There are too damned many new knives coming out.
It seems to me there are more and more designers and companies in the production knives market every day that are producing more and more models. Combined with social media and direct sales, allowing companies to drop their latest and greatest without waiting for big shows, it seems easier than ever to bring new models to market and everybody’s always launching something new.
As a result, it feels like every time I open social media or check my email, somebody is announcing a brand-new model. Now, don’t get me wrong, options are great, and in a perfect world, each one would offer something unique and different. In a perfect world, this incredible abundance would mean every knife lover would find their perfect knife out there somewhere (and if not, well, they’d wait a week until it drops).
Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it’s worked out. Although unique and interesting releases drop on occasion, for the most part the stuff coming out is bringing very little to the table. It’s an abundance of half-baked sorts of filler pieces and “also ran” models trying to cash in on other designs’ hype.
Some companies are more guilty of this than others, but I often find myself trying to figure out exactly how the “new hotness” differs from their last release, or worse still, from somebody else’s last release!
The Thrill is Gone
Yet, companies keep cranking out new pieces with the only real novelty being a few design tweaks and a different logo lasered on the side. Then onto social media they go, tossing their cup of water into the incoming tide and hoping to change the market.
And no matter how well they’re made or what price segment it’s meant to hit, that’s just not gonna be a win.
For about 36 hours, people are curious. But by the time they hit store shelves, everybody’s forgotten them, and by the time you get a chance to handle one at a meetup or something, even if it’s a fine piece, it’s discontinued in favor of the next tall glass of vanilla.
Make ‘m Memorable
Let’s do a thought experiment: think of five new 2020 releases not from the last month. Now, which ones came to mind?
If you’re anything like me, the ones that jumped to mind are the ones that did something unique, the ones that had a why, a reason to exist. Maybe the design was so refreshing and unique that it was like nothing else on the market.
Or maybe it functioned differently, with some innovation, or a nicer blade, an amazing handle, a better lock, or a great action. Maybe it offered value that was way above and beyond the competition.
Or maybe it took an existing formula that was working great and made a few well-thought-out tweaks to create EDC perfection. These are the Knife of the Year kinds of knives that make waves, that fly off shelves, and that people want to want.
“Between half-baked filler models, pieces that are hardly differentiable from half of the rest of the market, and beautifully made pieces that bring nothing new to the table, we’re drowning in new models while still struggling to find anything of interest.”
Now certainly, everybody has hits and misses, but this kind of more-more-more thinking can definitely hurt a brand. If you release five great, unique, and compelling knives and keep them steadily on the shelves for the entire year, your company had a great year, and you’ll quickly develop a rabid following.
But if you release 25 knives, with five gems that are constantly sold out and everything else a mix of vanilla, half-baked, and outright junk, then statistically speaking, your company makes bad knives.
And it’s even more frustrating when the company discontinues their hits or struggles to keep up stock, while at the same time using valuable factory capacity for new pieces that nobody really wanted to start with.
Production schedules are tough, no doubt, and I’m sure it’s hard to tell what’s going to catch fire in the market, but nobody’s going to object to bigger runs of higher effort pieces, and I’ve got nothing but love for companies who are willing to say “No, this isn’t our best work, let’s focus on other models.”
So, although I appreciate variety, I’m feeling like even though we’re getting more new releases than ever, the variety just ain’t there.
Between half-baked filler models, pieces that are hardly differentiable from half of the rest of the market, and beautifully made pieces that bring nothing new to the table, we’re drowning in new models while still struggling to find anything of interest.
It’s becoming abundantly clear that these days, more in the production knife world winds up meaning less for the community.