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  #1  
Old 10-10-2002, 06:27 PM
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bandaidman bandaidman is offline
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Demographics of the Custom Knife Market

How big is the customer pool for custom knives?

I would presume men dominate the customer pool but has the age, income level, and buying habits ever been studied by the Guild, knife magazines or any other organization? The size of dealer and maker lists, show attendence, club membership etc could be used as a start

While I know there can be no "hard numbers" ... are we talking 25,000 potential buyers (ie active buyers or likely to buy) or is it more ... or perhaps less?


only numbers i know

Blade magazine has about 25,000 circulation IIRC

KI at one time had more but I am not certain...
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  #2  
Old 10-10-2002, 07:29 PM
george tichbour george tichbour is offline
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Just looking around at knife shows the typical customer appears to be male, 50 ish and mid to upper income level.

Unfortunately knifemakers have not made significant progress in letting these people know about custom knifemaking.

Knife magazines have made very little penetration into the potential market based on their circulation numbers, probably because they are competing for valuable display space on newstands everywhere and losing out to other magazines with higher sales figures.

The internet unfortunately is so vast that getting noticed there is very difficult but it is a proven sales outlet for consumer oriented product.


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  #3  
Old 10-10-2002, 08:43 PM
DC KNIVES DC KNIVES is offline
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I would have to agree with George for most collectible custom knives. But I do believe those demographics change with the type of knives we make.I make basically nice utility/hunter style patterns and the the customers tend to be a little younger and more blue collar,so my knives are somewhat cheaper in price.But I also make a few higher end pieces ( high end for me) to draw in those 50 ish collectors.Dave
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  #4  
Old 10-11-2002, 08:15 AM
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Les Robertson Les Robertson is offline
 
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Bandaid,

The custom knife market is as big as you want to make it.

For a knife maker who can produce 300 knives a year, they may only need 500 customers.

As most knife makers are not full time, they tend to be followers instead of leaders. Too many makers feel that by meerly setting up at a show they have done what is necessary to sell their knives.

Pick up the 3 major magazines and Knifeworld one issue. Count how many makers advertise in each. Then note how many advertise in multiple magazines.

You will be amazed at how few makers actually advertise. For those of you who do not advertise, whether the magazines have good "Market Presentation" or not is of no consequence to you.

Same goes for an Internet site. If you don't have one, then potential customers cannot hit the search button and find you.

What about show attendance? How many shows do you set up at. No, Im not talking about the local gun show (although when you are first starting out that can be a good place to practice selling, figure out what your table set up should look like, etc. Generally these shows are close to home and CHEAP to do.)

George, other than the Canadian Guild Show and the show in October in Toronto, what other custom knife shows do you set up at?

The reason I ask is your comment:

"Just looking around at knife shows the typical customer appears to be male, 50 ish and mid to upper income level."

Ive only been to 4 shows in Canada, and I would tend to agree that the BUYERS at the show are older.

However, in the US my customer base ranges from late teens into the 80's.

As DC pointed out there different demographic strata do appear with different price ranges and styles of knives.

However, if you only market that way you will miss huge opportunites.

There are a lot of buyers in there 20's spending $1,000+ for specific collectabile tactical folders.

Just as I have very wealthy clients who buy drop point hunters and tactical folders under $500.

Demographics are only a starting point. The one thing I learned in Graduate School about statistics is; You can make them say whatever you want...just ask the right questions.

The best thing for makers to do is form their own "team". Be proactive in both your selling and your marketing. Ask yourself do I really know how to sell?

Ask yourself "Do I know my market".

Question for the makers. How many knife makers are there within 500 miles of you?

Question, how many make a knife or knives in the same categories as you? (Hunter, folders, etc.)

Question, what price range do they sell in.

If you do not know the answers to these basic questions. Then You have no idea what your "REAL" position is in the market you are trying to penetrate.

It's tough to get where you want to go, if you don't know where you are starting.

Do not wait for magazines or organizations to help get the "Word" out.

Two question(s) to ask yourself:

1) Am I a professional knife maker?

2) Is my knife making a business?

(if it's not, then don't worry about any of this. If you going to treat it like a hobby then that is all it will be).


If you answered yes to questions 1 and 2. Then at a very minimum you have to conduct three types of analysis on your business.

Situational Analysis
SWOT Analysis
Cometitive Analysis

If you do not know what these are you can do a couple of things.

There is software out there that lets you do a business/marketing plan. If you do not have a business/marketing plan, again you are doing nothing but hurting your business.

Or a book I would highly recommend is:

Kotler on Marketing: How to Create, Win and Dominate Markets.

By Philip Kotler

You can gather you own demographic information with a few simple questions. But first you have conduct analysis of your own business to determine what those questions should be.

I have 4 cards on my desk.

#1: The first shows the last sheep in a big heard. The caption "if your going to follow the heard...becareful where you step".

#2: Shows a dog sled team on the ice and snow. The Caption "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail".

#3 I saw for the first time when I attended the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Ft. Benning Georgia...Home of the United States Army Infantry!

"Lead, Follow or Get The Hell Out Of The Way!"

#4 "Do or Do Not....There is no try"

Yoda...Famous Jedi Master!

Most people and business's are followers. Nothing wrong with being a follower. Just don't bitch about it.

Whether you do or do not, it is you that makes the choice.


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Last edited by Les Robertson; 10-11-2002 at 08:19 AM.
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  #5  
Old 10-11-2002, 09:49 AM
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bandaidman bandaidman is offline
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interesting reply Les .. bit full of buzzwords and axioms though

yoda :confused:


of course any market has the potential to be as "big as you want to make it" but that does not answer my question

a few dozen motivated buyers might be enough for one maker .... it could be 10 times that for another. my question was directed to the size of the total market.

i would like to hear your estimation of how big the current market of buyers is though ...
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  #6  
Old 10-11-2002, 12:53 PM
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Les Robertson Les Robertson is offline
 
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Bandaid,

Custom knives are a niche market. Driven in large part by conspicious consumption, instant gratification and discretionary income.

Point being the market expands and contracts based on the economic winds.

Consequently, the number of buyers changes at any given time. I think a better question might be how many "collectors" are there.

Lets look at your "statment":

"of course any market has the potential to be as "big as you want to make it".

You are 100% correct! So if this is true what difference does it make how many buyers are currently in the market?

Truth be told, no one has even close to anything other than a guess.

While it's true that my previous post may have been full of axioms and buzzwords. It was designed to prove your statment.

"any market has the potential to be as big as you want to make it."

Whether the custom knife market consisted of 9,000 or 90,000 buyers only adds "rungs to the product ladder".

What is most important from a sales point of view, is "What rung do you occupy on the product or market ladder".

If there are 90,000 buyers and you are on the bottom rung of the ladder chances are you will sell only a few more (If any) knives. Than if there were only 9,000 buyers.

Why? Because you have a poor position in the market.

From a purely business point of view, you have to stive to be on one of the top 3 rungs of the ladder. Being in this position ensures survival in even a slow market (like now).

Here is a question to illustrate my point.

Of the national brand ketchups, what are the top three?

1 Heinz
2 Hunts
3 ?????

Ok, how about Cola's?

1 Coke
2 Pepsi
3 ?????

We are talking about two products that hundreds of million's of people use on a daily basis. The market is huge, yet the number 3 spot has no clear name.

Lets get back to custom knives. For the sake of arguement, there are 25,000 custom knife buyers in America.

Is it imperative that you have each one of these buyers as a custom? No. Is it in your best interest that most of these people know who you are? Yes.

Being in the mind of the consumer, whether they have purchased a knife from you or not, is important. Why?

Because simply by having heard your name before, you have already removed a major obstacle to a sale for many knife makers....WHO ARE YOU???
All of this aside, I think the most important concept is analysis of your business. Figure out where you are at and where you would like to be. Then it should be obvious what steps need to be taken.

I can tell you that my business has grown an average of 25% for the last 8 years. With this year being on track to be the best year I have ever had, regarding sales.

Are there reasons for this? Yes...one is SWOT analysis every 6 months. With the "O" being the most important right now.

Bandaid, I think another reason that people don't worry about the numbers too much. Is that it would be almost impossible to get an accurate count.

There are a lot of independent people in custom knives who are not inclined to give out who their customers are, how many knives they sell and how much they make.

Just out of curiousity why do you want an accurate assessment of the number of custom knife buyers?


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  #7  
Old 10-11-2002, 09:10 PM
DC KNIVES DC KNIVES is offline
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I don't think an accurate number could ever be found.I tend to look at everyone as a potential custom buyer.Start with the number of true knife collectors + the Hunters + the Fishermen + the kitchen cutlery bunch + the Military + the LEO's + the carpenters,plumbers, mechanics. I think you get my point.All potential buyers of custom blades.
Les is right as usual,do your homework.I am a parttime maker and purposely limit my advertising at this time due to have a full time job.Right now, even 50 knives a year seems impossible.Dave
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  #8  
Old 10-12-2002, 07:12 AM
george tichbour george tichbour is offline
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Every market segment has it's own demographic but some basic rules hold true. The individual must have the disposable income to afford the knife and the desire for that particular knife.

Desire can be based on need as in a hunter looking for a hunting knife, a cook looking for a good chef's knife, or simply a collector looking for something for his showcase.

The demographic that I mentioned carries through my entire product line with some minor variations, kitchen knives occasionally are bought by women for their own use but more often are bought by men or by women as gifts for their husbands.
The same demographic carries over to internet sales of my product.

I will be interested to see if the demographic holds true as I add folders to the product line. I expect however if I add tactical folders the age demographic will shift for that product line. But that is an area that I can't see myself getting into because I don't like black handles.

Key is to let the buying public know where you are, what you do and how to reach you. This is the toughest part of the whole business but once it is achieved and you have reached critical mass in the customer base area that group of customers will tell others and advertising becomes less important. I have talked with several makers who like myself can sell everything they make but they still use the occasional ad to remind old customers that they are still alive and kicking.


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  #9  
Old 10-15-2002, 10:50 PM
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bandaidman bandaidman is offline
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i do realize an exact number is impossible but how about a rough estimate .... say within a few orders of magnitude

we can limit to active buyers and to 1 of the 3

a. <25,000

b. 25,000-75,000

c. 75,000+


my interest is simply to know how many people are active in the hobby
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  #10  
Old 10-15-2002, 11:24 PM
DC KNIVES DC KNIVES is offline
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Using the numbers posted and what I think are potential customers, I would say "C". If you are talking true stone cold collectors I would think "B".Real highend collectors probably "A". I just think you have to find a niche that you feel comfortable with and then determine what kind of market you will have.
Marketing and pricing are probably two of the hardest things for makers to learn as most of us concentrate on making nice knives which is hard enough to do. Those two things seem to always go to the back burner.Thank God for my wife who handles a large part of that or I would be in trouble.
Another fortunate thing we have, is Les, because not a maker he can concentrate more on the business end of this and his ear with many more makers than you and I will ever see.Dave
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  #11  
Old 10-16-2002, 04:41 AM
KandS_KNIVES KandS_KNIVES is offline
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Smile

#3 has to be, Dr Pepper.


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  #12  
Old 10-16-2002, 12:27 PM
JossDelage JossDelage is offline
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How do you define collector? Is it someone who has more than 10 knives? Do you include production? Is that someone who has bought at least one $400+ knife?

JD


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  #13  
Old 10-17-2002, 05:10 PM
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Les Robertson Les Robertson is offline
 
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Joss,

Excellent points! Further shows why accurate demographics are so difficult.

I would not include (and don't) production knives in my demographics.
Primarily for the fact I do not sell these.

I doubt the custom knife makers here would have much use for that information as well.

An exception might be the number of people annually who move from buying production knives to custom knives.


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