Terry,

Manx's advise is indeed solid.I can add that right now sellers are telling me gun&knife shows are where it is at right now.  Buyers come knowing they will be spending money.  Tables cost less, knives sell.  While you are at your table do something!  Clean knives, sharpen knives, anything that grabs attention and use that to start conversations.  Manx is right, you may not sell to that person that day but they will look for you online or at the next local show.

Business cards, I do not use the paper kind.  I order cards that people will keep in their wallet or desk.  Mine have magnifying glasses, look to see what is out there find something unique.  Paper cards are cheap but you are buying what becomes trash 

Mr. Soloman,

I'm going to guess, based on your experience, that you are comfortable with a higher end clientele.  Is that correct?  If so, you might be better off getting to know people.  You might want to head to the larger stores, like Plaza Cutlery, or Smoky Mountain Knife Works.  Meet people in the higher end knife areas, art knives & customs & collectibles & antiques -- customers, the employees working those areas, even the owners if possible.  Reach out to people like J. Bruce Voyles. 

I'll admit that I'm not particularly into high-end art & collector knives, or rare/antique knives, but I imagine there are some similarities to the business models when dealing in more expensive knives.  I am also guessing, however, that higher end knife sales are a different animal than retail/production knife sales, as the customer bases are going to be quite different

Of course I'm just making assumptions here.  So it's probably good to ask -- what type of knife business are you hoping to build?

Ah-hah!  I found you!  https://terrysknifestore.com/

2 things I noticed right off the bat:  You need your email to be through the website (not aol.com), & get that "powered by GoDaddy" off the bottom of the home page -- even if it means spending more per month.  Also, if you're going to sell Pakistani damascus knives, personally I would not have them on the landing page.

Also, I just went to the EDC page & noticed that you've got three Spydercos and then a small assortment of other brands. Here's where I say what I'm sure is painfully obvious, & expensive, but it will definitely help to have more stock to choose from.  That said, the professional level photography is definitely helpful!  It ill be better when you can afford to have your own photos of the knives you have in stock, for purposes of uniformity.  It's likely something you won't be able to afford for a while, but it will instill confidence in your store.

So I also have to ask -- what part of your business are you hoping to grow first?  I think it's entirely possible to have a multi-faceted knife business, but if you have limits on your time & your budget -- as everyone does -- you should be focusing your efforts in one or two related areas (custom & art knives, for example, or just lower-end production models).

Have you found any cross-over between knives & prospecting or metal-detecting crowds?  

Also, what was the context for the 2003 Blade Magazine quote?  That would be really helpful, especially if you got a photo of whatever accompanied that quote (if there was a photo) -- otherwise, it looks a little awkward to quote yourself in one source (Blade) on another source (your About Me page).  I get that you were trying to reference your mention in Blade, but is there another way of doing that?  Was it from a "Knife I Carry" column, by any chance?  If so, I can see the difficulty, but in that case you'd just be better off without the quotes, to keep it from making the page feel disjointed.

Who else have you asked for suggestions on this topic?  Any other forums?

And where are you advertising?  When I typed your name into Google, followed by the word knives, I saw some of your videos pop up on the first page, but your store was listed on the second page.

I second Steve's comment about honesty & will suggest that really falls under the umbrella of good customer service.  I'm not saying you should let yourself get abused by your customers, but taking a few hits is worth it if you build a good reputation with customers. 

I can tell you that when I had an issue with an Anza knife & the owner (Charlie Davis) called me to talk about it, it was something I wouldn't forget.  Similarly, Benchmade offered to replace one of their knives I had a problem with, & gave me a good coupon on a future purchase.  And then there was A.G. Russell (r.i.p.) who answered a question about one of his company's knives when I posted that question on another forum.  At one point, I ordered an older catalog from Knifecenter.com, & they called me to make sure it was the older catalog I meant to order, ascertaining I'd stay on as a customer (until a few years later, they did something shady or rude, I can't recall the incident at he moment, but since then I've shifted my business to Knifeworks.com). 

Point being, I've engaged in a lot of knife purchases, and good customer service really matters, because people remember those personal interactions, good & bad.

Good luck, & I hope we see you more around the forum!

Wow, I'm blown away by the deep knowledge base! Jan, thank you for the business card advice! 

 dead_left_knife_guy thank you! I am trying to leverage myself into higher end customs, and hard to find discontinued factory knives. I was just able to get my mitts on a new condition, in box Gerber Utility Bowie, and BMF! My plan is to transition away from Paki Damascus, and into more quality American made knives. Thank you for taking the time to offer your help!

I took advice and added more EDC knives, an American Damascus Bowie, and a couple of Buck knives. What American Knife makers should I be looking to sell?

American does not mean the best in knives...as much as many in the knife community like to think so. They do mean expensive, however. There are many fantastic brands out there made all over. Even the Chinese brands are starting to step up and become competitive on the market. Do some research into different brands. You might be surprised. :-)

You're right of course, and I am learning a lot. I was first introduced to Damascus Steel while in India. I was impressed by the knives being used by the Indian Special Forces guys I was working with, and how well they stood up to everyday hard use, from cutting off branches, to digging hide holes. I do like Bear & Son Bowie knives, which are really affordable, but yes, a lot of American knives cost way too much. Thank you Steve, and all of you that are trying to help a newbie out!!

Steve Scheuerman (Manx) said:

American does not mean the best in knives...as much as many in the knife community like to think so. They do mean expensive, however. There are many fantastic brands out there made all over. Even the Chinese brands are starting to step up and become competitive on the market. Do some research into different brands. You might be surprised. :-)

When we think USA made, we think jobs.  It is just how we are wired and in todays economy I don't see that changing by much.  When we think knives that are outsourced we tend to go straight to the Chinese or Paki knives.  Both have made some good strides in producing a few good names.  What should we think?  At one time the most imported switchblade around...Italy, major collectible origins over many decades...Germany and Sheffield.  Most purchased knife of all time...Victorinox.  Case carries it's own for the US category in sales 

So why do we tend to go straight to the countries that are struggling to have good and consistent imported quality?

I spent 45 years as a marketing director, business manager, and a marketing consultant before retiring, and this message from Manx is perhaps the best business advice I've seen anyone give … ever! Even if you are an introvert by nature, as I am, you have to engage people at shows and conferences. Keep in mind that these are not just your customers but they are the same people you'd enjoy talking to about your hobby. His suggestion to offer more than knives is first rate as well. When teaching people about direct mail, I always suggest that they don't give the potential customer the chance to say yes or no but yes or yes. "If you take this Camillus, I could throw in the Colonial for half price, and these Maglites are a great bonus deal today only." I might add that you get more interest by sharing some shop-talk gossip: "I just heard that XYZ company is coming out with their own line of (whatever). That should be cool." 



Steve Scheuerman (Manx) said:

First and foremost...BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR PRODUCT!! I have seen many many companies and individuals ruin their reputation and business by not being truthful about their products. Condition, origin, availability...these can destroy a business if misrepresented. The knife world is very unforgiving when it comes to this. Make sure your custom designs are not copying someone else's work. If your knives are Pakistan in origin, be sure to divulge this and price them accordingly. Claiming something is in stock and then making the customer wait weeks or months will not help your business. Production knives are not easy to make much of a profit on, as there are sooo many knife sites and sellers, both on their own webpages and on Facebook. Ship quickly and provide tracking. Be sure you put the responsibility for knowing local knife laws on the customer, so you are not shipping and taking back knives due to illegality. Find tradeshows and craft shows in your area and get a table. They are usually pretty cheap (much cheaper than knife shows) and can really pay off.

Above all...don't expect to make millions. It is tough to get ahead in selling knives. I have done it for a while now, about 4 years or so, and it is mainly a hobby for me so I can go with the wife to craft and trade shows. Knife shows can be very expensive to get a table, and if you have lower end products, it can be tough to move your knives when people are buying the top-end stuff. It also really depends on where you are. If you are trying to sell at shows in places with an abundance of knife stores, you might find business a tad slow. Engage everyone that walks by, even if just to say Hi. No one wants to see someone plunked down on their butt and ignoring everyone that goes by. Smile, talk and engage. Signage is also important, as well as having lots of business cards on hand. A nice display idea helps to bring folks in too. Maybe some extra stuff as well as knives? Flashlights, fire starters etc.

Thank you Jan and Steve! I am surfing the forum and learning quite a bit. There is such a deep knowledge base here!!!

Oh, sadly China gets our business because their government ensures low production costs, which are obtained by having low materials costs, low labor costs, & of course government-subsidized production aimed at taking manufacturing from the U.S.  AND THEN, as I understand it, the Chinese laws allow Chinese companies to take patent rights in the items they manufacture.  So nearly all, if not all, outsourced Chinese production result in, effectively, a loss of the patent of the design.

Pakistan, on the other hand, is not producing per American manufacturers, & most of the designs out there make this pretty obvious.  Those knives are making their way into the American market largely via the UK, from what I understand.  But then there are companies like CFK that produce knives they insist are somehow "made n the USA" that are clearly Pakistani in origin.

Like so many things, these questionable choices come down to one person's or small group's determination of what would be most monetarily profitable in the short term.

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