K&M Matchcases

Match Case Article: Past Experiences

Our history continued :

Bean featured Our match cases in a fall hunting catalog in 1991. By the time the season ended they had sold over 3000 match cases. A buyer later told Keith it was the top selling item in that first catalog and placed in the top ten in every subsequent catalog featuring it. The first model, arbitrarily designated as the “WGC” (With Guttman Compass), was cataloged by Bean in 1991 and 1992.

The following year Cabela’s picked up the match case and between them and Beans generated about 9000 sales. The next year saw 14,000 go out the doors and the following year, 1994, K&M sold 23,000 match cases. With numbers growing like that Keith and Marge decided to sell their repair shop and move back to the tiny town of Elk River, Idaho, where they had lived before purchasing the Troy business and where they had property.

The spring of ’95 was borderline insanity what with trying to move most of their equipment to a new location while trying to convert a garage into a shop suitable for manufacturing, a task that had to be accomplished without dropping the ball on existing orders that Bean’s and Cabela’s already had in the hopper. The moving of each piece of equipment had to be planned to minimize down time and maximize production.

Somehow it all came together and by mid-summer everything was humming fairly smoothly – until Johnson Worldwide informed Keith that Silva, with whom Johnson had exclusive import rights for the US and Canada and whose name Johnson had exclusive rights to in the US and Canada, was discontinuing the compass model that K&M was dependent upon for their match case.

For K&M the timing was lousy and the news devastating, making it necessary for Keith to call both Bean’s and Cabela’s with the news that the match case would have to be dropped from the fall catalogs due to compass unavailability. The only up side of the situation was that K&M got the word barely in time to inform the companies before their catalogs went to press, thereby averting an expensive boo boo for them. Keith assured both companies that Johnson indicated they would be up and running with a new compass model within a few months at most.

K&M finally received the new model Silva compasses in the summer of ’97 and could tell immediately that they were vastly inferior to the preceding version. The new model was considerably thinner, lacked the sapphire bearing of the previous version, and the dial on many was poorly balanced, making it difficult to position the case just right for it to swing without binding. Unable to locate an alternate source of small compasses K&M resumed production with the Silva compass, many of which failed to pass Marge’s strict standards for performance and were returned to Johnson for replacement.

About this time Johnson decided to catalog the match case, the only product they have ever cataloged that they did not own outright. Keith agreed to a price and a year’s trial run, after which everything about the arrangement would be reevaluated by both parties and adjusted as needed. He also agreed to leave the K&M head stamp off of the cases, the only match cases K&M has ever manufactured without their name on them. Johnson marketed them under the Silva name, logo, and packaging.

Long before the end of the agreed upon year Keith and Marge realized that going through a distributor created more problems than it solved. They found themselves working 3 times as hard for less money, a situation created by the need to discount the wholesale price at least 25%, hire extra help, increased tooling costs, more wear and tear on the equipment, etc. An effort to negotiate a more realistic price schedule resulted in an ugly divorce between Johnson and K&M.