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HFN REPORT-Thanks to lower prices of source materials and a spike in consumer awareness of how products are made, forged flatware has seen an upswing in popularity recently. The unique designs, contemporary looks and the weight of these pieces are also playing a part in their emergence.

"The customers are smarter. They know about forged and stamped these days," said Nicole Maile, product manager for cutlery and flatware at Crate & Barrel. "They are looking for quality differences in flatware."

This escalating interest in the category has translated into greater popularity of oversized pieces, pieces with extra weight and finishes, as well as forged flatware, she said.

And one can never underestimate the power of Martha Stewart and other entertaining gurus who have created a buzz in consumers' minds for these kinds of products, according to Maile.

"I see it as a result of shelter magazines and TV shows," that emphasize these issues, said Maile.

Longtime players in the forged flatware field have seen an upswing in sales of these items. Further, flatware market leader Oneida, which doesn't have forging capabilities at its New York factories, recently introduced Ovations, a line of forged flatware the company is importing. The line will be found at Rich's and other Federated stores, Dayton Hudson, Foley's and Saks, among others.

For Harmon Stein, president of Excel, the basis for the popularity of these pieces is a weighty issue.

"Weight is associated with better, and forged [pieces] are clearly heavier than stamped," said Stein.

Stein also added that the process that creates forged flatware allows for stylized designs in the finished pieces. "They are styled and contemporary," said Stein. "There are more designs."

Wallace Silversmiths has been adding forged flatware patterns to its collections recently, in response to greater consumer demand.

"It's a combination of the good designs of forged and [the fact that they are] priced reasonably. The lower cost is appealing," said Scott Bial, vice president of marketing and sales at Wallace Silversmiths, who added consumers might not know the ins and outs of forged flatware, but they "know they can pick it up and feel the oval and rounded shape."

He also agreed the heavier weight of pieces, in the consumer's mind, equals greater value.

For Felix Amar, president of Hampton Forge, the appearance of forged flatware is the key to its success in the marketplace.

"We understand forged, and the process. We know how to get interesting shapes and designs, and it shows in the pieces," said Amar, adding that Hampton Forge first began to make strong statements with forged flatware seven years ago. Amar added the "elegance" of forged pieces is what makes them popular to consumers.

Stein also said the lower price of steel has put more players in the market, which may change once the price of steel increases. He added that price of steel is already beginning to climb.
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Author:Bryceland, Kristen
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 21, 2000

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