I am looking for suggestions and recommendations from all of my Knife Collector friends.  If someone were to want to open their own retail knife shop . . . what would you like to see . . . what would you recommend . . . what advice do you have?  I want to hear any and all suggestions.  Thank you!

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There are so many things to consider when opening any store. A knife store itself would have it's own set of challenges. There are such variety of directions you can go. If you are wanting to open the store to make as much money as you can, you should have a lot of variety. If you are trying to attract a certain crowd of people, you should carry knives that appeal to the customers you are looking for. Depending on where your store location is, you may or may not have an opportunity to draw a large crowd into the store itself.Otherwise, you may have more sales through internet sales. I know I haven't given you a lot of recommendations, but I think these are all things to consider. Good luck!

A few things some of the dealers have shared with me.  Not only sell the misc equipment like sharpeners but have someone come in once or twice a month and offer sharpening service.  Find someone local that makes sheaths, have that service as part of your consignment area.

Find the local knife clubs, offer to host their meetings.  If there is not a local club, think about starting one. 

Terry always said his best local customers were Law Enforcement, reach out

Make sure your online presence is BIG.  As you can tell by Plaza Cutlery closing the doors this month, the online pays the bills faster and better.

Market, market, market and when you think you have done enough, do more. As you move forward your name and reputation are what will get you there.

You have already done this piece...ask for help when you feel like you need it.  Find your go to people and count iKC in that group!

Data, I've played with this idea on & off for a while now too.  As David said, don't forget about the internet.  I'll go a step further:  start solely with the internet to keep operational overhead as low as possible.  Not sure what kind of staffing levels you're considering, but if you're thinking about a one or two person operation, at least to start, also start with an internet-only operation.

Before really going any further, what are you hoping to accomplish with your knife business?  Something like a large volume internet behemoth like Knifecenter.com?  A classic catalog-based company with in-house designs like A.G. Russell?  A large brick & mortar company like Paragon?  A hybrid of these three, like SMKW?  Or were you thinking something lower key like a small retail store that specializes in knives like those cutlery stores that popped up in shopping malls in the 80's?  Or were you hoping for something else, like a destination retail location, perhaps away from city centers & the high dollar leases, with an atmosphere that encourages customers to stick around, chat, & get to know one another?

Related to this set of questions:  how much of a profit do you want to turn by running this business?  This is the question that will govern how you actually execute everything, in my opinion (granted I don't have a degree in business).  If you don't care to earn much more than you need to live, you have a great deal more flexibility at the beginning of the business than if you want to turn this into a multi-million dollar revenue stream.  Of course shooting for the latter might allow you more flexibility after the business becomes established, but this would be years away, at best.  There's no shame in the pursuit of either end of the spectrum or anything in between, just know what you're ultimately shooting for so you can manage both your business & your expectations accordingly. 

In other words, determine whether you want a business focused on knives, or whether you want to turn your interest in knives into a business.  (Are you going to put the business first, or the knives first?)  This is the existential aspect of the business -- the more clearly you know the answer to this question (& be honest with yourself about it), the better you will be at making the right decisions for the business you want to own & operate.

Then, as Jan suggested, focus on your marketing.  Someone else, I can't recall who (it's really late & I have insomnia, sorry about that) mentioned determining who you are marketing to.  There are niche markets out there, but the biggest niche, the one that every knife company wants to break into:  people who aren't into knives -- this is where you can make volume sales on knives with a modest mark-up.  Jan, I'm certain, could be an excellent resource when it comes to marketing (not to volunteer your services, Jan, I just know you have quite a bit of experience & expertise in this aspect of running a business!),

You can try to cater to other niche markets, like collectors, contemporaneously, but to start, you'll likely need to choose one niche market to focus on & build from there over time.  Obviously, study those markets, set realistic goals based on your research, be open to correcting course based on mistakes or things you simply did not see coming down the pike, & then make those corrections to the best of your ability.

Take all of this & whatever you learn from other resources (including local chamber of commerce & your state's economic development office, as well as other business owners whose businesses you'd like to emulate, along with books, websites, & of course any classes near you, from community education to college courses), & put it down in a detailed business plan, which you'll need to get the lines of credit you'll need & any investors you pursue on board.

You might know all of this & more already, & if so I apologize, I really don't know how much you know about starting & running a retail business.  And please correct me if I'm wrong on any of this, I would like to learn more as well!  :)

Regardless, I wish you all the best in this endeavor, & please keep us updated on your progress & the things you learn along the way!

THANK YOU EVERYONE!  All wonderful suggestions and advice.  Not something I would jump into soon.  I want to study the market.  Look at all the legal stuff.  Come up with a legit business plan.  All of those things.  If I go this route I would want it to be a local retail business - not in a mall.  I live in a location that would attract both collectors and sportsmen, and hikers and campers, etc.  I would keep it close to easy freeway access.  I know I don't like to go to places unless I can get there easily and I have places to park.  All of your suggestions will be noted for my business plan.  Thank you!

Yes please!  I was thinking of visiting SMKW but until then pictures would be wonderful.

Syd Carr said:

In case you are interested I have photos of the inside of Smoky Mountain Knife Works, (world's largest knife store), and also of Knife World in Arizona. I will post them here if you want some ideas of how they display their knives.

Ms Data said:

Yes please!  I was thinking of visiting SMKW but until then pictures would be wonderful.

Syd Carr said:

In case you are interested I have photos of the inside of Smoky Mountain Knife Works, (world's largest knife store), and also of Knife World in Arizona. I will post them here if you want some ideas of how they display their knives.

You got it! I finally found the folder from that trip, the first couple are Knife City along I-40 in AZ, the rest are SMKW in TN, which is getting to be kind of a pilgrimage site for collectors. Yes, YOU MUST visit SMKW if you get the chance because it's pretty indescribable unless you see it in person. The place is huge, too much to see in one day, three levels total with museum quality antiques displayed all along the walls. They have displays from every knife manufacturer you could think of and many you never heard of, plus they have a competent well trained staff. The last photo is the "Fossil Room" in the basement, (where they sell real fossils), which gives you an idea of the enormity of the place.

All good advice>  I do not have a knife shop.  Instead I promote and manage knife shows.

Be sure to hire a competent Certified Public Accountant to guide you in the business aspect.

Attend the Lehigh Valley Knife Shows, Easton, PA; April 21 & 22, 2018; and September 29 & 30, 2018 to meet other knife vendors and makers.  www.PAKnifeShow.com.  

I collect and use mostly hunting, pocket, and outdoor knives.


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