SHOT Show Analysis: 2011 Should be Banner Year for Knife Industry


by Ben Sobieck, BLADE online editor


“2010 was one of our best years ever.”

The most encouraging news out of the 2011 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) was the number of times I heard that phrase. The annual show brought together most major knife companies Jan. 18 to 21 in Las Vegas. BLADE Editor Steve Shackleford and I stopped by each to see what’s new.

Despite a weak economy, the knife industry remains generally insulated. Why? No one knows for sure. A look at what’s on deck for 2011 could offer some clues.

1) Tactical. If the SHOT Show had a theme song, it would be the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.” Nearly all knife companies launched or expanded tactical lines. While this isn’t surprising, it does make me wonder what will happen if the trend ends. Military contracts are fueling the influx of tactical designs. When those contracts expire or there is a drastic reduction of them, knife companies will need to look for other ideas. Which brings me to…

2) Zombies. Pop culture is finished with vampires. Bring on the zombies. And how will you fight off those zombies? With zombie-fighting knives, of course. Ka-Bar has a head start. Look for four black and green zombie knives named after the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. But if zombies aren’t your thing, you can also buy…

3) Knives made in the USA. More and more knife companies are keeping production stateside. For example, 97 percent of Buck’s 2011 line will be USA-made. Across the board, it should be easier to find domestic knives in 2011. You’ll also find…

4) One-off steel types. The quest for new designs is pushing steel types into obscure terrain. Don’t be surprised if you encounter steel you’ve never heard of before. A suggestion to knife companies is to educate consumers using familiar terms. “Behaves like X common steel, but has Y differences” is better than rattling off sequences better suited for Internet password generators. Speaking of familiarity, watch for…

5) Celebrity endorsements. Gerber is moving ahead with its relationship with Bear Grylls, host of “Man vs. Wild.” Grylls will use Gerbers on new episodes of the show. He also designed a full line of blades, which came out late last year. Over at the SOG booth, R. Lee “The Gunny” Ermey continues to lend his drill sergeant ‘tude. Look for more celebrities, but don’t expect…

6) Anything revolutionary. The 2011 lines probably won’t change the way people see knives, like the assisted opening revolution did years back. That isn’t to say the designs aren’t unique and interesting. But now is not the time to start experimenting, because…

7) 2011 will be a banner year for the knife industry. If it sticks to the fundamentals, not experiments, there’s no reason 2011 shouldn’t be excellent. Knife consumers who held off buying in 2010 will spend what they saved. They’ll go for utility knives and collector sets first. The knife industry is wisely offering them well-constructed choices.

In all, the 2011 SHOT Show made me feel better about the future of the knife industry. The 2011 BLADE Show in June should confirm this feeling. Look for more about the SHOT Show and new products in future editions of BLADE.

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