Wood: The European Difference
Wood. If you need one word to differentiate Europe’s shooting industry trade show from America’s counterpart, the SHOT Show, that word is wood. I don’t mean floors either. I refer to highly figured Turkish walnut, stunning pieces of marble-caked Circassian wood. The wood is not only sold in raw form, one- and two-piece blanks, but also adorns most of the higher-grade guns from the likes of Perazzi, Blaser and Krieghoff.
And there are plenty of premium guns on display this week at the IWA show in Nurenberg, Germany. Some 30,000-plus visitors come to check out the wood—and the plastic, polymer, aluminum, steel and Damascus. It’s all here, but what caught my eye (and my ATM card) was the wood.
I stopped by the booth of Van Agac Gunstock Blanks from Van, Turkey. There I met a swarthy, yet charming fellow with a cherubic face named Yusuk Inan. Yusuk had to step around stacks of Turkish walnut to get to me, a potential customer, as I examined a blank.
“Beautiful wood,” Yusuk enthused. “You like?”
“Hmmm,” I replied noncommittally. The last thing you do when dickering is to show anything resembling enthusiasm.
“I show you the best,” Yusuk continued. I feigned indifference as Yusuk unstacked a large pile and began culling the better blanks into a separate stack.
“How much you want spend?” Yusuk asked, the key question of a wood seller. From past experience, I knew I had to answer carefully.
“I want a nice piece with what we call marble-cake figure, but not too expensive,” I answered.
“Yes, we use same word, marble-cake… here, you like this?” he said teasingly, proffering a highly figured blank. “This one, it is one-thousand Euro.”
That’s about $1,400 which would require three trips to the ATM. However, I’ve bought a few blanks in the past from Ed Preslik, the premiere walnut man in Chico, Calif., and I knew that same blank in California walnut (not as desirable as Turkish walnut) would run anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500.
Ed had taught me the gold rule of wood selling—find out what the customer wants to spend, which then becomes the price of any blank that catches his eye. I used that trade secret to best advantage.
“Perhaps this one,” I said blandly, picking a really nice piece. “But only with a discount of 15 percent.”
Yusuk raised a eyebrow, “You pay cash?”
We stepped into a small storage closest in the back of his booth and I counted out 800 Euro.
“Oh dear, that’s all I have,” I said. “I can come back later.”
Yusuk was a great salesman and knew how to you close. “Eight hundred, that’s okay,” he answered. Done deal.
That was negotiation number one. Now I had to go back to my hotel and explain to my wife what in the heck I’m doing with a giant piece of wood. That’s the difference between American and European gun shows—wood.