Offensive Weapons Bill

Written Evidence submitted by Benjamin Grunwerg on behalf of I Grunwerg Ltd (OWB141)

Introduction

I Grunwerg Ltd is a sales and distribution company based in Sheffield, a city with a history of knife manufacturing and knife selling businesses. Our company, over 60 years old, is primarily associated with Global Knives among other brands, a premium branded range of Japanese chefs knives sold throughout the UK in department stores, cook shops, catering distributors, chef suppliers and online retailers.

Details of our knives can be found on www.globalknives.uk and www.knivesfromjapan.co.uk

We employ approximately 50 people in Sheffield, a mix of warehouse, sales, marketing and support staff. Our sales are mainly business to business, but we also have limited consumer sales through a sister business Knives From Japan Ltd.

We believe that the Offensive Weapons Bill 2018 will have extremely detrimental effects on our business. In Particular the restrictions on deliveries of blades articles to residential premises will hurt our business and our customers’ businesses.

1 - Sales of our Knives Online

Around approximately 75% of consumers are purchasing our knives through online channels rather than through bricks and mortar stores. This is for the following reasons;

1.1 – Pricing is often ‘better’ online, with more competition between resellers of our products.

1.2 – Convenience, online stores deliver quickly and reliably to home and business addresses.

1.3 – Range, bricks and mortar retailers are unable to stock the full range of our products. John Lewis is limited to the top selling 10 knives, whilst we have over 100 individual knives in our Global Classic Range. Online stores are able to carry much more comprehensive ranges offering far greater choice to the consumer.

1.4 - Bricks and Mortar stores by their nature can only carry 2 or 3 brands, many specialist products which are not by their nature sold regularly enough to be stocked in a bricks and mortar store are more often sold online.

1.5 Information – Online stores are able to convey information in the form of video, images and text that allow consumers to make informed purchasing decisions. Bricks and Mortar stores rely on human knowledge which is often incorrect or misleading.

1.6 - Stock Availability, bricks and mortar stores are slow to restock their shelves and often carry thread bare stocks. Consumers are very often unable to purchase items in bricks and mortar stores despite these items being ‘listed’.

1.7 – Time, Trips to local shops and shopping centers inevitably costs consumers in time and parking charges. There is a wider cost to society in congestion and pollution from these trips.

1.8 – Access, Those unable to travel, or who find it difficult such as the disable, obviously find online shopping easier.

2 – Banning Online Sales of Knives in the UK to residential addresses will:

2.1 – Favour retailers with large ‘bricks and mortar’ presence. This will inevitably lead to higher prices, less availability and less choice.

2.2 – Hurt smaller knife brands and manufacturers who do not have a presence in traditional retailing, discourage innovation and new product development.

2.3 – Encourage consumers to purchase from online stores from other EU/European countries who are unlikely to comply with the new legislation. Delivery companies will be wholly reliant on honest and accurate declarations. At the time of writing declarations for goods sent to other EU countries are not even necessary. How will this even be enforced?

2.4 It is obvious that traditional retailing in the UK is in serious decline with the closure of many stores. The proposed bill severely limits our future growth potential, where marketing (via social media, youtube etc) feeds online purchasing decisions.

3 - Proposals do not take into account availability of new technology in combatting sales of knives to under 18’s.

Various options are already

3.1 – Online plugins from Experian, Call Credit and Age Checked can check the identity and age of the purchaser at the time of purchase on online stores accurately.

3.2 - These age checks conform to PAS 1296:2018, the online provisional and use of online age checked services. We use one of these services to ensure that sales are not made to under 18’s. This seems to satisfy the existing guidelines for online knife sales.

3.3 – Delivery companies, such as Yodel, UPS and DPD are able to age check and identify the final recipient of an online order much in the same way that a store would age check a knife purchaser.

3.4 - A recent case in Derbyshire indicates the new law cannot completely prevent sales to under 18’s. Knives sold in bricks and mortar stores, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6666434/web-giant-amazon-has-been-illegally-selling-flick-knives-in-the-uk/

3.5 – There are already substantial penalties for retailers that do not comply with the existing legislation.

3.6 – Payment gateway services such as Paypal are limited to over 18’s. Credit cards are only available to over 18’s.

4 – Premium Knives

The sale of premium knives as opposed to knives regularly sold in supermarkets and convenience stores is fundamentally a different market.

4.1 – Most of our knives retail for over £100.

4.2 – This is out the financial reach of the vast majority of young people, especially if their motivation is not to buy a premium Japanese knife, but rather to buy ‘any knife or blade’. Our knives are very often considered purchases.

4.3 These knives are typically bought by chefs wanting the best tools and experienced home cooks looking for the best equipment.

4.4 Sharp knives made from the best materials are absolutely essential in all kinds of food preparation. Sharp knives are required to make various cuts; julienne, brunoise, mince etc.

4.5 Sharper knives are safer as blunt blades can slip rather than cut. In addition dull blades often encourage the user to apply more pressure, which could cause more damage in the event of a slip.

4.6 - We would request exemptions for obviously premium products, for which the only reason someone would pay a premium is to use the knife for the correct purpose.

5 - Knives are everywhere

Knives are readily available everywhere in society. Banning sales of knives online to residential addresses will have very little effect on their availability.

5.1 – Knives are in every home, used as a crucial tool for cooking. They can easily be taken from drawers or work surfaces by children without having to be purchased online.

5.2 – The new law cannot prevent access to shanks, or any other sharp object. If someone wishes to use a tool for protection, they will find something to suit.

5.3 – The ‘demand’ for knives by under 18’s will not be reduced by this proposal. Only education will do this.

5.4 – Knives can still be acquired by theft.

5.5 – What constitutes a blade? Knives, scissors, metal rulers, screw drivers, hammers etc can all be used as weapons. Will these all be banned eventually?

5.6 – These proposals are poorly drafted. Could we for example post out blunt knives (i.e. unsharpened) with a free sharpener, to sharpen at home?

5.7 – What would prevent a foreign partner from posting blades from abroad, where there are no laws on sales of knives to residential addresses? Can they still be prosecuted for sales into the UK?

6 - Impact on Our Business

In the event of these proposals being made law we expect:

6.1 - That our sales of knives will decrease generally.

6.2 - We will have to review our levels of employment.

6.3 - Will severely alter the relationships we have with independent and online customers and dangerously shift the balance in favour of large national chains.

7 – Current UK Laws are Sufficient

7.1 – We feel enforcement of the existing rules is more important and sufficient

7.2 – We do not expect this bill to any effect on the general availability of knives to under 18’s, nor will they decrease the incidences of knife crime.

8 - Conclusion

As a leading UK supplier of kitchen knives we strongly support aims by the government to reduce knife crime, which is clearly a growing problem in the UK. However we can only support sensible effective measures. It is important as a knife specialist that our products are seen as tools and not weapons. We hope that sensible changes will be made to the bill to take into account these points and ensure that kitchen knives are still widely available and easily accessible to responsible consumers and chefs.

Best Regards

Benjamin Grunwerg,I Grunwerg Ltd

August 2018

 

Prepared 13th August 2018