SHERRILL — “We finished the year strong,” Sherrill Manufacturing President/Co-Founder Matthew Roberts said of the flatware company’s results last year, and “we anticipate 2021 to be better” based on factors similar to 2020 “coupled with normal growth.”
For Sherrill Manufacturing, which makes knives, forks and spoons among its products, its online internet sales “started off the year well” before COVID-19 disruptions hit, and “by early summer we started to see our internet business pick back up,” said Roberts. Its sales include the Liberty Tabletop brand.
“We attribute the web business surge to three things,” Roberts observed of the company, which says it is the only remaining flatware manufacturer in the U.S. “First, .com retail continues to grow organically as the younger generation gains buying power. Second, the virus kept people home and they greatly increased their online purchases due to this, coupled with home/home furnishing upgrades. Lastly, we saw a significant backlash against Chinese imports as more people attempted to buy American-made products.”
Roberts commented that once consumers found out that 80% of U.S. medicines and most of the other PPE (personal protective equipment)/healthcare items were imported, “they were upset that we sent these essential items overseas and were beholden to a supply chain that starts 12,000 miles away.”
When COVID-19 impacts began last year including businesses closing, “we shut down for a week before determining that, because of our GSA (federal General Services Administration) contract, we could still produce and ship our government business and keep some other parts working also,” Roberts said.
“Most office personnel worked from home and we slowly brought back everyone once we were able. Our focus has been on employee safety while still manufacturing to an increased demand.”
The company has 68 employees, having added about 15 in 2020, and Roberts anticipates adding another 10 in 2021 “as demand for our product grows.” He noted “a key for us, as well as other companies throughout the United States, is hiring and retaining good people. We are working with our local legislators on apprenticeship programs as well as lobbying for common sense immigration so we can add to the worker pool.”
Among initiatives for 2021, Sherrill Manufacturing is introducing two new designs, Roberts said.
“The first to come out is an outdoor theme design with animals and a forest theme. We also are working on a modern, sleek-lined design to be introduced later in the year,” Roberts remarked. “Most of the other initiatives are focused on increased capacity/product quality improvements. I have always believed in investing in your employees and equipment; they go hand in hand.”
Sherrill Manufacturing was formed in 2005 by Roberts with co-founder and CEO Gregory Owens in coordination with acquiring flatware manufacturing assets from the onetime Oneida Ltd. company that was based in Oneida and Sherrill; they both were former Oneida Ltd. officials. Sherrill Manufacturing occupies a portion of what had been the Oneida Ltd. factory in Sherrill, and has leased space from the site’s current owner.
“We have all gone through a lot over the past number of years and it is good to see that everyone’s hard work has gotten our company to a profitable position,” said Roberts. “We still have a ways to go, but the team has turned the corner. We are very appreciative of the support we have received from our community.
The goal for Sherrill Manufacturing/Liberty Tabletop is to create a workplace where people want to work, where people are breaking the door down to be a part of our team,” Roberts added. “That comes from a commitment to our employees, the community and a commitment to make the best product we can.”