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Oneida Ltd.

Oneida Ltd.

163181 Kenwood Avenue
Oneida, New York 13421-2899
U.S.A.
Telephone: (315) 361-3000
Fax: (315) 361-3700
Web site: http://www.oneida.com

Private Company
Incorporated: 1880 as Oneida Community Ltd.
Employees: 905
Sales: $350.8 million (2006)
NAIC: 332211 Cutlery and Flatware (Except Precious) Manufacturing; 327112 Vitreous China, Fine Earthenware, and Other Pottery Product Manufacturing; 327215 Glass Product Manufacturing Made of Purchased Glass

Oneida Ltd. is one of the worlds largest design, sourcing, and distributors of stainless steel flatware. The company also markets silver-plated and sterling flatware products, dinnerware, glassware, and various tabletop accessories. With the most recognized brand name in the tabletop industry, Oneida holds leading market positions in both consumer and foodservice flatware along with foodservice dinnerware. Heightened competition and financial troubles brought on by a slowing economy forced the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2006. Oneida emerged in September of that year as a private entity.

COMPANY ROOTS IN A UTOPIAN COMMUNITY

The Oneida Community was founded by John Humphrey Noyes in upstate New York in 1848. The Community practiced Noyess theology of Perfectionisma form of Christianity rooted in the two basic tenets of self-perfection and communalism. In addition to abolishing private property, the Oneida Community raised children communally and espoused complex marriage, in which monogamous marriages were discouraged.

This communal child care system enabled the Oneida women, as well as the men, to take part in the Communitys manufacturing of animal traps, chains, silk items, and silver knives, forks, and spoons, which it sold to the outside world to sustain itself. Soon the Oneida Community developed a reputation not just for the unconventional lifestyle of its members, but also for the quality of its goods. For instance, the Newhouse trap was invented by a founding member of the Community and was known around the world.

The Oneida Community survived longer than most other 19th-century utopian societies, in part because of the solvency of its businesses. Indeed, Oneida members continued to live and work together until the late 1870s. Prosperity did not shield the organization from conflict, however, and in 1879 the Community split into two factions. Unable to resolve their differences, the members voted to transform the groups businesses into a joint stock company, the Oneida Community Ltd., which would be owned and operated by former members of the society. The Community was valued at $600,000 and shares were distributed according to each members original contribution and length of service. The stock was divided among 226 men, women, and children, the majority of whom received shares worth between $2,000 and $4,999. The progressive nature of the new company was reflected in, among other things, the selection of a woman (Harriet Joslyn) to be superintendent of the silk mill and a member of the board of directors.

During the 15 years following Oneidas reorganization, the companys financial standing deteriorated. A severe depression in the 1890s, inadequate leadership, and emigration from the community plagued the new company. Some have speculated that the failure of the utopian community contributed to demoralization of the worker/stockholders, further eroding the companys prospects for success.

ONEIDA ENTERS THE INDUSTRIAL AGE

In January 1894, Pierrepont Burt (P. B.) Noyes, the son of Oneidas charismatic founder, rejoined the company after working as an Oneida wholesaler in The World, as many Oneidans referred to the broader society outside their community. At only 23 years old, Noyes replaced an uncle on Oneidas board of directors. His experience outside the Community enabled him to see and criticize weaknesses that threatened the companys viability. Within two months Noyes led a proxy fight to oust directors who clung to old-fashioned business strategies. Nearly 24,000 shares were voted, and Noyess side won by just 16 shares. Noyes was offered the position of superintendent at Oneidas Niagara Falls plant and soon raised the operations standards of quality to their former high levels. In 1899 the company announced what were then the largest profits in its history and paid its stockholders a dividend of 7 percent.

By the time he reached the age of 30, Noyes had attained de facto control of Oneida. The board nominated him to the newly created post of general manager with authority to oversee all of the companys divisionscanning and manufacturing of tableware, traps, chains, and silk thread. Noyess rise to prominence at Oneida helped bring the company into the industrial world of the 20th century. Previously, Oneida had relied on its managers creativity, thrift, and diligence, as well as the excellent reputation of its products, to succeed in the competitive marketplace. Noyes introduced the new production methods, competitive strategies, large-scale distribution methods, and promotional efforts that were beginning to typify American industry. In 1904 Oneida began to place heavy emphasis on marketing and brand recognition, increasing its promotion budget from $5,000 to $30,000 per year. Noyes financed this move by diverting profits from the trap business that would otherwise have been used to expand trap manufacturing, which he saw as a dying enterprise.

From that time on, even during the Great Depression, advertising remained an essential aspect of Oneidas operations. Early marketing campaigns established many of the features that would characterize Oneidas advertising for decades to come. The print ads typically appeared in widely circulated womens magazines. Rather than describe all of its tableware at length, Oneida used most of its advertising space for a picture of one or two pieces of silver plate, which it often associated visually with someone or something attractive. Oneida was also one of the first companies to employ celebrity spokespeople to promote its products. Ten years before the practice was widely accepted, Oneida commissioned Irene Castlea famous dancer and fashion plateto promote the Communitys wares.

COMPANY PERSPECTIVES

Throughout the economic, social and political changes that Oneida has seen during its history, the companys reputation for excellence and brand recognition has remained unshakable. An independent national consumer study has found that 90 percent of consumers name Oneida as the first company they think of when asked about stainless steel flatwarean invaluable measure of the Oneida brands strength. Just as importantly, Oneidas workforce has maintained its dedication even through the most trying of timesadapting some original community ideals to fit the modern-day goal of being a complete tabletop supplier. The dignity of work has been a constant theme; every job is recognized as an important contributor to the companys success. Brand recognition, product quality and dedicated employees are enduring strengths that form the backbone of the company as it moves forward.

Despite Noyess aggressive efforts to gain control of Oneida, he still sought to preserve the communal harmony and idealism on which the Community was founded. Managers who lost positions on the board of directors retained positions within the company, and many grew to respect the new management. In addition, Kenwood, a private community built around the company, gave Oneida a sense of family that remained strong through the early decades of the 20th century; well into the 1920s, descendants of the original Oneidans held almost 90 percent of company stock. Noyes sought to make Oneida and the community of Kenwood modern utopias by increasing wages, improving work conditions, providing welfare and recreational benefits, and improving the physical environs of Kenwood.

By appealing to their sense of ambition, Noyes attracted children of Oneidans who had left the Community in favor of college education and careers in The World. Instead of touting the Communitys old doctrine of Perfectionism, Noyes advocated a modern utopia based on intellectual challenge, reasonable pay, and self-improvement. The companys inventiveness and cooperation between labor and management have distinguished Oneida throughout its history. Indeed, the companys silverware operations have yet to suffer a work stoppage due to a labor dispute.

The companys enlightened attitude was reflected in other ways as well. In 1904 Noyes proposed voluntary salary reductions for management when the company encountered financial difficulties. In 1914 all salaried personnel took a 10 percent pay cut, which remained in effect until early 1916. In 1921 larger cuts were necessaryNoyes reduced his own salary by half, the directors took 33 percent cuts, and other officials took smaller cuts corresponding to their salaries. The Great Depression necessitated similar sacrifices.

In a further effort to strengthen its financial position, Oneida sold its chain business in 1912, and liquidated its silk industry holdings the following year, when manmade substitutes for silk were invented. The companys canning business was discontinued in 1915 because it was unable to compete with large-scale modern production methods. The consolidations enabled Oneida to open its first international factory, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in 1916.

CHANGES FROM WORLD WAR I TO WORLD WAR II

Noyes resigned from the general managership in 1917 to let a younger generation into Oneidas management. Three months after he resigned, the United States entered World War I. Oneida assisted the war effort by producing ammunition clips, lead-plated gas shells, and combat knives. The company also served as the principal source of a wide range of surgical instruments used in military hospitals. In 1919 Noyes returned briefly to Oneida after working with the U.S. governments Fuel Administration. He later played a role in the post World War I Peace Conference and the Rhineland Commission, which decided the particulars of the Allied occupation of Germany.

Amid financial crisis in 1921, Noyes resumed the general managership of Oneida. After steering the company through that predicament, he bequeathed the position of general manager to his son-in-law, Miles E. Robertson, in 1926. However, Noyes retained both the post of president and de facto control of the company. Oneidas trap business was sold in 1925, which left the company entirely dependent on its silverware business.

In 1935 the companys name was changed to Oneida Ltd. to differentiate tableware produced by Oneida from that of lower-quality subsidiaries of the company, such as Wm. A. Rogers. The name change also signaled a new era at Oneida. Noyes ceded control of the company to Miles Robertson, although he did not formally hand over the presidency until 1950. Robertson was known for his toughness; despite the rigors of the Great Depression, Oneida made a profit in 1933, when no other company in the silverware industry could. By this time, Oneida had subsidiaries in Canada and Great Britain.

KEY DATES

1848:
John Humphrey Noyes founds the Oneida Community.
1880:
Oneida Community Limited is incorporated.
1894:
Pierrepont Burt Noyes joins Oneidas board of directors and institutes major changes.
1904:
Oneida dedicates greater attention to marketing and brand recognition.
1935:
Companys name is changed to Oneida Ltd.
1977:
Oneida acquires Camden Wire Co., Inc., in an effort to diversify.
1997:
Oneida sells Camden Wire and seeks to become a complete tableware company. Oneida also purchases a number of tableware companies to augment its existing products.
1999:
Oneida successfully avoids an unsolicited buyout from Libbey Inc.
2003:
The company launches a major restructuring effort that includes the closure of five factories.
2006:
Oneida files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and emerges as a private entity.

Beginning in the 1930s, Oneida became less community-oriented and more like a typical corporation with few family ties and less of a social-utopian bent. By 1930, 33 percent of the board of directors were not from the Community. Robertson aggressively began to recruit new employees from The World. Even Noyess ideological influence gave way to more worldly viewpoints in the late 1930s. Whereas Oneidas management had once sought personal satisfaction over personal wealth, the arrival of greater numbers of outsiders inevitably altered these values. As competition for quality personnel escalated and the company grew more segregated from the Community, management salaries increased to match prevailing wages in the industry.

World War II brought about other changes at Oneida as well. The companys contribution to the war effort included production of silverware for the Army and Navy and surgical instruments for military hospitals. Oneida also manufactured products for the battlefield, including rifle sights, parachute releases, hand grenades, shells, survival guns, bayonets, aircraft fuel tanks, and chemical bombs. The company even purchased a separate factory in Canastota, New York, which produced army trucks, aircraft survival kits, and jet engine parts. That plant stayed in operation for several years after the war.

OVERCOMING POSTWAR PROBLEMS

Although the Oneida of the 1950s had accepted the wage scales of the outside world, it continued to operate by Noyess principle that management should take salary cuts during difficult financial periods. The employees of the 1950s had changed along with the times, however, and a 1957 cut in directors salaries was perceived by employees not as a demonstration of managements vested interest in the welfare of the company, but as a drastic measure indicating impending financial disaster.

The directors restored their pay, but Oneida continued to be plagued by financial problems through 1960, when the company posted its first annual deficit. That same year Pierrepont Trowbridge (Pete) Noyes replaced his father as company president. Oneida had trouble adjusting to the loss of government orders that had supplemented silverware sales during World War II and the Korean War. The workforce declined from a high of 3,800 in 1949 to 2,000 in 1960. Oneida responded by developing additional product lines, reorganizing production, and introducing new advertising and marketing strategies. By the end of the decade, the workforce had grown to more than 3,000 employees.

During the 1960s, Oneida began to focus more on stainless steel flatware, instead of on the more expensive and prestigious silver-plated and sterling flatware that had previously been its hallmark. Technological breakthroughs in the late 1960s allowed Oneida to introduce the first ornate stainless flatware that had a decorative pierced pattern similar to sterling and silver plate. With these more attractive and formal patterns, stainless flatware gained a place in the silver departments of fine department stores. Because stainless was easier to care for and was far less expensive than sterling and silver plate, this new flatware sold briskly, sparking a recovery that led Oneida into a new era of growth.

EFFORTS TO EXPAND

In 1977 Oneida moved to diversify its interests through the purchase of the Camden Wire Co., Inc.one of the principal U.S. manufacturers of industrial wire products. One year later Oneida acquired Rena-Ware, a cookware manufacturer that operated in 34 countries and generated the majority of sales outside the United States. That year the company also got a new president, John Marcellus, Jr., who had joined Oneida in 1946. Pete Noyes continued as chairman until 1981, when Marcellus assumed that position as well.

By 1983, the company sold more than half of all flatware purchased in the United States. To broaden its penetration of the overall tableware market, Oneida purchased other companies, such as Buffalo China Inc., one of the nations largest volume producers of commercial chinaware, and Webster-Wilcox, a producer of expensive hollowware. In 1984 the company bought D.J. Tableware, which manufactured high-quality flatware, hollowware, and china for the foodservice industry. Oneida also began to market a line of crystal stemware and gift ware in the mid-1980s.

TOUGH TIMES FOR ONEIDA

The recession of the early 1980s, however, eroded Oneidas profits. Primarily a consumer products company (industrial wire sales only constituted 24 percent of Oneidas profits in the mid-1980s and less than 30 percent in 1991), Oneida suffered more than expected. In 1982 alone, the companys earnings plummeted 65 percent. The companys problems were exacerbated when Japanese and other importers flooded American housewares departments with inexpensive flatware. Although it initially attempted to ignore this new threat by touting the superiority of its merchandise, Oneidas market share dropped precipitously to 39 percent in 1986. Between 1985 and 1986, the company laid off workers and lost more than $1 million.

In the late 1980s, Oneida instituted sweeping changes to both its management and its business strategies in a bid to return the company to its former preeminence. John Marcellus retired in 1986 and William Matthews was named chairman and CEO. Samuel Lanzafame, the former head of the Camden Wire subsidiary, was appointed president. Because Lanzafame had made Camden Wire Oneidas most profitable division, the board hoped that he could do the same with the parent company.

Oneida strove to recapture the market for lowerend, less expensive flatware that it had lost to import competition. Lanzafame worked to enhance Oneidas economies of scale and placed a renewed emphasis on the companys high-volume lines. He also sought to boost the capacity of Oneidas two flatware plants. The company began importing more inexpensive flatware to market under its name until it could bring its own factories up to speed to produce lower-quality (but higher-volume) merchandise.

Matthews, the new chairman of the board, undertook cost-cutting measures as well. He sold the companys fleet of limousines and its corporate jet, and then trimmed the management staff by 15 percent. He also encouraged worker loyalty by offering an employee stock option plan in 1987 that put 15 percent of the companys stock in the employees hands. Late in the decade, he oversaw the investment of more than $26 million for plant improvements, including computer design and manufacturing systems, plant consolidation, and machinery upgrades. By the end of the 1980s, Oneida had regained its 52 percent share of the flatware market. Lanzafame resigned as president in 1989, and Gary Moreau became president in 1991, holding that position until his 1995 resignation. In 1996 Peter Kallet was named president and chief operating officer, joining Matthews at the helm of the company. Kallet had a strong background in sales, marketing, product, and purchasing departments.

BECOMING A TABLEWARE POWERHOUSE

During the mid-1990s, Oneida revamped its strategy once more and attempted to build itself into a complete tableware products company. In 1997 Oneida sold its Camden Wire subsidiary, which no longer conformed to the companys focus. Oneida also made a number of acquisitions that were intended to increase the companys scope. In 1996, following a year of record sales, Oneida purchased THC Systems, Inc., the parent company of Rego China. This truly rounds out the selection of food service china we can offer, giving us a great array of products, Matthews told the Buffalo News. The following year, Oneida acquired Encore Promotions, a marketer of grocery-store redemption programs, which the company hoped to use to market flatware, dinnerware, cookware, cutlery, towels, and linen. Also in 1997, Oneida gained exclusive rights to distribute Schott-Zwiesel crystal. In 1998 the company bolstered its international presence in the tableware market when it purchased the Italian manufacturer of flatware and hollowware, Table Top Engineering and Design, as well as two Australian tableware leaders, Stanley Rogers & Son and Westminster China. That same year, Oneida entered into an agreement to become the exclusive marketer and distributor of products from CALP, an Italian crystal producer.

Oneidas spate of acquisitions pushed corporate earnings down 31 percent in 1998, forcing the company to shed 95 jobs. The additional costs Oneida incurred in introducing its new lines were only made worse by the collapse of Asian economies and the overall weakness of the U.S. dollar. In 1999 Oneida closed its original factory in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and planned to cut more jobs. In April 1999, Libbey Inc., a leading glassware manufacturer, made an unsolicited bid to acquire Oneida. Oneida successfully rebuffed the offer and sought to restructure its operations to reduce expenses.

In 1999 the companys sales and profits rose, indicating that the difficult cuts had paid off. Oneidas future looked bright, as the company enjoyed an unparalleled brand reputation in the housewares industry. A 1995 survey had revealed that consumers thought first of Oneida when queried about stainless steel flatware. Throughout the economic, social, and political changes that Oneida endured during its 150- year history, its reputation for excellence remained untarnished.

ONEIDA IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM

Oneida was focused on growth in the early years of the new millennium. The company strengthened its foothold in the consumer ceramic, porcelain, and melamine dinnerware markets with the acquisition of Sakura Inc. in 2000. The company also purchased Delco International Ltd., a marketer of foodservice tableware that served foodservice distributors, chains, and airlines. Viners of Sheffield Ltd., the leading marketer of consumer flatware and cookware in the United Kingdom, rounded out Oneidas acquisitions in 2000.

The companys growth was short-lived as a slowing economy began to threaten Oneidas bottom line. The terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, led to the removal of the companys flatware from many airlines, which cost the company nearly $25 million in revenues. Demand for Oneida products also began to fall as customers turned to less expensive imports. As sales and profits dwindled away, the company was forced to take action. In order to cut costs, the company focused on outsourcing its products instead of manufacturing them. In 2003, Oneida announced that it would close factories in Buffalo, New York; Juarez, Mexico; Toluca, Mexico; Vercelli, Italy; and Shanghai, China. The flatware factory in Sherrill, New York, was shuttered the following year.

Despite the companys efforts to shore up profits, Oneida found itself in a precarious situation. With a burgeoning debt load, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2006. James E. Joseph was tapped as president in May of that year. Under his leadership, the company emerged as a private entity in September 2006. Its major shareholders included Quadrangle Group LLC, JP Morgan, Litespeed Partners LLC, and D.E. Shaw Laminar Portfolios LLC.

With the bankruptcy behind it, Oneidas strategy was to focus on strengthening the Oneida brand name and increasing its market share. As such, the company launched a national advertising campaign that showed off Oneida products in bridal magazines. It also gave its web site a new look. The user-friendly design paid offthe company claimed online sales tripled after the new site went online. Oneida also opened a new state-of-theart warehouse near Savannah, Georgia. It signed contracts with the Royal Caribbean cruise line to provide table top settings, Ruby Tuesdays restaurant chain, and Hyatt Hotels. While the companys entrance into the 21st century had been less than stellar, management believed Oneida had a bright future ahead of it.

April S. Dougal
Updated, Rebecca Stanfel; Christina Stansell Weaver

PRINCIPAL SUBSIDIARIES

Buffalo China, Inc.; Delco International, Ltd.; Encore Promotions, Inc.; Kenwood Silver Company, Inc.; Oneida Australia Pty Ltd.; Oneida Canada, Ltd.; Oneida International, Inc.; Oneida Mexicana, S.A. de C.V.; Oneida, S.A. de C.V. (Mexico); Oneida Silversmiths, Inc.; Oneida U.K. Ltd. (England); Sakura, Inc.; THC Systems, Inc.

PRINCIPAL COMPETITORS

ARC International; Brown-Foreman Corporation; Waterford Wedgewood plc; Anchor Hocking Company; Libbey Inc.

FURTHER READING

Carden, Maren L., Oneida: Utopian Community to Modern Corporation, Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins Press, 1969.

Cohn, Lynne M., Flatware Market May Be Regaining Its Luster, American Metal Market, June 14, 1993.

Fish, Mike, Oneida Ltd. Earnings Jump 20% in Third Quarter, Syracuse Post-Standard, November 22, 1995.

Gregory, Traci, New CEO Joseph Heads Reinvention of Oneida Ltd., Business Journal, September 15, 2006.

Hannagan, Charley, Airlines Cut Out Knives, Syracuse Post-Standard, November 6, 2001.

Kates, William, Communal Roots Lie at Heart of Oneida Ltd.s Success, Buffalo News, May 28, 1996.

McGough, Robert, Too Much of a Good Thing, Forbes, November 17, 1986, pp. 6870.

Niedt, Bob, Oneida to Buy China Company, Syracuse Post-Standard, August 30, 1996.

Oneida Approves Cost-Saving Plan Involving Five Manufacturing Sites, PrimeZone Media Network, October 31, 2003.

Oneida Files for Bankruptcy, Gourmet Retailer, March 24, 2006.

Oneida Ltd.: Plan to Eliminate 200 Jobs Is Part of Expanded Cuts, Wall Street Journal, April 1, 1999.

Oneida: Profit Drops, Sales Gain, HFN, September 21, 1998.

Oneida Resisting Libbey Buyout, Albany Times Union, May 6, 1999.

Robertson, Constance, The Oneida Community, Oneida Ltd., 1985.

Rosen, Daniel, Big-Time Plugs on Small-Company Budgets, Sales & Marketing Management, December 1990, pp. 4854.

Shareholders Make Bid for Oneida, HFN, July 17, 2006.

Sutor-Terrero, Ruthanne, Oneida: Making Stainless Shine Financial World, July 25, 1989, p. 14.

Taub, Stephen, First a Strikeout, Now a Triple Play, Financial World, August 31, 1983, pp. 3435.

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Oneida Ltd.

Oneida Ltd.

163-181 Kenwood Avenue
Oneida, New York 13421
U.S.A.
Telephone: (315) 361-3000
Fax: (315) 361-3658
Web site:http://www.oneida.com

Public Company

Incorporated: 1880 as Oneida Community, Limited
Employees: 5,010
Sales: $465.9 million (1998)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: OCQ
NAIC: 332211 Cutlery and Flatware (Except Precious) Manufacturing; 327112 Vitreous China, Fine Earthenware, and Other Pottery Product Manufacturing; 327215 Glass Product Manufacturing Made of Purchased Glass

Oneida Ltd. is the worlds largest stainless steel and silver-plated flatware maker, serving both the consumer and food service markets. Its operations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Italy manufacture and market sterling, silver-plated, and stainless flatware, as well as china dinnerware and hollowware (coffee sets and trays). Oneida also markets crystal products and gift items and licenses its name to makers of linens, cookware, and utensils. Under its wholly owned subsidiary, Kenwood Silver Company, Inc., Oneida runs more than 60 Oneida Factory Stores. Established as a Utopian community in the mid-19th century, the company has maintained a strong reputation for quality.

Company Roots in a Utopian Community

The Oneida Community was founded by John Humphrey Noyes in upstate New York in 1848. The Community practiced Noyess theology of Perfectionisma form of Christianity rooted in the two basic tenets of self-perfection and cornmunalism. In addition to abolishing private property, the Oneida Community raised children communally and espoused complex marriage, in which monogamous marriages were discouraged.

This communal child care system enabled the Oneida women, as well as the men, to take part in the Communitys manufacturing of animal traps, chains, silk items, and silver knives, forks, and spoons, which it sold to the outside world to sustain itself. Soon the Oneida Community developed a reputation not just for the unconventional lifestyle of its members, but also for the quality of its goods. For instance, the Newhouse trap was invented by a founding member of the Community and was known around the world.

The Oneida Community survived longer than most other 19th century Utopian societies, in part because of the solvency of its businesses. Indeed, Oneida members continued to live and work together until the late 1870s. But prosperity did not shield the organization from conflict, and in 1879 the Community split into two factions. Unable to resolve their differences, the members voted to transform the groups businesses into a joint stock company, the Oneida Community, Limited, which would be owned and operated by former members of the society. The Community was valued at $600,000 and shares were distributed according to each members original contribution and length of service. The stock was divided among 226 men, women, and children, the majority of whom received shares worth between $2,000 and $4,999. The progressive nature of the new company was reflected in, among other things, the selection of a woman (Harriet Joslyn) to be superintendent of the silk mill and a member of the board of directors.

During the 15 years following Oneidas reorganization, the companys financial standing deteriorated. A severe depression in the 1890s, inadequate leadership, and emigration from the community plagued the new company. Some have speculated that the failure of the Utopian community contributed to demoralization of the worker/stockholders, further eroding the companys prospects for success.

Oneida Enters the Industrial Age

But in January 1894, Pierrepont Burt (P.B.) Noyes, the son of Oneidas charismatic founder, rejoined the company after working as an Oneida wholesaler in The World, as many Oneidans referred to the broader society outside their community. At only 23 years old, Noyes replaced an uncle on Oneidas board of directors. His experience outside the Community enabled him to see and criticize weaknesses that threatened the companys viability. Within two months Noyes led a proxy fight to oust directors who clung to old-fashioned business strategies. Nearly 24,000 shares were voted, and Noyess side won by just 16 shares. Noyes was offered the position of superintendent at Oneidas Niagara Falls Plant and soon raised the operations standards of quality to their former high levels. In 1899 the company announced what were then the largest profits in its history and paid its stockholders a dividend of seven percent.

By the time he reached the age of 30, Noyes had attained de facto control of Oneida. The board nominated him to the newly created post of general manager with authority to oversee all of the companys divisionscanning and manufacturing of tableware, traps, chains, and silk thread. Noyess rise to prominence at Oneida helped bring the company into the industrial world of the 20th century. Previously, Oneida had relied on its managers creativity, thrift, and diligence, as well as the excellent reputation of its products, to succeed in the competitive marketplace. Noyes introduced the new production methods, competitive strategies, large-scale distribution methods, and promotional efforts that were beginning to typify American industry. In 1904 Oneida began to place heavy emphasis on marketing and brand recognition, increasing its promotion budget from $5,000 to $30,000 per year. Noyes financed this move by diverting profits from the trap business (that would otherwise have been used to expand trap manufacturing), which he saw as a dying enterprise.

From that time on, even during the Great Depression, advertising remained an essential aspect of Oneidas operations. Early marketing campaigns established many of the features that would characterize Oneidas advertising for decades to come. The print ads typically appeared in widely circulated womens magazines. Rather than describe all of its tableware at length, Oneida used most of its advertising space for a picture of one or two pieces of silver plate, which it often associated visually with someone or something attractive. Oneida was also one of the first companies to employ celebrity spokespeople to promote its products. Ten years before the practice was widely accepted, Oneida commissioned Irene Castlea famous dancer and fashion plateto promote the Communitys wares.

Despite Noyess aggressive efforts to gain control of Oneida, he still sought to preserve the communal harmony and idealism on which the Community was founded. Managers who lost positions on the board of directors retained positions within the company, and many grew to respect the new management. In addition, a private community built around the company (called Kenwood) gave Oneida a sense of family that remained strong through the early decades of the 20th century; well into the 1920s, descendants of the original Oneidans held almost 90 percent of company stock. Noyes sought to make Oneida and the community of Kenwood modern utopias by increasing wages, improving work conditions, providing welfare and recreational benefits, and improving the physical environs of Kenwood.

By appealing to their sense of ambition, Noyes attracted children of Oneidans who had left the Community in favor of college education and careers in The World. Instead of touting the Communitys old doctrine of Perfectionism, Noyes advocated a modern utopia based on intellectual challenge, reasonable pay, and self-improvement. The companys inventiveness and cooperation between labor and management have distinguished Oneida throughout its history. Indeed, the companys silverware operations have yet to suffer a work stoppage due to a labor dispute.

The companys enlightened attitude was reflected in other ways as well. In 1904 Noyes proposed voluntary salary reductions for management when the company encountered financial difficulties. In 1914 all salaried personnel took a ten percent pay cut, which remained in effect until early 1916. In 1921 larger cuts were necessaryNoyes reduced his own salary by half, the directors took 33 percent cuts, and other officials took smaller cuts corresponding to their salaries. The Great Depression necessitated similar sacrifices.

In a further effort to strengthen its financial position, Oneida sold its chain business in 1912, liquidated its silk industry holdings the following year, when man-made substitutes for silk were invented. The companys canning business was discontinued in 1915 because it was unable to compete with large-scale modern production methods. But the consolidations enabled Oneida to open its first international factory, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in 1916.

Changes from World War I to World War II

Noyes resigned from the general managership in 1917 to let a younger generation into Oneidas management. Three months after he resigned, the United States entered World War I. Oneida assisted the war effort by producing ammunition clips, lead-plated gas shells, and combat knives. The company also served as the principal source of a wide range of surgical instruments used in military hospitals. In 1919 Noyes returned briefly to Oneida after working with the U.S. governments Fuel Administration. He later played a role in the post-World War I Peace Conference and the Rhineland Commission, which decided the particulars of the Allied occupation of Germany.

Amid financial crisis in 1921, Noyes resumed the general managership of Oneida. After steering the company through that predicament, he bequeathed the position of general manager to his son-in-law, Miles E. Robertson, in 1926. But Noyes retained both the post of president and de facto control of the company. Oneidas trap business was sold in 1925, which left the company entirely dependent on its silverware business.

Company Perspectives:

Our goal is to profitably and ethically satisfy our customers needs in a manner that enhances the welfare of our stockholders, our employees, and the communities in which we reside.

In 1935 the companys name was changed to Oneida Ltd. to differentiate tableware produced by Oneida from that of lower quality subsidiaries of the company, such as Wm. A. Rogers. The name change also signaled a new era at Oneida. Noyes ceded control of the company to Miles Robertson, although he did not formally hand over the presidency until 1950. Robertson was known for his toughness: despite the rigors of the Great Depression, Oneida made a profit in 1933, when no other company in the silverware industry could. By this time, Oneida had subsidiaries in Canada and Great Britain.

Beginning in the 1930s, Oneida became less community-oriented and more like a typical corporation with few family ties and less of a social-Utopian bent. By 1930, 33 percent of the board of directors were not from the Community. Robertson aggressively began to recruit new employees from The World. Even Noyess ideological influence gave way to more worldly viewpoints in the late 1930s. Whereas Oneidas management had once sought personal satisfaction over personal wealth, the arrival of greater numbers of outsiders inevitably altered these values. As competition for quality personnel escalated and the company grew more segregated from the Community, management salaries increased to match prevailing wages in the industry.

World War II brought about other changes at Oneida as well. The companys contribution to the war effort included production of silverware for the Army and Navy and surgical instruments for military hospitals. Oneida also manufactured products for the battlefield, including rifle sights, parachute releases, hand grenades, shells, survival guns, bayonets, aircraft fuel tanks, and chemical bombs. The company even purchased a separate factory in Canastota, New York, which produced army trucks, aircraft survival kits, and jet engine parts. That plant stayed in operation for several years after the war.

The 1950s and 1960s

Although the Oneida of the 1950s had accepted the wage scales of the outside world, it continued to operate by Noyess principle that management should take salary cuts during difficult financial periods. The employees of the 1950s had changed along with the times, however, and a 1957 cut in directors salaries was perceived by employees not as a demonstration of managements vested interest in the welfare of the company, but as a drastic measure indicating impending financial disaster.

The directors restored their pay, but Oneida continued to be plagued by financial problems through 1960, when the company posted its first annual deficit. That same year Pierrepont Trowbridge (Pete) Noyes replaced his father as company president. Oneida had trouble adjusting to the loss of government orders that had supplemented silverware sales during World War II and the Korean War. The work force declined from a high of 3,800 in 1949 to 2,000 in 1960. Oneida responded by developing additional product lines, reorganizing production, and introducing new advertising and marketing strategies. By the end of the decade, the work force had grown to more than 3,000 employees.

During the 1960s, Oneida began to focus more on stainless steel flatware, instead of on the more expensive and prestigious silver-plated and sterling flatware that had previously been its hallmark. Technological breakthroughs in the late 1960s allowed Oneida to introduce the first ornate stainless flatware that had a decorative pierced pattern similar to sterling and silver plate. With these more attractive and formal patterns, stainless flatware gained a place in the silver departments of fine department stores. Because stainless was easier to care for and was far less expensive than sterling and silver plate, this new flatware sold briskly, sparking a recovery that led Oneida into a new era of growth.

Efforts To Expand in the 1970s and 1980s

In 1977 Oneida moved to diversify its interests through the purchase of the Camden Wire Co., Inc.one of the principal U.S. manufacturers of industrial wire products. One year later Oneida acquired Rena-Ware, a cookware manufacturer that operated in 34 countries and generated the majority of sales outside the United States. That year the company also got a new president, John Marcellus, Jr., who had joined Oneida in 1946. Pete Noyes continued as chairman until 1981, when Marcellus assumed that position as well.

By 1983, the company sold more than half of all flatware purchased in the United States. To broaden its penetration of the overall tableware market, Oneida purchased other companies, such as Buffalo China Inc., one of the nations largest volume producers of commercial chinaware, and Webster-Wilcox, a producer of expensive hollowware. In 1984 the company bought D.J. Tableware, which manufactured high-quality flatware, hollowware, and china for the food service industry. Oneida also began to market a line of crystal stemware and gift ware in the mid-1980s.

Key Dates:

1848:
John Humphrey Noyes founds the Oneida Community.
1880:
Oneida Community, Limited is incorporated.
1894:
Pierrepont Burt Noyes joins Oneidas board of directors and institutes major changes.
1904:
Oneida dedicates greater attention to marketing and brand recognition.
1935:
Companys name is changed to Oneida Ltd.
1977:
Oneida acquires Camden Wire Co., Inc in an effort to diversify.
1998:
Oneida sells Camden Wire and seeks to become a complete tableware company. Oneida also purchases a number of tableware companies to augment its existing products.
1999:
Oneida successfully avoids an unsolicited buyout from Libbey Inc.

Tough Times for Oneida During the Early 1980s

The recession of the early 1980s, however, eroded Oneidas profits. Primarily a consumer products company (industrial wire sales only constituted 24 percent of Oneidas profits in the mid-1980s and less than 30 percent in 1991), Oneida suffered more than expected. In 1982 alone, the companys earnings plummeted 65 percent. The companys problems were exacerbated when Japanese and other importers flooded American house wares departments with inexpensive flatware. Although it initially attempted to ignore this new threat by touting the superiority of its merchandise, Oneidas market share dropped precipitously to 39 percent in 1986. Between 1985 and 1986, the company laid off workers and lost more than $1 million.

In the late 1980s, Oneida instituted sweeping changes to both its management and its business strategies in a bid to return the company to its former preeminence. John Marcellus retired in 1986 and William Matthews was named chairman and CEO. Samuel Lanzafame, the former head of the Camden Wire subsidiary, was appointed president. Because Lanzafame had made Camden Wire Oneidas most profitable division, the board hoped that he could do the same with the parent company.

Oneida strove to recapture the market for lower-end, less expensive flatware that it had lost to import competition. Lanzafame worked to enhance Oneidas economies of scale and placed a renewed emphasis on the companys high-volume lines. He also sought to boost the capacity of Oneidas two flatware plants. The company began importing more inexpensive flatware to market under its name until it could bring its own factories up to speed to produce lower-quality (but higher-volume) merchandise.

Matthews, the new chairman of the board, undertook cost-cutting measures as well. He sold off the companys fleet of limousines and its corporate jet, and then trimmed the management staff by 15 percent. He also encouraged worker loyalty by offering an Employee Stock Option Plan in 1987 that put 15 percent of the companys stock in the employees hands. Late in the decade, he oversaw the investment of more than $26 million for plant improvements, including computer design and manufacturing systems, plant consolidation, and machinery upgrades. By the end of the 1980s, Oneida had regained its 52 percent share of the flatware market. Lanzafame resigned as president in 1989, and Gary Moreau became president in 1991, holding that position until his 1995 resignation. In 1996 Peter Kallet was named president and chief operating officer, joining Matthews at the helm of the company. Kallet had a strong background in sales, marketing, product, and purchasing departments.

Becoming a Tableware Powerhouse in the 1990s

During the mid-1990s, Oneida revamped its strategy once more and attempted to build itself into a complete tableware products company. In 1997 Oneida sold off its Camden Wire subsidiary, which no longer conformed to the companys focus. Oneida also made a number of acquisitions that were intended to increase the companys scope. In 1996, following a year of record sales, Oneida purchased THC Systems, Inc., the parent company of Rego China. This truly rounds out the selection of food service china we can offer, giving us a great array of products, Matthews told the Buffalo News. The following year, Oneida acquired Encore Promotions, a marketer of grocery store redemption programs, which the company hoped to use to market flatware, dinnerware, cookware, cutlery, towels, and linen. Also in 1997, Oneida gained exclusive rights to distribute Schott-Zwiesel crystal. In 1998 the company bolstered its international presence in the tableware market when it purchased the Italian manufacturer of flatware and hollowware, Table Top Engineering and Design, as well as two Australian tableware leaders, Stanley Rogers & Son and Westminster China. That same year, Oneida entered into an agreement to become the exclusive marketer and distributor of products from CALP, an Italian crystal producer.

Oneidas spate of acquisitions pushed corporate earnings down 31 percent in 1998, forcing the company to shed 95 jobs. The additional costs Oneida incurred in introducing its new lines were only made worse by the collapse of Asian economies and the overall weakness of the U.S. dollar. In 1999 Oneida closed its original factory in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and planned to cut more jobs. In April 1999, Libbey Inc., a leading glassware manufacturer, made an unsolicited bid to acquire Oneida. Oneida successfully rebuffed the offer and sought to restructure its operations to reduce expenses.

In 1999 the companys sales and profits rose, indicating that the difficult cuts had paid off. Oneidas future looked bright, as the company enjoyed an unparalleled brand reputation in the housewares industry. A 1995 survey had revealed that consumers thought first of Oneida when queried about stainless steel flatware. Throughout the economic, social, and political changes that Oneida endured during its 150-year history, its reputation for excellence remained untarnished.

Principal Subsidiaries

Oneida Canada Limited; Oneida Mexicana, S.A.; Kenwood Silver Company, Inc.; Buffalo China, Inc.; D.J. Tableware, Inc.; Oneida International, Inc. (88%); Sant Andrea S.r.l.; Oneida Silversmiths, U.K.; THC Systems, Inc. (Dba Rego China); Encore Promotions, Inc.

Principal Competitors

Mikasa, Inc.; Reed & Barton Silversmiths; Waterford Wedgwood plc; Brown-Forman Corporation; Corning Incorporated.

Further Reading

Carden, Maren L., Oneida: Utopian Community to Modern Corporation, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1969.

Cohn, Lynne M., Flatware Market May Be Regaining Its Luster, American Metal Market, June 14, 1993.

Fish, Mike, Oneida Ltd. Earnings Jump 20% in Third Quarter, Syracuse Post-Standard, November 22, 1995.

Kates, William, Communal Roots Lie at Heart of Oneida Ltd.s Success, Buffalo News, May 28, 1996.

McGough, Robert, Too Much of a Good Thing, Forbes, November 17, 1986, pp. 6870.

Niedt, Bob, Oneida To Buy China Company, Syracuse Post-Standard, August 30, 1996.

Oneida Ltd.: Plan To Eliminate 200 Jobs Is Part of Expanded Cuts, Wall Street Journal April 1, 1999.

Oneida: Profit Drops, Sales Gain, HFN: The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network, September 21, 1998.

Oneida Resisting Libbey Buyout, Albany Times Union, May 6, 1999.

Robertson, Constance, The Oneida Community, Oneida Ltd., 1985.

Rosen, Daniel, Big-Time Plugs on Small-Company Budgets, Sales & Marketing Management, December 1990, pp. 4854.

Sutor-Terrero, Ruthanne, Oneida: Making Stainless Shine, Financial World, July 25, 1989, p. 14.

Taub, Stephen, First a Strikeout, Now a Triple Play, Financial World, August 31, 1983, pp. 3435.

April S. Dougal

updated by Rebecca Stanfel

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"Oneida Ltd.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved June 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/oneida-ltd

Oneida Ltd.

Oneida Ltd.

Sherrill Rd.
Oneida, New York 13421
U.S.A.
(315) 361-3100
Fax: (361) 829-3963

Public Company
Incorporated: 1880 as Oneida Community, Limited
Employees: 5,100
Sales: $479.4 million
Stock Exchanges: New York
SICs: 3914 Silverware & Plated Ware; 3262 Vitreous China Table & Kitchenware; 3231 Products of Purchased Glass; 3643 Current-Carrying Wiring Devices

Oneida Ltd. is the worlds largest stainless steel and silver-plated flatware maker. Its operations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Italy manufacture and market sterling, silver-plated, and stainless products, commercial china tableware, and industrial wire. Oneida also markets tableware and crystal gift items. The company originated in a utopian community established in the mid-nineteenth century, and has had a strong reputation for quality since that time.

The Oneida Community was founded by John Humphrey Noyes in upstate New York in 1848. The Community was founded on Noyess theology of Perfectionism, a form of Christianity with two basic values: self-perfection and communalism. These ideals were translated into everyday life through shared property and work as well as complex marriagemonogamous marriage was abolished, and children were raised communally from their second year until age 12.

This child care system freed the women as well as the men to take part in the Communitys manufacturing of animal traps, chains, silk items, and silver knives, forks, and spoons. The Oneida Community soon became known not only for the unconventional lifestyle of its members, but also for the quality of its goods. The Newhouse trap invented by a founding member of the community was known around the world.

The Oneida Community existed longer than most other utopias of the nineteenth century in part because of the solvency of its businesses, and the members of the group lived and worked together from 1848 until the late 1870s. Prosperity didnt shield the organization from conflict, however, and in 1879 the Community split into two factions. Unable to resolve their differences, the members voted to transform the groups businesses into a joint-stock company, the Oneida Community, Limited, which would be owned and operated by former members of the society. The Community was valued at $600,000 and stocks were distributed according to each members original contribution and length of service. The stock was divided among 226 men, women, and children, the majority of whom received between $2,000 and $4,999 in shares. The progressive nature of the new company was reflected in, among other things, the presence of a woman, Harriet Joslyn, as superintendent of the silk mill and a member of the board of directors.

During the fifteen years following Oneidas reorganization, the companys financial standing deteriorated. A severe depression in the 1890s, inadequate leadership, and emigration from the community plagued the new company. Some have speculated that the failure of the utopian community contributed to demoralization of the worker/stockholders, further eroding the companys prospects for success.

But in January 1894, Pierrepont Burt Noyes (P. B. Noyes), the son of Oneidas founder, rejoined the company after working as an Oneida wholesaler in The World, as many Oneidans referred to the world outside their community. At only 23 years old, P. B. Noyes replaced an uncle on Oneidas board of directors. His experience outside the Community enabled him to see and criticize weaknesses that threatened the companys existence. Within two months Noyes led a proxy fight to oust directors who clung to old-fashioned business strategies. Nearly 24,000 shares were voted, and Noyess side won by just 16 shares. Noyes was offered the position of superintendent at Oneidas Niagara Falls Plant, and soon raised the operations standards of quality to their former levels. In 1899 the company announced its largest profits to date and paid its stockholders a dividend of seven percent.

By the time he reached the age of thirty, Noyes had risen to de facto control of Oneida. The board nominated him to the newly created post of general manager with authority to oversee all of the companys divisionscanning and manufacturing of tableware, traps, chains, and silk thread. Noyess rise to prominence at Oneida marked the companys emergence into the industrial world of the twentieth century. Before the turn of the century Oneida had relied on its managers creativity, thrift, and diligence and the excellent reputation of its products. Noyes introduced the new production methods, competitive strategies, large-scale distribution methods, and promotional efforts that were beginning to typify American industry. In 1904 he established Oneidas emphasis on marketing and brand recognition by increasing the companys promotion budget from $5,000 to $30,000 per year. Noyes financed this move by diverting profits from the trap business that would otherwise have been used to expand trap manufacturing, which he saw as a dying business.

From that time on, even during the Depression, advertising remained a major item on Oneidas balance sheet. Oneidas earliest advertising campaigns established many of the trademarks that would characterize the companys advertising for decades to come. The print ads typically appeared in widely circulated womens magazines. Rather than describe all of its tableware at length, Oneida used most of its advertising space for a picture of one or two pieces of silver plate, which it often associated visually with someone or something attractive. Oneida was also one of the first companies to employ celebrity spokespeople to promote its products. Ten years before the practice was widely accepted, Oneida commissioned Irene Castle, a famous dancer and fashion plate to promote Community ware.

Despite Noyess aggressive move to gain control of Oneida, he still sought to maintain the communal harmony and idealism on which the Community was founded. Managers who lost positions on the board of directors retained positions with the company, and many came to respect the new management. In addition, Kenwood, a private community built around the company, gave Oneida a sense of family that remained strong through the early decades of the twentieth century; well into the 1920s, descendants of Oneidans held almost 90 percent of company stock. Noyes sought to make Oneida and the community of Kenwood modern utopias by increasing wages, improving work conditions, providing welfare and recreational benefits, and improving the physical environs of Kenwood.

Noyes attracted children of Oneidans who had gone off to college and careers in The World back to the company by appealing to their sense of ambition: the modern utopia he described meant intellectual challenge, reasonable pay, and self-improvement. The corporate culture was based on the sense of inventiveness and labor/management cooperation that has distinguished the company throughout its history. Oneidas silverware operations have never suffered a work stoppage due to labor disagreements.

In 1904 Noyes proposed voluntary salary reductions for management when the company encountered financial difficulties. The proposal was enforced in 1914, when all salaried personnel took a 10 percent pay cut until early 1916. In 1921 larger cuts were necessaryNoyes reduced his own salary by half, the directors took a 33 percent cut, and other officials took smaller cuts corresponding to their salaries. The Depression required similar cuts.

Oneidas chain business was sold in 1912 and the silk industry was liquidated in 1913, when man-made substitutes for silk were invented. The companys canning business was discontinued in 1915 because it was unable to compete with large-scale modern production methods. But the consolidations enabled Oneida to open its first international factory, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in 1916.

Noyes resigned from the general managership in 1917 to let younger people into Oneidas management. Three months after he resigned, the United States entered World War I. Oneida joined the wartime effort with the production of ammunition clips, lead-plated gas shells, and combat knives. The company also served as the principal source of a wide range of surgical instruments used in military hospitals. In 1919 Noyes returned briefly to Oneida after serving with the U.S. governments Fuel Administration. He later served in Europe on the post-World War I Peace Conference and the Rhineland Commission to decide the particulars of Allied occupation of Germany.

Noyes resumed the general managership of Oneida in 1921 amid financial crisis. After steering the company through that predicament, he gave the general manager position to a son-in-law, Miles E. Robertson, in 1926, retaining the post of president and de facto control of the company. Oneidas trap business was sold in 1925, which left the company entirely dependent on the silverware manufacture. By 1930, 33 percent of the board of directors was composed of people from outside the community.

In 1935 the companys name was changed to Oneida Ltd. to differentiate tableware produced by Oneida from that of lower quality subsidiaries of the company, such as Wm. A. Rogers. The name change signaled a new era at Oneida. Noyes ceded control of Oneida to Miles Robertson, although he didnt formally hand over the presidency until 1950. Robertson was known for his toughness: despite the rigors of the Great Depression, Oneida made a profit in 1933, when no other company in the silverware industry could. By this time, Oneida had subsidiaries in Canada and Great Britain.

Robertson began to recruit outside Oneida and Kenwood during that decade as well. After the mid-1930s, Noyess ideological influence gave way to more worldly viewpoints. Oneida became less community-oriented and more like a typical corporate culture with few family ties and less of a social utopian bent. Before World War II, new members of Oneidas management knew that they would never become wealthy at the company, but would gain personal satisfaction through the successes of the company. But with the arrival of more and more outsiders, increasing competition for quality personnel, and increasing segregation of Oneida from the Community, management salaries slowly grew to meet prevailing wages in the industry.

World War II brought about other changes at Oneida as well. The companys contribution to the war effort included production of silverware for the Army and Navy and surgical instruments for military hospitals. Oneida also produced products for the battlefield: rifle sights, parachute releases, hand grenades, shells, survival guns, bayonets, aircraft fuel tanks, and chemical bombs, among other things. The company even purchased a separate factory in Canastota, New York, that produced army trucks, aircraft survival kits, and jet engine parts. That plant stayed in operation for several years after the war.

Although the Oneida of the 1950s had accepted the wage scales of the outside world, it continued to operate by Noyess principle that management should take salary cuts in tough financial times. However, the employees of the 1950s had changed along with the times, and a 1957 cut in directors salaries was perceived by employees not as a demonstration of managements vested interest in the welfare of the company, but as a drastic measure indicating impending financial disaster.

The directors restored their pay, but Oneidas financial problems continued until 1960, when the company posted its first annual deficit. That same year Pierrepont Trowbridge (Pete) Noyes replaced his father as president of Oneida. Oneida had trouble adjusting to the loss of government orders that had supplemented silverware sales during World War II and the Korean War. The work force declined from a high of 3,800 in 1949 to 2,000 in 1960. Oneida responded by developing new lines with new products, reorganizing production, and introducing new advertising and marketing strategies. By the end of the decade, the work force had grown to more than 3,000 employees.

In 1977 Oneida moved to diversify its interests through the purchase of the Camden Wire Co., Inc. Camden Wire was one of the principal U.S. manufacturers of industrial wire products. One year later Oneida acquired Rena-Ware, a cookware manufacturer with operations in 34 countries and the majority of sales outside the United States. That year the company also got a new president, John Marcellus, Jr., who had joined Oneida in 1946. Pete Noyes continued as chairman until 1981, when Marcellus also assumed that position.

By 1983 the company sold over half of all flatware purchased in the United States. The company sought to purchase other companies in order to infiltrate the total tableware market. Oneida purchased Buffalo China Inc., one of the nations largest volume producers of commercial chinaware, and Webster-Wilcox, a producer of expensive hollow ware (silver serving platters). In 1984 the company acquired D. J. Tableware, maker of high quality flatware, hollowware, and china for the food service industry. Oneida also began to market a line of crystal stemware and gift ware in the mid-1980s.

The companys marketing campaigns were similar to its earliest promotional efforts. Spare but elegant advertisements in Brides and Vogue featured single items, and were so popular that Oneida sold some of the ads as posters. The recession of the early 1980s, however, saw Oneidas earnings plummet 65 percent in 1982. As primarily a consumer products company (industrial wire sales only constituted 24 percent of Oneidas profits in the mid-1980s and less than 30 percent in 1991), Oneida suffered more than expected. The companys problems were exacerbated when Japanese and other importers flooded American housewares departments with inexpensive flatware.

Oneida attempted to compete by taking the high roademphasizing the superiority of its products and leaving the low-end manufacturers to fight among themselves. The strategy was unsuccessful, and Oneidas market share plummeted to 39 percent in 1986. The company laid off workers and lost more than $1 million between 1985 and 1986.

In 1986 the board of directors moved to revive Oneida using a new strategy, based not on marketing and new products, but on thrifty production. John Marcellus resigned, and the company named William Matthews as chairman and CEO and Samuel Lanzafame, formerly of the Camden Wire subsidiary, as president. Lanzafame had made Camden Wire Oneidas most profitable division, and the board hoped that he could do the same with the parent company. Lanzafame worked to enhance Oneidas economies of scalewhen he became president, the companys two flatware plants operated at only 60 percent to 70 percent of capacity because they were concentrating on expensive flatware alone. The company began importing more inexpensive flatware to market under its name until it could bring its own factories up to speed on production of lower-quality (but higher volume) merchandise.

Matthews, the new chairman of the board, sold off the companys fleet of limousines and its corporate jet, then trimmed the management staff by 15 percent. He encouraged worker loyalty by offering an Employee Stock Option Plan in 1987 that put 15 percent of the companys stock in the employees hands. Late in the decade, he oversaw the investment of more than $26 million into plant improvements, including computer design and manufacturing systems, plant consolidation, and machinery upgrades. By the end of the 1980s, Oneida had regained its 52 percent share of the flatware market. Lanzafame resigned as president in 1989. Gary Moreau was named president in 1991, joining Matthews at the helm of the company.

Throughout the economic, social, and political changes that Oneida has seen during its 150-year history, the companys reputation for excellence and brand recognition have remained unshakable. In 1992 an independent national consumer study revealed that 87 percent of consumers name Oneida as the first company they think of when asked about stainless steel flatwareand there was no close second.

Principal Subsidiaries

Camden Wire Co., Inc.; Oneida Canada Limited; Oneida Mexicana, S.A.; Kenwood Silver Company, Inc.; Oneida Distribution Services, Inc.; Buffalo China, Inc.; D.J. Tableware, Inc.; Oneida International, Inc. (70%); santAndrea S.r.L; Oneida, S.A.

Further Reading

Carden, Maren L., Oneida: Utopian Community to Modern Corporation, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1969; McGough, Robert, Too Much of a Good Thing, Forbes, November 17, 1986, 68-70; Robertson, Constance, The Oneida Community, Oneida Ltd., 1985; Rosen, Daniel, Big-Time Plugs on Small-Company Budgets, Sales & Marketing Management, December 1990, 48-54; Sutor-Terrero, Ruthanne, Oneida: Making Stainless Shine, Financial World, July 25, 1989, 14; Taub, Stephen, First a Strikeout, Now a Triple Play, Financial World, August 31, 1983, 34-35.

April S. Dougal

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