Silverware, Plated Ware, and Stainless Steel Ware

SIC 3914

Industry report:

This category includes businesses whose primary activities consist of manufacturing flatware (including knives, forks, and spoons), hollowware, ecclesiastical ware, trophies, trays, and related products made of sterling silver; metal plated with silver, gold, or other metal; nickel silver; pewter; or stainless steel. The category also includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing table flatware with blades and handles of metal. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing other metal cutlery are classified in SIC 3421: Cutlery, and those manufacturing metal trophies, trays, and toilet ware made of metals other than silver, nickel silver, pewter, stainless steel, and plated, are classified in SIC 3499: Fabricated Metal Products, Not Elsewhere Classified.

Industry Snapshot

The flatware and silverware industry, which reported about $1.6 billion in revenue in 2007 for its 244 establishments, was dominated by stainless steel. This trend, which began in the early years of the first decade of the 2000s, continued as consumers sought to bridge the gap between low-end flatware and silverware. Affordability, attractiveness, and durability made stainless steel the most popular flatware. Although the principal manufacturers of flatware also produced silver or silver-plated jewelry or decorative products, such as bowls and goblets, flatware is typically the mainstay of industry overall.

Background and Development

Sterling silver is a term used by the U.S. government to describe a silver alloy consisting of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent of another metal, such as copper. The base metal is used to add strength to silver, which in its pure state is too soft to be practical. Silverplate, which also includes hollowware or hotelware, refers to products made from silver bonded onto a base metal, such as brass or copper. Silverplating creates a material that is far cheaper to produce than sterling silver yet gives a similar appearance. It is not, however, as durable as sterling silver, because the plating will wear off eventually. Stainless steel consists of steel alloyed to another metal such as chromium to produce a strong, rust-resistant, and easy-care metal.

Increasingly casual lifestyles created a trend toward casual dinnerware and flatware that changed the face of the industry. Alternative metal products contributed to the industry's growth, and key industry trends included widespread acquisitions, changes in management, and tough competition from companies entering the housewares market.

Starting in 2004, manufacturers in the industry were beginning to appeal to luxury-conscious shoppers, driving sales in many industry categories. The Sterling Style Council, composed of several manufacturers in this and other silver industries, dedicated itself to the promotion and popularity of silver.

The total value of shipments across the industry for 2008 was about $1.75 billion, up from the previous year's total of $1.6 billion. Employees in 2007 numbered close to 6,100 and earned $313 million in wages.

Current Conditions

According to industry statistics, there were an estimated 522 businesses manufacturing flatware and silverware in 2010 with a value of $544.3 million. Manufacturers of trophies, not specified by kind, were responsible for the majority of the market share with 21.3 percent and a value of $72.8 million in 2010. The silversmith industry sector was a top performer with 17.2 percent in market share and $29.4 million in sales that year. Silverware and plated ware comprised 10.3 percent of market share with revenues totaling about $64.4 million for 2010. Producers of pewter ware captured 10.3 percent of market share with shipments of $38.5 million in 2010. Stainless steel ware captured 8 percent of the market, reporting $65.4 million in sales, and silverware producers held 3.6 percent of market share that generated $118.2 million in 2010 sales.

The Sherrill Manufacturing factory in New York was originally owned by Oneida Ltd., which had prospered in the 1990s, but blamed overseas competition and an intensified flood of imports into the United States for the sale of the facility to Sherrill on March 22, 2005. Owners Matthew Roberts and Gregory Owens hoped to become an Oneida Ltd. supplier. Since that time, Sherrill Manufacturing has diversified its product line.

In May 2010 Sherrill, the only U.S.-based factory that was still producing stainless steel flatware and dinnerware closed its doors and declared bankruptcy by October citing the infiltration of inexpensive Chinese imports. However, in August 2011 online retailer Silver superstore offered Sherrill a contract to fill a substantial order of more than $100,000 for "made in America products." The contract enabled the company to reopen the factory to fill the order, which was anticipated to run over six-to-eight weeks, if not longer.

Industry Leaders

All the leading suppliers of flatware in the United States offered patterns in both sterling silver and stainless steel, although Gorham and Wallace were better known for sterling silver. Oneida was best known for its silverplated products and stainless steel flatware.

Oneida Ltd. was the leader in the industry in the middle of the first decade of the 2000s before going through a major transition. The company posted 2005 sales of $417.5 million, but filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2006. In September, Oneida completed a $170 million exit financing program, emerging from Chapter 11 as a privately held company. Oneida Ltd. posted 2008 sales of $50 million. Metal products accounted for 60 percent of sales. Another industry leader, Syratech Corp., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005 and was acquired by Lifetime Brands in 2006.

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