SOUTH AFRICAN MARKETS FOR AMERICAN HARDWARE
In table cutlery the demand is always for steel-blade knives, with about six-inch blades for meat courses and four and a half inch blades for butter and desserts. Handles are either celluloid or hollow metal, the former being the more common in homes and the latter in public places. Knives are regularly scoured and sharpened, and the American plated knife blades will not be accepted. This is true from the best grades down to the native trade in tinned steel. The only exception generally is in the case of fish knives; here the whole article is nickel plated -or silver plated, as the case may be. Where celluloid (known in South Africa under the English name of xylonite) handles are used they are plain oval or rectangular in section, while hollow-metal handles are oval in section and finished with fluted surfaces. Very few plain-surface metal handles are seen, except in the cheapest qualities.
Forks are generally similar to American types, except that they seem to be made with less curve; for meats a larger, and for desserts a smaller, fork is used than in the United States. The popular patterns throughout South Africa are "Old English" and "Fiddle." The spoons are like the American ones, with large tablespoons used for soup and dessert spoons used for puddings, stewed fruits, etc., in conjunction with a fork of medium size. Small teaspoons are used.
One of the best-known cutlery brands in the market is the Elkington, which is generally handled by a good firm in each city. Two or three other brands are also widely seen. An Elkington catalogue has been submitted in connection with this report and may be examined upon application to the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce (mentioning file No. 40882).
Several makers seem to be using a new type of steel for their knife blades under the brand "Stainless," and these blades do maintain a good brightness under constant use.
Monograms or names are stamped on most hotel and restaurant cutlery, even in the case of small hotels. This may be due partly to custom, but the employment of native servants makes the practice quite desirable.
American table cutlery is said to compete in price normally, but it does not appear that manufacturers have tried the market out to any great extent. A widely advertised American brand of cutlery is said to be represented in South Africa by a man whose main line is wholly different and who naturally is not able to do much with it. On the whole, American firms do not seem to be aggressive in the market.
In the cheap table-cutlery lines Germany obtained a good deal of the business on the basis of the low prices quoted. Tinned steel tablespoons were sold before the war for as low as 8 cents per dozen f. o. b. Hamburg, and were sold at 16 cents per dozen to retailers, who charged the natives 2 cents each for them. Nickel handle "medium quality" German table knives were quoted in 1913-14 at 47 cents per dozen f. o. b. Hamburg, and white-metal forks and spoons at $3.87 and $3.92 per gross, respectively.
For the cheaper trade among white purchasers, wooden-handle, steel-blade knives and forks are a standard line in South Africa, being offered in two or three grades. Handles are of black or white wood, with metal trimming. This is an English line, though the German houses also did a good deal of business.
Source: Hardware Review - January 1921