Otto C. Graham, Sales Manager
New York Office, Cambridge Glass Company

By Mark Nye
May 2008 - Issue 418

Otto C. Graham, more commonly known as O. C. Graham, became manager of the Cambridge Glass Company’s New York City office in 1925, following the death of Alexander G. Menzies. Apparently relatively young at the time, Mr. Graham, prior to his promotion, had been a traveling salesman for Cambridge, working out of the New York office.

During 1931, "THE CROCKERY AND GLASS JOURNAL" each month featured a prominent person in the china, glassware and pottery wholesale business by means of nominating the person to their "Hall of Fame" and publishing an article featuring ideas and opinions of the individual. In July 1931, O. C. Graham, Sales Manager, New York Office Cambridge Glass Company was so honored. Unfortunately, the picture of Mr. Graham that accompanied the article cannot be reproduced here but what follows is the article published in the July 1931 issue of CGJ and based on an interview with Mr. O. C. Graham. As you read this, bear in mind the Great Depression was well underway.

Quality glass will sell – Says O. C. Graham.
"Have the younger executives in china and glass something of value to offer buyers other than their wares? It is impossible not to think so. Challinor of United States Glass believes American women with their increasingly highly developed decorative sense hold the key to future trends. Andres of Fostoria believes the ensemble effectively used will become increasingly important in selling goods. Nock of Heisey believes new ideas thoroughly worked out will act as a constant stimulant on sales.

"O. C. Graham, New York sales manager for Cambridge Glass Co., Cambridge, O., believes that quality sound merchandise will yield greater returns than quantity goods sold at impossible competitive prices. Graham is selling domestic glass of high quality reasonably priced such as the average American home can well afford. He cannot see (and neither can we) why sales effort should be expended to make them content with less.

"Pressure on the china and glass buyer has forced him to work for volume sales. Apparently the psychologists in the executive offices work on the theory that quantity sales must yield profit because they are quantity sales. Yet the real profit in selling either china or glass comes from selling the greatest possible volume of quality goods. In their efforts to increase volume buyers have concentrated on the cheapest of merchandise and with what result may be gleaned from looking over their balance sheets.

"There is opportunity for volume sales in better grade wares. Women have developed in a high degree the desire to find bargains. Stores in their efforts to push up volume business have appealed to this bargain sense and have filled their shelves and counters with merchandise worth just what it sells for. The result is that too many women have been sold on glass that is unworthy of their homes and their better sense. To their own detriment and in the face of a normal tendency on the part of women to buy good glass for their homes, stores have pushed the cheapest of products. In their efforts to build up volume, they have sacrificed an opportunity.

"Often the differences in glassware are too subtle for the uninitiated to grasp instantly. Capitalizing on this fact many stores have been able to sell tremendous quantities of cheap glass. That they would not be satisfied with the cheaper goods if they were made to see the quality of the better is apparent.

"Despite the depression, the sales of good domestic glass among most of the domestic companies have held up remarkably well; that these sales would be better if the buyers gave them the necessary promotion goes without saying. And since the profit in volume sales of quality merchandise is greater than the profit in volume sales of inferior goods the wonder of it is that the buyers have not awakened to the errors of their ways.

"The cause of course, is depression hysteria. China and glass departments the nation over are in the red and they have a long and hard struggle ahead of them before they can pull out. Nevertheless the opportunity for recovery exists. American women seeking glass can afford to buy much better merchandise than they are buying. If they are given the opportunity to see and compare good merchandise with inferior ware and if the distinctive features of the former are pointed out to them they will even make sacrifices to acquire what they really want. That this is true is evidenced by the results of stores using the comparative method.

"Especially does the opportunity for volume sales loom in the glassware department. Today the uses of glass are so many and varied that a wide selection is offered every woman. Dinner services complete in every detail offer an especially good field for the buyer. They are most attractive and lend themselves to a variety of arrangements. The new colors brought out in the last few years harmonize when mixed and with a moderate expenditure several combinations are available for table settings. The demand of today is for variety in the home and the colors available in glass make possible the use of a number of color schemes. The field for glassware has been greatly expanded during the past few years and promises to become even wider in the near future.

"With a widened field due to the almost endless variety of color combinations, with an increasing number of women each year able to buy good china and glass for their homes, the wonder is that stores have not made greater effort to educate their customers and direct their purchases. Sales effort in this direction will bring not only quality sales but also the volume business so much coveted.

Mr. Graham’s ideas on the subject of merchandising glass and china are based on sound experience. It is his further contention that the buyers recognize the truth of these principles but that they lack the conviction to press them in opposition to executives who demand a sacrifice of quality to immediate volume sales on inferior products."