How did the vendor go from Count Zeppellin to keyboards?

INTERVIEW: Cherry UK MD Michael Groom

How did Cherry go from being founded in a basement and making switches to being purchased by a firm with a background in zeppelins and an €18bn turnover?

Cherry UK MD Michael Groom tells Dominic Sacco what makes its keyboards so special, and how the firm is targeting businesses and fending off the likes of Apple…

There is no shortage of fascinating companies in the PC market – but perhaps no other with a history quite as rich as Cherry’s.

Who else can claim to have made one of the world’s first keyboards – and be owned by the firm which invented the zeppelin?

Cherry’s UK MD Michael Groom tells PCR: “Switches were the first thing [founder] Walter Cherry made. From there, the keyboard was a natural progression. Our first keyboard was made in 1967.”

Today Cherry produces a whole host of mice and keyboards for consumers and the POS, security, industrial and medical industries. Some have smartcard/fingerprint/magnetic card readers, while others have medical-grade waterproofing and anti-bacterial qualities. 

Groom says focusing on quality and range sets the firm apart.

“Cherry has always prided itself as a brand providing high-quality, reliable devices for both home and business users alike – and that trend continues to this day,” he explains. 

“Our range of keyboards stretches from the very basic to high-quality, mechanical devices, including the new G80-3850 gaming keyboard. [Our products] cost a little more due to the quality, design and the ethical stance we take regarding manufacturing processes. 

“Unlike some manufacturers, we also cater for other areas of business, and some of our keyboards are still built within Europe. 

“There are several High Street brands that use our POS keyboards, which are individually designed and can be personalised with different colours and words on the keys.”

“We are managing to remain ahead of the game. Our aim is to exceed budget this year, making five consecutive years of growth.”
Michael Groom, Cherry UK

Security keyboards are Cherry’s most popular B2B models, with thousands of the G83-6644 shipping every year. These are used by the police, NHS, banks, councils, the health and leisure industries and more. 

Biometric keyboards, despite their anti-theft technology, are least popular. 

“Customers don’t seem to see the huge benefit that biometrics offers in relation to the cost,” says Groom.

“My wife is a nurse and deals with a lot of sensitive information. If her keyboard was biometric, when she walks away from her PC, no one else can read clients’ notes, for example. These could be useful for solicitors and emergency services, but they haven’t taken off. They could be a bit ahead of their time.”

Cherry’s products drew the attention of car components specialist ZF, which acquired the company in 2008.

Cherry still produces switches and sensors for the household and car, making up 65 per cent of its UK business. Its customers are primarily distributors and system integrators, with a handful of resellers buying from Cherry directly. 

Groom admits Apple and the tablet generation have had a “huge impact”on sales, but despite this, Cherry’s UK computer input devices business grew eight per cent in 2013.

“Because we supply a diverse range of equipment, we are managing to remain ahead of the game,” he says. “Our aim is to exceed budget this year, making five consecutive years of growth. 

“Yes, there’s a move to tablet devices, but a desktop or laptop will continue to shine through.

“After all, no-one wants to type a lengthy email on a tablet screen, now do they?”

Cherry factfile

Established: 1953
Based: Luton (UK), Friedrichshafen/Auerbach (Germany)
Number of staff: 4 (Cherry UK), 60,000+ (ZF)
Contact : 01582 506 140
Main distribution partners: Entatech, Exertis Micro-P, Northamber

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