PCR talks to general manager Michael Groom

Company profile: Cherry

Where, when and by whom was Cherry founded?

Cherry Electrical Products was founded by Illinois-based design engineer and entrepreneur Walter Cherry in 1953, and quickly became known as the manufacturer of snap action micro switches, the technology that would go on to form the basis of the business.

Having successfully applied this mechanical switch technology in the automotive and industrial sectors, Walter recognised an opportunity in the fledgling computer market, and in 1972 the first Cherry keyboard rolled off the production line.

Today, Cherry is held in high regard in the computer industry and by gamers and keyboard enthusiasts across the world. We are unique in that we manufacture in Europe and continue to offer a broad range of keyboards and mice for both business customers and consumers. Cherry caters for the entry-level market while also offering POS, smartcard, RFID, compact, and biometric solutions.

Is the company very different now to how it was then?

Yes. Beside the obvious technological changes, the company has continued to evolve. There was a major change recently in terms of ownership – having been a private, family-owned business for 56 years, Cherry was acquired by German-owned ZF Group in the summer of 2008. This has brought with it a number of new opportunities, as well as the financial backing and support from a €13 billion parent organisation, which is what is we need to develop and be successful in our competitive marketplace.

What would you say is the most successful area of your business?

The Cherry brand is synonymous with quality and low lifecycle cost, both key criteria in the demanding business environment. Although our consumer business is gaining ground, historically we have been more successful in the B2B sector, with Cherry solutions currently being used by major retailers, the NHS, airports and banking sector.

Most recently Cherry Smartboards, SmartTerminals and SmartReaders have been selected by several UK police forces, where they will be used to ensure secure PIN logon.

What do you have to offer retailers over your competitors?

We offer beautifully designed, high quality products for the fashionconscious home or home office user.

Our German design team is innovative and design-driven, and does not compromise on quality. We even offer five-year warranties on some of our new consumer range. In addition, we are happy to work with retailers to tailor marketing activities, we hold stock in the UK and provide local technical support.

What plans do you have for future expansion around the world?

In Germany the Cherry brand commands an 18 per cent share of the market. Our business there remains strong and we expect this percentage to increase year-on-year.

We now have dedicated resources in place to specifically target underperforming and emerging markets around the world, and we have some exciting ideas and plans to help develop awareness of the Cherry brand through proactive marketing, in conjunction with our chosen distributors, resellers, and software partners.

What are your plans for the UK specifically?

Our immediate priority is to raise awareness of the Cherry brand among UK consumers – we have a great range of products, but not enough consumers know about them.

We will, of course, be looking to retain and where possible grow our share in the B2B and public sector markets, but the emphasis in the immediate future will be on the consumer marketplace, and the launch of our new products.

We plan to continue the good work we have started with our distribution channel partners EntaTech, Interactive Ideas, Northamber and Tekdata, while developing and strengthening our presence in both the consumer and business channels via online resellers, IT mail order, computer specialists and mass merchandisers. It is important for us that the Cherry brand is visible and the product readily available.

Do you think the Christmas buying period will be better for retail than last year?

We have seen a good increase in sales this year over 2009, and remain quietly confident that this will continue throughout the Christmas period, although the economy does remain finely balanced.

The proposed VAT increase for 2011 should add to a strong Christmas trading period as customers look to purchase before the year-end. Finally, aspirational tech products are usually high on most people’s Christmas wish lists, and we believe that our new range will capture consumers’ imaginations.

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

Having achieved recognition as a mainstream brand and grown market share significantly in the UK and across Europe, certainly. Cherry products will be the discerning user’s lifestyle purchase of choice, and be one of the top three suppliers of computer input devices throughout Europe, across all markets.

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