SIC 3914

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.

NAICS Code(s)

332211 (Cutlery and Flatware (except Precious) Manufacturing)

339912 (Silverware and Plated Ware Manufacturing)

Industry Snapshot

The flatware industry was dominated by stainless steel in the late 1990s. The dominance was expected to continue as a result of consumers seeking to bridge the gap between low-end flatware and silverware. Stainless steel flatware's affordability, attractiveness, and durability have made it the most popular. Although the principal manufacturers of flatware also produce silver or silver-plated jewelry or decorative products such as bowls and goblets, flatware is typically the mainstay of the business.

In 2000, the value of shipments was an estimated $690 million, down from $918 million in 1998. Hollowware (including toiletware, ecclesiastical ware, novelties, trophies, baby goods, and other plated ware) had 26 percent of the product share in the late 1990s. Flatware, including all knives, forks, spoons, and carving sets made wholly of metal, accounted for 69 percent. Moreover, in the late 1990s total exports of silverware, plated ware, and jewelry came to $4.1 billion, while imports were $13 billion.

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 baser 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 baser metal, such as brass or copper. Silverplating creates a material that is far cheaper to produce than sterling silver and yet gives a similar appearance. It is not, however, as durable as sterling silver, since the plating will eventually wear off. Stainless steel consists of steel alloyed to another metal such as chromium to produce a strong, rust-resistant, and easy-care metal.

The early 1990s found the industry still struggling to counter the effects of a lingering recession and changes in consumer preferences, which particularly affected the sterling silver segment of the industry. While manufacturers and retailers hoped to improve sales of sterling silver through aggressive advertising campaigns, many producers of sterling were also introducing new stainless steel lines to augment their business.

During the early 1990s, American manufacturers were producing approximately 20 percent of the world's silverware. Other major producers included Japan, Korea, France, and Italy.

Department stores were the most common points of sale for products in this industry, accounting for 28 percent of flatware sales and 30 percent of dinnerware sales in 1991.

The trend towards casual dinnerware and flatware was apparent in the mid-1990s. Increasingly casual lifestyles were changing the face of the industry. Alternative metal products contributed to the industry's growth in 1994. The key trends in 1995 were widespread acquisitions, changes in management, and tough competition from companies entering the housewares market.

Importers of tabletop and giftware products had an extreme year in 1996. While some reported recordbreaking profits, others barely made it. Many unsuccessful firms left the industry, thereby increasing the overall profit of the industry. Tableware makers continued to exploit the growing popularity of collectibles and giftware by manufacturing holiday specific items.

Current Conditions

The total value of shipments in 2000 fell to $690 million from $737 million in 1999 and $918 million in 1998. The cost of materials declined from $381 million in 1998 to $283 million in 2000. Employment in the industry also dwindled, falling from 6,357 in 1998 to 5,148 in 2000. As a result, costs associated with payroll were reduced from $205 million to $153 million over the same time period.

In the late 1990s, Jeffrey Herman, founder of the Society of American Goldsmiths, predicted that big silver companies would focus less on custom work and instead market mass-produced designs. Designing would thus be left to smaller companies and contractors. He also stated in an address to the Society that, in the silversmith trade, the ability to restore and conserve old pieces, along with the knowledge to create new designs, would pave the way for success in the new century.

Industry Leaders

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

Oneida Ltd. was the undisputed leader in the industry with sales of $465.9 million and 5,010 employees. The company used its brand image to move into additional tabletop categories. Having introduced cutlery in January 1996, Oneida planned an extensive array of tabletop products for 1997 and 1998. From 1996 through 1998, the company purchased businesses in China, Italy, Australia, and Germany. Oneida reported net sales of $465.9 million in 1998.

In 1998, the three other top American manufacturers in the industry were Syratech Corp., which had $290.4 million in sales; Celar Shield National Inc., which reported sales of $80 million; and Wallace Silversmiths, Inc., with $75 million in sales.

Further Reading

Andreoli, Teresa. "Holiday Tableware Presents Whole Packages." Discount Store News , 19 February 1996.

"Jeffrey Herman, The 21st Century Silversmith." Society of American Silversmiths, 1998. Available from .

Kehoe, Ann-Margaret. "Alternative Metals' Tabletop Sales Glow." HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network , 20 February 1995.

——. "1995 a Tumultuous Year." HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network , 15 January 1996.

Libbey Inc. Annual Report (SEC form 10-k), 1999. Available from .

Oneida Ltd. "About Oneida," 1999. Available from .

United States Census Bureau. Jewelry (Except Costume) Manufacturing. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1999.

——. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufactures. February 2002. Available from .

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