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Coordinate cutlery: Washington Forge ties in with parent.

NEW YORK - Washington Forge plans to build on its relationship with its parent in an effort to take its mid-priced cutlery out of the commodity game.

Washington Forge, whose sales are largely in casual flatware, wants to increase the cutlery side of its business and so will introduce Creative Cutlery, a set of knives and tools in two handscreened wood blocks - 20 pieces in all - to sell at $49.99. Two of the three silk-screened patterns coordinate with dinnerware sets from Washington Forge's parent, JMP Newcor.

Skokie, Ill.-based Washington Forge will introduce the coordination program at next week's Tabletop Show here. Newcor plans to launch more coordinating products, too, such as textiles, canisters and pantryware at January's International Housewares Show. Washington Forge also may market the decorated blocks by itself

The coordination program is aimed at category-killer specialty chains and catalogs, logs, which specialize in cross-merchandising. The products also available to department stores.

Washington Forge's set comprises a dozen knives, six wooden tools and the two decorated blocks at the $49.99 suggested retail price point.

The company's aim over the next two years is to offer 60 percent flatware, 40 percent cutlery, by expanding its knife business, said Andrew Hellinger, vice president of sales and head of Washington Forge. Currently, 75 percent of Forge's offerings are in flatware, an area given increasing focus since Washington Forge was acquired by Newcor 2 1/2 years ago. JMP Newcor's sales are estimated at $45 million.

Differentiation from competitors through knife block coordination could be a way to achieve the firm's goals, Hellinger said. He claims this could be the first coordination program of decorative knife blocks, tool holders and dinnerware.

Washington Forge hopes the coordination program will help it rise above the constraints of the $19.99 and $29.99 "magic price points" of undecorated block sets. The entire cutlery business is estimated at $239 million wholesale.

"We want to create a niche for Washington Forge in decorative, functional cutlery," said Hellinger. "What we've done is a matter of taking a commodity item and making it fun and decorative."

Coordination can also raise the sales ticket. The dinnerware, knife block and tool holder set tally about $100 at retail, said Hellinger. Newcor's dinnerware is sold separately.

"If the pattern is right, it's a bigger ticket at the cash register if the consumer buys the whole thing," commented a catalog-showroom buyer. "And it can create repeat business if they come back to buy additional components of the pattern for their whole kitchen."

Initially, Washington Forge will offer three hand-silk-screened patterns. Two botanical looks, Herb Garden and Allan's Orchard, coordinate with 20-piece Newcor dinnerware sets. The third pattern is Italian Village, a country theme. Knives and tools are not decorated.

The cutlery holder and the tool holder are both made from laminated particle board, which is easy to wipe clean, said Hellinger.

In the cutlery block, there are 12 knives, including steak knives and basic kitchen knives. Knives have fine-edge, hollow-ground blades; handles are oak. The tool holder contains six basic wooden tools. The merchandise will ship in January.

For Creative Cutlery, Washington Forge tried to avoid looks that were "hokey" country, bypassing silos, cows and other farm scenes. The aim, said Hellinger, was to create something "more sophisticated" that would have universal appeal.

By adding fashion to cutlery blocks, Washington Forge is using a tactic similar to the one it used in flatware when it was acquired by Newcor from Hyde Group, a commercial cutlery supplier, said Hellinger. Back then, both cutlery and flatware "were embedded in the commodity market," he added.

Forge's flatware lineup was very basic patterns, Hellinger added. Today, it includes European designs and gingham looks. The company even reintroduced a pattern called Town & Country, a 40-year old, colored wooden "cabin look."

Forge's overall business grew 30 percent since its acquisition, mainly in flatware, said-Hellinger. Many price points went from the $9.99-per-set range to $29.99 to $49.99 in flatware, moving the company into "higher-value mass-merchant goods" and category killers, he added.

Today, Forge's flatware customers include Bed Bath & Beyond, JC Penney, Linens 'n Things, Waccamaw, 3D Bed & Bath and Service Merchandise, Hellinger noted. The firm is a core Federated vendor, he added.

In cutlery, Forge had made its first stab at the fashion market about two years ago with Dual Grip, comtemporary style, bi-color blocks with bi-color knives at a suggested retail price of $39.99. Products probably did not perform up to expectations, said Hellinger, because "they weren't different enough."
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Title Annotation:introduces cutlery to coordinate with parent firm JMP Newcor's dinnerware sets
Author:Stankevich, Debby Garbato
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Oct 23, 1995
Words:756
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