Cutting Edge Quality: Cutco “Knives for Life”
What if you could have a high-quality kitchen knife that would last forever? Look no further than Cutco. Cutco began manufacturing knives in Olean, New York in 1949 when Alcoa Corp and Case Cutlery formed a joint venture to begin creating high quality cutlery. Since then, the company has grown to become a nationally recognized brand known for its high quality, American made products. All Cutco knives come with a “Forever Guarantee” that allows customers to have their knives serviced for free, regardless of when the knives were purchased, so the knives can be passed from generation to generation.
Since 1949, Cutco has used a direct sales channel. In 1981, Vector was founded in Philadelphia as the sales division. It has grown to over 250 district sales offices. The Vector management team at Vector started as sales representatives. Cutco’s direct sales force, largely college students looking to make extra money during the summer, learn how to manage their time, how to interface with others, and how to express unique product attributes which set Cutco apart from the competition. There are two models of direct selling compensation: multilevel and single level marketing. Multilevel compensation means direct sellers earn commission from their own sales as well as commissions from those they have recruited and trained. Cutco uses a single level method of compensation, which means the sales representatives only earn a commission on the sales they make, and they do not recruit other sales representatives.
While the driver of the Cutco distribution model is direct selling, it has begun to experiment with different sales methods. For example, Cutco has opened 16 retail locations since 2005 in order to give existing customers a place to service their knives while allowing potential customers a place to view and handle its products. These stores are focused on giving a “Cutco experience” where customers can try out knives or take classes on cooking, floral arrangements, gardening, and more. The stores also offer more than 100 kinds of kitchen cutlery products in addition to its knives such as utensils, kitchen shears, flatware, cookware, and a full line of sporting knives.
Cutco is proud of its history and heritage as an American knife manufacturer. Quality and fair treatment of employees and the community are first and foremost the priorities for the company. Cutco’s knife blades are made from a high carbon stainless steel, which goes through a 3-stage heat treatment process to ensure that blades can take a sharp edge, maximize their resistance to corrosion, and won’t snap under pressure. All knives have “full-tang construction,” which means that the blade’s metal extends all the way through the handle of the knife to create stability. The handles are made from an acetal copolymer thermo-resin, which gives the handles high strength, toughness, and resistance to abrasion. Rivets that hold the handle together are made of a nickel-silver alloy that doesn’t expand or contract from heat. This process creates a high-quality knife that is built to last. However, wear and tear is inevitable, so customers can get their knives serviced at any time.
Cutco, which has manufactured its product in Olean, New York since it was created in 1949, is now one of the few American cutlery companies to keep manufacturing in the U.S. Cutco’s American made commitment has not always been easy to abide by. After the company entered the flatware business, its American supplier went bankrupt and closed down its operation. All other flatware manufacturing was outside of the United States. In an unparalleled commitment to American jobs and American-made knives, Cutco purchased the fabricating equipment for its stainless table knives and insourced the product into its own factory in Olean. The company takes pride in the town of Olean where it has around 650 full-time employees. James Stitt, Executive Chairman, came to Olean in 1975 to work for Cutco. His son, James Stitt, Jr., joined the company in 1997 and is currently the President and CEO. Before letting his son take over the company, Stitt Sr. ensured that his son remained committed to the town which relies heavily on Cutco since it employs many of Olean’s citizens. Corey Wiktor, The Executive Director of the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency, described Cutco as “. . . the lifeblood of Cattaraugus County and the Southern Tier.”
Thanks to Cutco’s high-quality products and unique business model, it is a nationally recognized brand for cutlery that is synonymous with quality. Cutco continues to expand its product offerings and has begun complimenting its direct sales distribution with retail and Internet sales. Even with its evolving marketing strategy, the high quality of its knives and its commitment to direct sales has remained constant since Cutco began in 1949.59
Ferrell, O. C., Hirt, G. A., Ferrell, L., & Ferrell, O. C. (2020). Business foundations: a changing world. (12th ed.). pp.174-178. Retrieved from https://online.vitalsource.com