6% of knife people have bought at least one knife at Walmart according to KnifeNews’ 2015 survey. This pales in comparison to the 86% of enthusiasts who buy from online dealers. When it comes to attracting knife people’s dollars, a Walmart store has difficulty competing against retailers like GPKnives because of Walmart’s limited selection, focus on lower quality knives, and the lack of available information in-store. 21% of knife people said they rely on knife store employees as a source of information according to our survey.
Still, Walmart’s knife department may be a gateway for non-knife people into the world of knives. “We should all feel very fortunate that the major retailers in this country even have a knife selection today,” says Thomas Welk, Director of Sales and Marketing at KAI USA, the makers of Kershaw and Zero Tolerance knives – speaking on the Gear Geeks Live podcast. “The fact that we’re in 4,500 stores nationwide in Walmart is a beautiful thing.”
With 90% of Americans living within 15 minutes of a Walmart, the retailer offers non-knife people the convenience of buying a knife on a regular shopping trip. But, unlike their electronics or consumer goods departments which offer a more consistent product selection; the knives for sale at your local Walmart might look very different from another Walmart location across the country, the state, or even the city.
Some sporting goods departments have a display counter where you can ask to handle a knife in person before buying it. Other Walmart stores keep their knives loaded on racks in blister packs. The in-store selection can vary even within the same city – we found a big difference in the selection and display between stores located within 10 miles from one another.
Why does Walmart’s knife department remain so patchy and unpredictable? As Thomas suggests, it may simply be that their priorities lie elsewhere: “I’ve never sat in a sales call for any mass retailer and had them once ask about blade steel or handle material. They ask about margins, about profitability .. they don’t care about making the best knife.”