Cherry on the keyboards of the future

PC accessory specialist Cherry has launched the MX Board 6.0 – its first keyboard with RealKey tech. PCR asks Cherry’s UK MD Michael Groom about the firm’s ambitions in gaming, etail versus retail sales and the firm’s future plans…

How is business? Has this year been more challenging compared to 2014?

Business has been brisk to say the least, with sales up on 2014’s figures. This is despite the fact that we’re going through a transitional stage in the business, with older products being made obsolete and fewer new products to replace them. Certainly with the addition of the MX Board 6.0, turnover has seen a spike in the last couple of months.

How significant is the gaming sector to Cherry?

Cherry is the market leader in the production and supply of mechanical keyboard switches (the MX Series) that are used in the most prominent gaming keyboards in the market, so gaming is very important to us.

For our own keyboards, until June this year, it’s been less important as we concentrated on industrial and ‘standard’ products, but with the new MX Board 6.0 keyboard, it’s taken a bit of a different direction.

Tell us more about the MX Board 6.0…

It’s new and exciting for this market. It’s a full-size, wired, backlit keyboard with an aluminium case and some unique features – including technology we call ‘RK’ (RealKey), which is an analogue system that gives the keyboard a response time of 1ms. On top of this, it has full ‘N’ key rollover, meaning all 109 keys can be pressed at the same time and they will all function, and there’s full anti-ghosting on all keys. At £150 RRP, it’s at the top end of the market, but does offer features that will be widely used by the gaming market.

What about your non-gaming products?

We have just released our new KC-1068 sealed keyboard, which is ideal for applications where spills or keyboard cleaning is an issue. Also, our old smartcard keyboard, the G83-6644, has finally been laid to rest, now replaced by the new KC-1000SC model – perfect for security applications. [We don’t offer accessories other than keyboards and mice], but it’s something that has been discussed.

Does Cherry sponsor any eSports teams or Twitch streamers and Youtubers?

The only team we are very loosely involved with is Rize Gaming. We were formerly sponsors of Team eNigma, who have sadly disbanded and the Rize partnership has yet to get going fully, but we hope things will get moving shortly. We had some success with eNigma, with our name emblazoned on their shirts that went with them to each gaming tournament. With Twitch/YouTube, we’ll see how it goes – one of the MX Board 6.0s is currently with Ali-A but we really don’t know currently what he’ll make of it until a video goes live, but if we can gain some interest from the gamers who follow him, then it’s been a resounding success.

How much of your UK business goes through etail versus high street retail?

Our business through retail is very small and the majority goes through etail. Keyboards are always difficult though, as they are tactile products and we often get asked where customers can see or feel our products. Without a strong retail presence (something we’re looking at more closely), it’s very difficult to tell customers where to go, but it doesn’t stop them ordering via etailers. I do believe that retail for keyboards and mice is essential as they are products a customer needs to test and compare.

How much of a challenge is dealing with retailers who heavily cut the price of some of your products?

Price cutting is always an issue, but without the ability to ‘price-fix’, we can’t combat against partners wishing to make meager margins or even sell at a loss. Fortunately, particularly within the more premium sector, the prices seem to be relatively stable – there’s always very healthy competition, but with price expectation for mechanical keyboards being high, selling below cost is generally not an issue for us.

Cherry will be closing its Luton office by the end of the year, but the firm’s German parent company ZF Electronics will still be dealing direct with the UK PC trade.

PCR’s Sector Spotlight on Gaming is running throughout September – click here for more articles

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