Sherrill Manufacturing adapts to evolving way of selling flatware

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SHERRILL — For the Sherrill Manufacturing company and its Liberty Tabletop brand, 2018 “was our best year since we started,” says Matthew A. Roberts, president and co-founder of the flatware maker.

The 14-year-old company, which also sells other tabletop items, saw online sales rise 20 percent while its production increased by 35 percent, Roberts said.

Also, eight employees were hired to meet the demand. With 48 current employees, “I would expect continued growth as our sales increase,” Roberts commented.

For 2019, “our goal is to continue to build the web business, so we expect another 20 percent growth there,” said Roberts. “The rest of our sales should remain flat or grow slightly.”

The company was formed in 2005 by Roberts with co-founder and CEO Gregory L. Owens, in conjunction with their acquisition of flatware manufacturing assets from the onetime Oneida Ltd. company that was based in Oneida and Sherrill. Owens and Roberts both were former Oneida Ltd. officials. Located in part of the former Oneida Ltd. factory off East Seneca Street in Sherrill, it leases about 125,000 square feet of the facility from the ONX3 company; Roberts said “this space is sufficient for continued growth.”

Sherrill Manufacturing says it is the only remaining flatware manufacturer in the U.S.

Among initiatives for 2019:

• “We will continue to work to increase brand recognition,” Roberts remarked. “Flatware is an infrequent purchase, so we need to be in front of our customers when they are looking to buy.” He noted a focus on web advertising through Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Referring to web marketing as “still sort of the ‘wild west,’ with new applications popping up all of the time,” Roberts said, “we need to have ... finger on the pulse constantly.”

• Retail is moving from brick and mortar to the internet with more than 60 percent of company online sales purchased through mobile devices, Roberts said. “We have to be ready to change our sales and marketing tactics to meet these challenges.”

• Four new flatware designs are planned.

Roberts observed “we have seen a lot of success with designs targeted to affinity groups” linked by a common interest, “so we tailor our designs and market them directly to these groups.” Examples of the affinity patterns and designs are Calavera, Celtic, Old Harbor and Woodstock.

“Because of our tooling capabilities, we are the only flatware company in the world who can offer designs with these unique characteristics,” Roberts said.

Sherrill Manufacturing also will seek further opportunities through the federal government. Roberts and Owens have been to the White House, including representing New York state last year during a Made in America event. President Donald Trump was “very interested in our products, being a fellow New Yorker, which definitely helped drive traffic to our website,” Roberts commented.

The company has been working with the current administration plus U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, “to help build our business,” said Roberts. Overall “we will continue working with our representatives to increase sales to the government through GSA (U.S. General Services Administration).”

Roberts also said he “would hope that our fellow citizens understand how important manufacturing is to our economy.”

When people buy a set of flatware from Liberty Tabletop, “your money goes directly to the manufacturer here in Sherrill, New York,” Roberts pointed out. “That money also supports our steel supplier in Pittsburgh ... our packaging supplier in Sherburne, New York, our buffing wheel supplier in Utica, New York and many other Americans who rely on domestic sales to stay afloat. A vibrant manufacturing sector is another cylinder in the engine of our economy, so think about that when you shop.”

For more information about the company, visit libertytabletop.com online.

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