Forty years ago, the Ford Pinto was introduced, four students were killed at Kent State, Roy Spain issued the original Medeco patent, the Beatles released their final album, American Brands bought Master Lock, Apollo 13 miraculously landed after its oxygen tank exploded, and the National Locksmith Suppliers Association (later evolving into SHDA) had its first meeting.
At the end of April, SHDA (Security Hardware Distributors Association) will hold its 40th Annual Industry Advancement Summit in Chicago. This summit includes four days of networking, education, and interchanges of ideas between leading lock and security manufacturers and distributors in the Security Hardware Industry. But why should the average locksmith care about an annual conference of locksmith distributors and manufacturers of locks, electronic access control, and security door hardware?
Over the last 40 years, the associate members of the SHDA have introduced the best security products in the world to their distributors and then to their customers, the locksmiths. I remember seeing Alarm Lock’s Trilogy pushbutton lock for the first time at SHDA as well as Assa’s Twin 6000 high security cylinders and keys. Over the last 40 years, Gardall introduced its highly rated line of Fire Safes and HES brought its Genesis Series electric strike to SHDA. We first saw the Original 1200CM code machine from HPC as well as Ilco’s latest keys and a variety of new pin kits from Lab during the last four decades. Medeco revealed its Biaxial high security locks and cylinders 25 years ago and Master Lock brought us its brand new Pro Series padlocks in 1992. I remember the first electronic safe lock from S&G, Schlage’s AL series Grade 2 lever lockset and Securitron’s first Magnalock in the early 1980s. These are but a few of the products that have been introduced at SHDA that changed the lock and security hardware industry.
The SHDA conference throughout the last 40 years was often the perfect lead-in for the ALOA show. Almost all of the leading manufacturers in the world would demonstrate their latest and best products to managers and buyers from locksmith distributors. Then, after getting feedback and suggestions, they would bring them, often tweaked and improved, to the ALOA show a few months later.
I have been attending the SHDA conference for 30 years and I believe that the show still is vitally important for the locksmith. Why? In the four-day conference, the most important new products are introduced, technical problems and other issues between manufacturers and distributors are discussed, industry trends analyzed, and ideas are generated to help the distributor service the locksmith.
Yes, the last two years have been very tough for the general U.S. economy and especially difficult for the locksmith. But this is one of the reasons that Brian Beaulieu is the educator at this year’s Ben Silver Industry Leadership Session and his topic is “The Recovery: How Long and How Fast?” Brian has been an economist with Institute for Trends Research (ITR) since 1982 and its CEO since 1987. Brian, with his extensive understanding of business cycles and trends, will teach locksmith distributors how to prepare for the ups and downs of the economy and set up strategies to improve one’s business during declining or improving economic conditions.
The goal of most lock and security distributors has not changed that much in 40 years. It still is selling and servicing effectively while trying to make a profit by helping one’s customers sell and service and make a profit. The objective for most distributors is to increase sales, improve operations, and strive to improve their customers’ businesses. The locksmith distributor and locksmith are still locked together because the success of one is critical for the success of the other.
Have there been and will there continue to be issues between lock distributors and locksmiths? Certainly. In a constantly changing economic environment in which most dealers and distributors compete against large home centers, superstores, and high-speed, low-cost Internet resellers, each company’s primary purpose is survival. But most distributors can’t survive without a base of qualified, good-quality dealers.
Distributors may get upset when locksmiths buy direct or only buy based on the lowest prices. And locksmiths often become frustrated when their distributors sell to some end users, wondering whether locksmiths can truly compete. But think: how can a locksmith survive without its distributors? If the locksmith dealer had to depend on a few manufacturers or the Internet to find products, it would be extremely time-consuming, certainly not smart or efficient. Likewise, without locksmith customers, most lock distributors would find it very difficult to survive.
Security Hardware Distributors have been working in an association for the last 40 years to find and share the best education as well as the latest information so that each of the members can become better distributors. Being a better distributor means having the most critical information ready for its customer, having thousands of needed products in stock and available to ship immediately. Being a good SHDA distributor means giving the locksmith strong value and reasonable prices so that dealers can compete in a very competitive economic landscape. It also means offering the best possible service over the phone, counter, and over the Internet, helping the locksmith quickly supply its customers.
Who knows what the future will bring for the locksmith industry, for both its dealers and distributors? Locksmiths and security hardware distributors must work together to solve the multitude of challenges in the security hardware industry. But if the past 40 is a barometer, the next 40 years will be demanding and yet hopefully, ultimately rewarding.
Arnie Goldman is president of IDN-Hardware Sales, Inc. and a member of the SHDA Advocacy Committee.