Why Richardson is glad to be back at the sharp end

Richardson Sheffield's new factory shop at Handsworth
Richardson Sheffield's new factory shop at Handsworth
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Richardson Sheffield is back at the cutting edge. The company first hit the headlines in the 1980s with its groundbreaking range of Laser Knives, whose highly engineered blades never needed sharpening.

Since being acquired by Dutch group, Amefa, in 2007, the 174-year-old firm has been focused on returning to those glory days – and the strategy is paying off.

Since 2009, the company has boosted sales by almost 80 per cent, doubled the number of people it employs, achieved a fivefold increase in exports, launched 10 new knife ranges and developed its first “Made in Sheffield” range for well over a decade.

Richardson Sheffield has also become the headquarters for Amefa UK and opened nine retail outlets, including, earlier this month, a shop at its Orgreave Drive factory, in Handsworth.

The achievement looks more impressive when you know that, two years after acquiring Richardson Sheffield from administration, Amefa was seriously considering closing all its UK operations.

When Amefa UK managing director John Horton arrived at Richardson Sheffield he found a firm whose sales had slumped from possibly £12 million to £1 million, which had a poor reputation for customer service and had all its knives made in China. “It had really lost its way,” says Mr Horton.

Despite that, the Richardson Sheffield name still stood for something around the globe.

“We set out to transform the company from top to bottom. The first thing was to recruit quality people in senior positions and a top quality sales team with cutlery and kitchen knives running through their blood.”

One of the first steps in the transformation was to focus on the key features of the Richardson brand.

“It’s about expertise with knives, grind quality, being an innovator in design and offering superior value for money,” says Mr Horton. “Whatever the price point, we want to offer the best quality for that price point.”

Richardson has strengthened relationships with multiple and independent retailers.

“Business with multiple retailers continues to grow and we have really got in with independent retailers and won a lot of business this year,” says John Horton.

The firm has revisited former customers, capitalising on the help its Dutch parent group’s international sales operations could provide.

As a result, exports, which were languishing at £110,000 when John Horton joined, are now up at £520,000.

Richardson Sheffield has also rejuvenated its reputation for innovation, launching nine ranges in recent years, including the first range for years that has not only been designed in Sheffield, but is also made here.