Each year, Locksmith Ledger polls a select group of locksmith distributors on the state of the industry, the advances and challenges faced by their businesses, and future directions. Thank you to Access Hardware Supply, Clark Security and Tri-Ed Distribution for participating. Following are Ledger’s questions and the distributors’ responses.
How has your role as a Distributor changed in the last 10 years?
Access Hardware: We have increased the markets we call on. We continue to distinguish ourselves from our competition with our knowledge and customer service. We are providing more specialized training in topics like how to use a meter and the professional service technician.
Clark Security: Clark’s history is a story of growth. In 1950, we began as the Key Department of the Wilson F. Clark Wholesale Hardware Co. in San Diego. Over the course of 60 years, Clark has matured into a national distributor, supplying security products to locksmiths across the nation. In the past 15 years, we have gone from 3 to 14 locations to ensure prompt delivery nationwide. We have increased our product offerings significantly, now stocking 40,000 items and representing 350 manufacturers.
Through this story of growth, Clark has always been dedicated to combining our tradition of care and concern for the locksmithing trade with a series of innovative programs designed to help security professionals and lockshop owners grow their business. We have hosted a variety of educational classes to help locksmiths with their business issues during challenging times.
Tri-Ed: Tri-Ed has become more of a delivery system for information and training than just product. We are dedicated to educating customers on the latest technologies and installation opportunities.
Do you expect any additional changes in your role as a distributor during the next 5-10 years?
Access Hardware: Most distributors are carrying an imported lock line, we will have to address that in the future. We are constantly looking at other vertical markets to pursue. Training on new technical products will have to increase to keep the installation personnel competent.
Tri-Ed: In the next 5-10 years, I see distributors leveraging technology to work even more seamlessly with their customers.
Have you added or removed any “categories” of products over the last 5 – 10 years? If so, what directions have you taken and will you continue to take?
Access Hardware: Electromagnetic locks have seen a large decrease in sales; depth of stock on these items will decrease. We have added new lines as their demand in our markets increase ie: SARGENT, DORMA and Falcon
Clark: Clark is constantly expanding our product offerings to meet our customers’ demands and the changes in the industry. Mechanical locks are still our largest category of stock on-hand, while access control is the most significant category we have expanded in the last 5-10 years. Last year we saw a huge spike in purchases of residential safes as our society responded to the Great Recession. Most recently, Clark expanded our automotive offering in response to the numerous customers who have told us about their need for automotive products at an attractive price. There has been some great advancement in this category that has made it profitable for locksmiths to be auto experts.
Tri-Ed: Tri-Ed has significantly added to our IP lineup – we feel that the industry will evolve to IP across all categories and therefore will continue our IP Technology Tour training program across the US and Canada.
Has there been a purchasing change by the locksmith? What types of products are most popular today?
Access Hardware: Locksmiths are looking for competing products in cost and quality. The locksmith customers like to buy online throughout the day. Grade one and two locking hardware comes to mind. Battery powered security hardware has become a popular solution.
Clark: Locksmiths like the whistles and bells, but they also tend to stick with what they know. Whenever there is a new product that fits within our business plan, we provide a lot of training, both internally and externally. Clark has always excelled at making and keeping its promise on delivery. That reliability is still very much in fashion.
Tri-Ed: We see the locksmith gravitating to electronic solutions.
What separates your distribution organization from your competitors?
Access: Our service and knowledge is the key to our business. While our competition has reduced outside sales representatives, we continue to increase. Our years of experience with the customer service reps is much longer than our competition, customers want knowledge when they call.
Clark: At Clark Security Products, we view the lockshop owners and security professionals we serve as our partners, and as such, we invest our time, energy, and resources to help them succeed. We are certain that it is because of their success that we have had the good fortune to expand our business from coast to coast.
Tri-Ed: Tri-Ed’s strong commitment to hands-on training and very high service levels as well as a team of IP specialists focused on education and support.