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  #1  
Old 05-08-2005, 03:23 PM
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OK, Now it's the Makers turn to answer

Makers,

How do you see the current selling climate?

What has been selling?

What do you have orders for?

How are the shows? Compared to previous years?

Please feel to add anything else.


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Old 05-09-2005, 08:22 PM
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Les, Hunters first and then large Bowies and last Cutting Competition Knives. Living in Alabama I allways have Hunters to build.


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  #3  
Old 05-09-2005, 10:12 PM
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Terry Primos Terry Primos is offline
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At the moment, here's the order of popularity:
- El Camino and El Camino Royale (personal carry)
- Montero (hunter)
- Platypus (utra-light EDC)
- Various Bowies
- Grande Hunter

The Montero is picking up speed, as is the Platypus. The El Camino series may finally be heading for second place after a three year domination. I don't even advertise the Grande Hunter yet.

I'm actually in no hurry to get a truckload of orders for the Bowies. I can make three Montero's to one big Bowie, but I don't command three times the price for the Bowies. No, I'm not just in it for the money, but hey, I do like to eat every now and then.

There is currently a growing interest in the ones I'm doing with textured guards and/or blades. That may just be a fad / flash-in-the-pan thing, we'll see.

#####

I've only done one show this year and that was the Arkansas show. I sold out, but overall the show seemed a little bit slower than some of the ones in the past.


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  #4  
Old 05-10-2005, 07:17 AM
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SVanderkolff SVanderkolff is offline
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Les
Just did the WOlverine show in Novi Michigan. A couple ofthings I noticed. The bird and trout and the gent's knives were real popular. The 8 and 9 inch drop points sold but didn't show nearly as much interest as the smaller knives.
Price seemed to be all important, hunters and birds priced at $200 would not move, same knife styles priced at $150 flew off the table. Seems to be a very fine line, makers I talked to who had hit the price point right sold well, those that were even a bit too high simply didn't sell.
Fit and finish were also real important, the bar seems to have been raised a fair bit over the last couple of years. Knives that would have been fine 3 years ago just simply were not clean enough for todays crowds.
Overall though, for all I kept hearing how depressed the economy was in the area, many of the guys did real well.
Steve


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Old 05-11-2005, 09:24 PM
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Hi Stephen,

Thanks for the astute observations, they are right on point.

Ladies and Gentlemen if you are not selling knives do not blame the economy.....that is not the problem.

Price point and quality for the money are your problems.

Knife collectors are getting more and more educated every year. They are asking the right questions. They now understand there are 4000 knife makers out there. Many can now control their emotions and not put down the money at a show for a knife that they like but feel should be less money.

Myself and Bob Neal have done a seminar at the Blade Show for the last 6 years (and are doing so again this year). The first year the room was full of collectors wanting to be told what to buy and who to collect. That is no longer the case. They are now asking specific questions about a makers position in the market, how do certain makers do in the aftermarket. Personally I love it. I have been touting custom knives as investments for 15 years. Now it would seem that some collectors are taking that to heart. One of the best parts of my job is talking to knife collectors for hours on end at shows.

This better understanding of the custom knife market has shown collectors that they can now take that money to the next show in a month or so. Or they can visit the web and spend their money there.

Since I went full time over 10 years ago and even before that. One of my main criteria was quality for the money. I have found that quality alway sells....ALWAYS. Quality for the Money ALWAYS SELLS...Just Quicker.

Sunday afternoon is not the time to consider lowering your prices. If you can live with that lower price point on Sunday, then live with it Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. That is when the majority of the "BUYERS" are at the show. There are buyers on Sunday but they are usually looking for bargains.

Makers have to do their own homework on their pricing. You have to understand what your position in the market is. Granted it is not easy. However, once you figure it out you will be amazed at how many more knives you sell.


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  #6  
Old 05-12-2005, 01:01 AM
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Hi Les, I always appreciate your business oriented posts. Here's my 2 (euro)cents:

The German Knifemaker's Gilud Show was last weekend in the Blade Museum in Solingen. This is the 4th year I've done the show. There weere about 75 makers which is the limit on tables. This is one of the best shows in Europe.

This year the show was held over Mother's day weekend and also as the thursday before the show was a holiday here, many people took friday off and headed out for a four day holiday in Spain or Italy so I think this hurt attendance a little. Plus a lot of those who went away were, well, people who have money. The crowd was still good but the the lines to get in were not as long as last year. I think those planning a show should carefully consider the date and whatever other shows or events may conflict with it.

I enjoyed seeing a lot of previous customers, several of whom bought another knife from me. Most all of my business is now folders and with one exception, those are what I sold or took orders for. The most interest was generated by my very large folder, otherwise it was the smaller folders. For me, business was OK, but sales were down a bit from last year. Many people commented that they were in financial straits or said flat out that they were unemployed.

From talking to other makers, I have the impression that larger, forged fixed blades of high quality were doing ok. In general the majority of makers I know sold fair to poor to "ok." I'd say most buyers were asking themselves "Do I really really NEED another expensive custom knife right now?" Often times I think the answer was no.


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Old 05-12-2005, 08:26 AM
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I know that this a makers threath but I can't help responding to the last post. I'm a collector from the Netherlands and attended the Solingen show. I had money to spend but I didn't. Why I didn't spend my money was due to the fact that I think that most of the knives there (in my "interest category") were overpriced in comparison to their quality and the prices asked on the several makers- and dealer sites all over the world (and they have to make a living as well ).

So I agree with an earlier statement that makers most be very alert on their pricing strategy and don't overprice at shows relying on "impuls buyers".

Marcel
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Old 05-12-2005, 03:19 PM
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Hi Kevin,

Thanks for the input from a major European show. The economy in the US is very fluid. Most of the collectors of custom knives are generally (not always) professionals. Most are in some kind of management or "White Collar" job that pays enough for them to have disposable income to purchase custome knives.

Many of these jobs are the ones that are being eliminated through mergers or downsizing for corporations to compete more favorably in the global economy.

Additionally, people get married, divorced, have children, have to pay for college, just bought a new home, etc.

I think others have been beat over the head enough about the average American having $8,000 in credit card debt. As such they are trying to eliminate some of it. Passing on a $400 knife to help pay off a credit card instead of adding more debt can make a difference to some people.

However, while we lose some collectors and buyers we continually pick up new buyers. Tthey will not pick up the slack immediately as they have to be educated. As such they are influenced by price more so than "reputation" at this point. Those makers who can offer an entry level knife as well as mid-level to expensive will be able to "grow" a collector.

Here in the US there is a big push for people to take vacations. As well people are now buying vacation homes. This is cutting into the money for "Non-Essential Toys".

This seems to have been the case for less attendance and a slower show.

I agree with you, the promoter picked the wrong weekend.

Thanks for input


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Old 05-12-2005, 04:04 PM
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Hi Marcel,

You are more than welcome to post in this thread. Im sure I speak for the makers that we are always interested in what the custom knife buyers are thinking.

Your observations of the German show echo what I hear from collectors here. Many of the makers who are blaming everything but their price and quality for the value are seeing their sales slow.

In the US Stock Market the analysts often speak of "market corrections" when they talk about certain stocks, bonds are complete sectors (like we saw with the Tech stocks a few years back).

I think what we are seeing (and have been seeing for about 18 months) is a market correction. Not only among the makers but among the shows as well. Sales and attendance at most shows has been dropping over the last couple of years.

Most makers who attend shows will probably agree that they are seeing a more educated custom knife buyer. This education has made custom knife buyers more demanding. Many makers who have rested on their laurels or have let their quality dropped will have to find their (as Tiger Woods likes to say) their "A" game again.

I had the best March I've ever had and April was above average. I contribute this in large part to the makers I represent. These makers are among the best in the world at what they do and provide excellent quality for the money.

So much for a bad economy.


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Old 05-13-2005, 01:42 AM
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Les... people in the US are going to start getting vacations! Wow. Do the employers know this yet? :-) I think all the boses I ever had in the US would fire you in a second for even thinking about a vacation. One week after a year was considered extravagent.

Marcel, I didn't get much time to actually look around the show and check prices. What type of knives do you collect?


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Old 05-13-2005, 02:54 AM
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Les,

Thanks for letting me participate

Kevin,

I'm strictly a fixed blade man. Mainly commissioned fighters/hunters/bowies (with a theme). At the Solingen show there were enough knives of this type, but beneath 1200-1500 euro (+25% = USD) there wasn't a knife with the right quality for the price. It's not that I don't want to spend such amounts of money (e.g. I own a few Bergh knives that are double that amount) but I want to have the feeling that I'm getting my moneys worth.

My overall feeling is that especially the German knifemakers are asking too much money for there products. For comparison: Rodrigo Sfreddo (an upcoming Brazilian bladesmith and knifemaker) is going to make me a Southwestern style Bowie (all damascus forged) for way less (<1000 USD) than aforementioned prices.

Marcel
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Old 05-13-2005, 07:41 AM
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The makers from Brazil are coming on stronger each year. Thery are seriously dedicated and will give the rest a run for their money. I have already bought a
ricardo Vilar piece and one from Rodrego S is next for me.

Which to me this just strengthens what Les is saying. Makers gotta watch them price points. I often have some folks that collect my work talk about other makers. One of the things they say is that some of them with no reputation are charging more than I do. Not that I am a meausing stick but if someone has been in the business only a year or two and tries to charge what an older hand does needs to take a relook.I do have a list of people that I reccomend cause there are some good values out there.

Thanks for the info from both sides ont he German show. I like to catch as much info as possible on all shows. Gives a bigger picture.


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Old 05-13-2005, 01:51 PM
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This has been a really informative thread guys - many thanks. Les, Jerry and others are spot-on in their observations on price point. I guess I can understand the motivation for a maker wnating to get as much as possible for his knives - particualrly those who are at it full time. But setting the price bar too high can really hurt long-term, 'cause it sure is hard to drop the prices when you find the knives aren't selling well at the optimistic level where they were first set. I have passed on many a knife that was very well-made and otherwise desirable, but simply priced out of line. I am not going to pay upper-eschelon Master Smith prices to a maker who is not at that level skill-wise and not in that position market-wise.

From the buyer / colector standpoint, nothing opens the wallet faster than a knife priced a touch below where it could be. That often provokes the buy-one-now-and-order-another response. And word spreads fast.

Cheers,

Roger
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Old 05-13-2005, 04:01 PM
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Hi Roger,

Like Marcel your observations are spot on. Jerry and I have talked for years about JS makers charging MS prices. This is not a new phenomenon. I believe that makers have more problems pricing their knives than perhaps any other aspect of knife making.

Because dealers work with many makers in one market. Makers will ask our opinion about prices, this includes nubies to the big name guys.

Most makers ask others because they do not know what their position in the market is. Consequently, they do no know how to price their knives. It took me a long time to figure out this out. I found it odd that I could price a makers knife (TO SELL) within seconds of looking at it, yet the person who made the knife cannot. Bob Neal and I will often compare notes on prices. With few exceptions we will be with $25 either way on the price.

As with collectors I am sensitive to price points, maybe even more so as I buy knives to resell. I know when I find a maker who's work I like and the prices are where they should be I am immediately ordering 3-5 knives. With future orders to follow shortly after the initial orders. This is the equivilant to a collector buying one and ordering another.

I have been accused (almost exclusively behind my back) of being a cutlery "Snob" by makers work who I do not carry. I learned a long time ago that it does neither myself, my customers or the makers any good for me to buy and sell the knives of makers who are not priced right for their quality and/or position in the market. If I make poor selections I will have knives sit on my table and worse yet web site for months or years. This does not benefit anyone. So it is up to me to be as much of a baramoter of the market place as I can be.

By no stretch of the imagination should anyone imply that because I don't carry someone knives that they are not excellent quality or over priced. One of the downside to so many excellent knife makers (as the market has today) is that because of limited capital you can only buy so many knives.

Some makers are also mislead by seeing their knives being sold for a premium on one of the knife fourms or Ebay. Many will raise their prices based on their perceived market position improvement. As more and more makers are discovering that those who live by the Internet forums die by the Ineternet forums.

As has been pointed out it is very easy to raise your prices and almost impossible to lower your prices.

Another aspect of pricing is seen in this thread. Those who are contributing are veteran makers, collectors and myself. We have spent years getting educated and understand the market and pricing better than newer makers and collectors. What appears obvious to us may not be so to them.

It will be the maker who suffers most in the long term. As collectors become better educated they will do what Marcel and Roger do, keep their wallet in their pocket and move to the next table.

Many collectors do not want to "haggle" with the maker on price, especially early in the show. Consequently, the maker may lose a sale on a $1,000 knife because of $50.

A tip for makers, when you see someone handling one of your knives for an extended period of time and they set the knife down. Don't be afraid to ask what it is they don't like about the knife. Often times it will truly be that it is early in the show and they want to look around. However, you many find that they feel the knife is slightly overpriced. A slight correction in the price will get you a sale.

If you price your knives right from the beginning you won't have to make a "Slight" adjustment.

I have people ask me all the time if I will take less for the knife. When I say "no" they will reply "I had to ask". I smile and say "I know, just as I had to say no". It is at that point 90% of the time they hand me the money.

Price point and Value for the price will be high on the list for buyers at this years Blade Show.


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  #15  
Old 05-14-2005, 11:25 AM
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Marcel, if you were expecting prices in Solingen to be anywhere near what Brazilian Makers charge, then you were doomed befoe you arrived. Prices are also a reflection of overhead, materials costs and the cost of living where the products are made. Forged blades can be made from toolsteels bought from scrap. When labor is cheap, then the prices can be cheap. Where labor is high, such as Europe, then the prices reflect those costs too.

If you find the right maker in China, I'm sure he (or she) can make you an even betterr knife for $100 or less. $3 a day is good wage in China, but last I heard the US auto workers weren't willing to take a pay cut like that either just because the Chinese are going to start exporting cars to the USA. One thing that makes the South African knives a good value are the differences in costs between South Africa and the markets where they sell their knives. If people see the Brazilian or South African or Chinese knives (or whatever) as better products for the money, then they buy them. There are other factors which are very important to purchasers too. This is where branding comes in. A knife marked "Fisk" has an inherent advantage over the same knife marked "I never heard of this guy."

As a producer of a product, I have to make a product that is good enough to sell for a price that gives me a profit from which I can live. I think I do a good job of this and I have yet to raise my prices for folder since I started making them, allthough I continued to improve the quality and the design. Customers tell me I make an inexpensive knife for the quality.

But it is world market and even little guys like me get ground up the wheels of the money markets. The US$ ihas lost about 30% of its value against the Euro in the last year or so. That makes my prices about 30-35% higher by the time the knife reaches the buyer. I don't get a cent more however. So now my prices seem high for buyers with US$ and they have a lot of options in the price catagory in which I find myself. I haven't raised my prices, it's just that the dollar buys fewer Euros. I still have customers in the USA who feel the quality I offer is worth the extra price they pay. New customers are of course harder to get to take the plunge when they are buying from a photo on a website. But I will ride this out too, particulaly considering the european demand remains strong and is actually growing.

Actually I'm trying to take advantage of the situation by stocking up on US made materials and even leveraging myself into a new Haas CNC controlled milling center (proudly) made in Cal-i-forn-i-a, USA.

So you see, I''m doing my part to help the world economy!


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