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Multi-tools: Slow sales urge makers to delay price increases

Companies intend to keep quotes attractive by foregoing extra charges and absorbing increases in material outlay.

Driven by buyers' heightened price sensitivity, China suppliers of tools and kits are holding off upward adjustments in quotes to help strengthen OEM business.

Companies have been seeing sales drop since last year, as buyers in the EU and the US scaled back on orders due to economic challenges. This translated to significant losses since the two markets together absorb more than half of exports in the line.

Multi-tools Demand is expected to pick up in the months ahead, as clients are starting to renew their inventories. But because budgets remain tight, most buyers are trading down and negotiating for lower quotes.

While suppliers find it risky to offer discounts given the tough financial climate, they are nonetheless exploring ways to encourage transactions.

Many companies are opting to forego the extra charge incurred from specific material or design requests to retain base prices. The approach, however, involves reaching a compromise in cost allocations since manufacturers need to keep outlay at manageable levels. As such, if a knife buyer demands the use of a costlier metal for the blade, suppliers will balance out the additional expense by adopting a more economical material in handle production.

For instance, a knife with a 410 stainless steel blade, G10 handle and intricate surface design is quoted at $2. Companies can use the higher-cost 420 grade on request and still offer the product at the same price by adopting ABS or wood for the handle or simplifying the design.

To avoid losing orders, suppliers are also shouldering increases in domestic material rates.

After plunging in the second half of 2008 and then hitting rock bottom early this year, metal costs have risen 8 to 12 percent in recent months. The upward trend is expected to continue, with estimates pointing to an additional 5 percent adjustment. Despite this, several companies will keep prices steady for the rest of the year.

To mitigate the effect of such strategies on profitability, especially if material costs escalate further, some suppliers are improving their sales mix through appearance and function upgrades.

Hunting knife manufacturers are increasing aesthetic value through nontraditional blade shapes and finishes. Options for the tip now include clip, upswept, tanto and drop point. Surfaces are given a rainbow effect via titanium coating.

In the pocketknives category, improvements center on the locking systems. Thumb stud designs are being developed for easy one-hand opening. A safety tip lock is incorporated to ensure that the blade stays securely in position until the handle is released.

More suppliers are also replacing the traditional back or breech mechanism with a liner lock. The latter is held in place by a leaf spring that prevents the blade from closing. It can be disengaged safely with one hand,whereas traditional systems require the use of two.

For multitools, downsizing efforts have yielded models that measure only 6.8cm long when folded.

Companies are coming up with ergonomic solutions as well, including contoured tool handles that fit the palm's natural curves.

Products & prices

Multi-tools China's tools & kits selection includes models for hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor leisure activities.

Hunting and pocketknives and multitools lead the selection. These can be bundled with other implements and sold as kits, most of which are designed for a specific application.

The knife blades and tool heads or attachments are usually made of stainless or carbon steel. Most suppliers prefer 420, 430 and 440 stainless steel because these provide a good balance between edge retention and strength. Durable and easier to grind, the 3Cr13 and 2Cr13 grades are also popular. Surfaces are bead-blasted or coated with Teflon or titanium for scratch protection.

Options for the handles vary from metal, rubber and wood to composite materials. The last includes G10 and Micarta. Adopted in high-performance models, these laminates are more resistant to abrasion, chemicals and moisture. They also offer high dielectric, tensile, flexural and impact strength.

Some handles come in a combination of materials such as rubber and plastic, and ebony and stainless steel.

The majority of the line's material requirement is sourced domestically, although imported variants can be employed on request.

Hunting knives: The hunting knives line is available in folding and fixed-blade models. The former dominates output, as designs are also suitable for camping purposes.

Prices range from $1 to $9, depending on the blade and handle materials, and level of craftsmanship.

Besides stainless steel, the blades can be made of ceramic or stone. Although too brittle for prying, both provide longer edge retention than metal counterparts.

Handles come in zinc and aluminum alloy, pakka wood, buckhorn or ABS. Combinations of aluminum alloy and plastic, and stainless steel and wood are also used.

The handle can include inlays made of shell and other natural materials. For the sheath add-on, nylon, oxford, PU and leather are the common choices.

Pocketknives: Priced between $0.50 and $6, pocketknives have stainless or carbon steel blades.

The handles are in ABS, PP and zinc or aluminum alloy.

Low-end models are fitted with plastic grips. Wood and metal variants are adopted in the upscale segment.

Multitools: China-made multitools go for $1 to $8. Standard models have built-in pliers, screwdrivers, nail files, scissors and bottle openers. The attachments come in stainless steel.

High-end designs can be equipped with LED flashlights, digital clocks, compasses and survival kits.

Tool kits: Prices of tool kits start at $1 but can exceed $5. Depending on the target application, sets can include a bottle opener, saw, knives, sharpening steel, flashlight, hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdriver, rope and pair of gloves. The implements are packed in a nylon pouch, plastic gift box or aluminum case.

The line is available mostly from trading companies.

This article "Multi-tools: Slow sales urge makers to delay price increases" is originally posted in Global Sources.

Contact suppliers in this article

Bluesky Hardware Industrial Co. Ltd
Enlan Cutlery Co. Ltd
Meixin Industry Trading Co.,Ltd
Sunknife Industrial Co.Ltd
Topwell Industrial & Trading Co.,Ltd
Wayeah Knives & Tools Co. Ltd
Wenzhou Chinalight Hardware Knife Co Ltd
Yangchun Silver Star Trading Co Ltd
Yangjiang Jinlangda Hardware & Plastic Product Co Ltd
Yangjiang Precision Industries Co. Ltd
Yangjiang Pute Hardware Co.,Ltd

Note: All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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