Wuu Jau Co., Inc., along with a West Coast branch, Neptune Trading, sells various collector and cutlery items such as swords, daggers, and crossbows, with one of the world’s biggest selections of pocketknives and throwing knives. According to Michael Lu, vice president of operations and son of Ben and Margaret, the Lu’s were able to build the company from the ground up by offering something that was very unique, near their home in rural Oklahoma. “They started selling pocketknives and other smaller things at flea markets,” Lu says. “This was before the Internet and before things were specialized, so if you were a pocketknife or sword collector, it was really hard to find anything like that. You couldn’t just go onto Google and search for throwing knives.”
“My parents immigrated from Taiwan in 1977, and throughout the years we’ve grown at a really fast pace,” Lu adds. “When they came to America, they didn’t have anything, so we’ve definitely come a long way. Over the years, we’ve tried to see what our customers want, so we’re always coming up with new things and bringing them to the market.” Because Wuu Jau is still based in the center of the country, all orders in the continental U.S. will be shipped and received within a week. For consumers on the West Coast, the Neptune Trading import branch and warehouse, opened in 2002, can process orders and provide a more efficient level of customer support. Lu notes that nearly 100 percent of the two lines’ goods are the same, and a lot of customers buy from both companies; the only difference is a few of the products Wuu Jau sells cannot be sold in California due to state laws.
Wuu Jau Increases Products and Purchases with Assistance of West Coast Branch
With more than 2,000 items on the active products list, Wuu Jau is constantly trying new things, getting feedback from customers, and reworking ideas. The company is currently developing a line of high grade and high quality hunting and outdoors knives, for a line called Buckshot Knives, after seeing a big demand. Lu notes that Wuu Jau will generally order a test batch to see how a product fares, and once it has been approved, the wholesaler will officially add the line. For Buckshot, the products have already been received and will be added within the next few months.
Wuu Jau has also updated its Live Action Role Playing (LARP) line, adding new foam swords and axes in the past few months, after seeing a huge jump in demand by fantasy fans for material that will stand up to abuse. “We’ve been carrying foam weapons for a while, but because people want to fight with them, we were getting returns with the weapons all busted up,” Lu notes. “They looked like they had been stuck in a garbage disposal, so we went to China to see if we could come up with a new material to make merchandise that was more durable and lightweight, and we’ve come up with this new material, our own blend of high density polyurethane. It’s really promising, and we’re the only company on the market with this material. It’s kind of like the material mattresses are made of, but with a lot higher density, so it holds up better.”
Wuu Jau recently switched to new accounting and warehouse software, and with it comes a revamping of the company’s website and online ordering. Lu says the goal is to increase visibility and add more features, such as the ability to track the status of an order or look at the invoices of previous purchases. Additionally, the new system will make pricing more flexible, especially for long-time buyers. “Basically, what we want to do is generate a quote, so our sales team can give the customer a call back and negotiate on the price,” he notes. “Because we have a price match guarantee, when customers add items to their cart they’ll get a call back, and a sales person will go over the prices and service, and what we can do to make the order exactly what they’re looking for.” The updated site should be ready and operational by March or April.
Lu says Wuu Jau stands out because of its creativity, always coming up with new ideas first, and explains that his mother started the trend of gift box knives after going to an art show, seeing something in a gift box, and thinking a knife or collectible would look nice in one. Also, the wholesaler was an innovator in samurai swords. “In the late ‘80s, my dad went to a trade show, and at that time, importing from China was just starting,” Lu says. “With cutlery like samurai swords, most of them were handmade and really high quality stuff from Japan, and my dad noticed that people really liked them, but the prices were near $1,000 each. So he thought if we imported something like this from China, and it doesn’t have to be as functional, it could be more affordable for the average person who just wants to collect and put it in a display or case. At the time, there wasn’t anybody importing three-piece samurai sword sets, and a couple of the Japanese sword makers were furious, because we were selling it for maybe ten percent of their prices, and they couldn’t compete with something like that.”
Because many of Wuu Jau’s customers are gas stations and truck stops, there is always a need for acrylic displays with a lock, and the wholesaler is producing custom-made displays for pocket knives, which should be available in two or three months. The minimum for online orders is $100, although there is no minimum for walk-in customers. Because Wuu Jau sells such a wide variety of products to a number of different sellers, markup can vary wildly, and can run anywhere from 50 to 300 percent and up.