What is SHDA and Why is it Important to the Locksmith?

The Security Hardware Distributors Association (better known as SHDA) has been historically linked to ALOA for the 50 years that the locksmith organization has been in existence. Only a few years older than ALOA, SHDA began and thrived as NLSA, the National Locksmith Suppliers Association, servicing locksmiths and security professionals throughout North America . Both SHDA and ALOA's pasts and futures are inseparable.

Why should a locksmith care about SHDA? Does it matter that SHDA “promotes the value of distribution to its suppliers and customers” and that its mission is “to continually improve, through education and services, the proficiency of Security Distributors in order that they are the most effective and efficient conduit to the marketplace”? The answer is: Yes!

The 53 distributor members of SHDA provide, in varying degrees:

• Access to thousands of products,

• Credit issued to encourage customer growth,

• Dedicated service professionals,

• Experience, honesty, integrity, and trust,

• Inventory for immediate needs,

• Knowledgeable technical support,

• One-stop source for important, needed products and services, and

• SHDA University access which provides education for your profit.

Today's locksmith faces a dizzying assortment of requests for products, services, and information. It is often necessary that the locksmith has a channel partner who can help him find products, give him information necessary to solve problems, and supply him with needed security hardware quickly.

The distributor deals with hundreds of vendors and thousands of products and can help steer locksmiths in the right direction. The distributor also gives many independent locksmiths credit to buy products from them and maintain their businesses, even in the most challenging economic times.

When a locksmith needs information about transponder equipment, to whom does he turn? When he needs a lock with a specific keyway or finish, he must find it quickly. When he needs to schedule a job on a door closer with a specific template, whom should he call? Does the locksmith have the necessary time or resources to be able to stock everything, to have all the information for every product? He needs to be able to call or E-mail a distributor that has inventory and access to thousands of products, hundreds of manufacturers and suppliers of every kind of security product, ranging from mechanical locking devices, access controls, electronics and CCTV, to doors and door hardware. For ease, profit, and peace of mind, the locksmith needs an SHDA distributor.

When did SHDA begin? The history of SHDA dates back to 1948 when locksmith distributors were also concerned about their future, in an era when manufacturers like Yale, Eagle, and Independent Lock Company had their own branches to supply local markets. At first, a few distributors began meeting in New York City, including Harold Hoffman of H. Hoffman Co., Harry Simon of S&S Hardware, Bill Zipf Sr. of Zipf Lock Co., Sam Solomon of Solomon and Sons, Joe Falk of Hardware Sales and Supply, and Ben Silver of D. Silver Hardware. This was the infancy of an association that began as a way for distributors to share information and help each other survive.

Eventually, these meetings led to the formation of NLSA, which began in 1956 and coincided with the first meeting of ALOA. Nate Saginur from Toronto , Murray Kramer from New York , Bob Auburn from Los Angeles , Claude Montgomery from San Francisco , Hal Snyder from Seattle , and Stan Maziuk Sr. from Syracuse , were some of the members who joined with Hoffman, Simon, Zipf, Falk, Solomon, and Silver. Ben Silver was the leader who kept the meetings running and naturally became the first president of NLSA, an association in which distributor owners discussed issues ranging from how to help locksmith dealers become better businessmen, to the importance of marketing, and methods of working with manufacturers to supply their products to locksmiths.

According to Al Hoffman, one of the first members of NLSA, it was decided in 1971 that manufacturers would be welcomed as associate members of the association. Soon, an annual conference took place in which manufacturers, such as Schlage Lock, Master Lock, Yale, Kwikset, Ilco Unican, and Medeco Security Lock, met with distributors from all over the country, such as Stone and Berg from Boston, Clark Security from San Diego, Armstrong's Lock and Supply from Atlanta, and Hans Johnsen Company from Dallas, to name a few. These annual meetings, which still continue today, were always important because they allowed each distributor to have one-on-one time with important manufacturers within a span of a few days. Education was always important as well, as distributors learned how they could operate better businesses and help their locksmith customers grow. (To this day, the Ben Silver Education Fund provides a variety of classes and important information for distributors.)

In the 1990s, NLSA changed its name to SHDA and allowed the addition of other door hardware distributors that sold to diverse markets, such as contract hardware and electronic security dealers. These additions helped broaden the association and allow it to survive and grow. Throughout the 50-plus years, despite many changes, the predominant business of most SHDA distributors has been and is still the locksmith market. The principal product lines continue to be lock, security, and door hardware products.

Today, SHDA's mission is “to continually improve, through education and services, the proficiency of Security Distributors in order that they are the most effective and efficient conduit to the marketplace.”

And now, SHDA distributors strive to service the locksmiths in all of their needs, with inventory, knowledge, expertise, and marketing. Today, SHDA has over 50 wholesale distributor members and over 70 associate members.

SHDA distributors continue to play an important role in helping the locksmith and security professional focus on managing their own businesses for profitability. They not only provide access to thousands of products quickly, but also help with critical knowledge about everything related to security.

The world the locksmith faces is much more complex and difficult than it was 50 years ago. Look at the amazing amount of door manufacturers that the locksmith must navigate, the massive numbers of keys, automotive locks. Distributor employees have hundreds of years of total experience, which is extremely helpful to all locksmith companies facing challenges in a high-tech world with enormous security needs.

In today's economic climate, huge home centers and public industrial supply companies are the most serious threats to both independent locksmiths and independent locksmith distributors. SHDA distributors are small service-oriented businesses that understand this and depend on helping other small businesses, such as locksmiths, compete against the big companies in the 21st century.

Over the years, there have been some isolated situations that have stressed the relationships between locksmiths and their distributors. Some distributors sell to end user industrial locksmiths and some sell to markets other than locksmiths, while other companies perform services similar to services performed by locksmiths. Nevertheless, most SHDA members continue to help and treasure their business partners, the locksmith-security professionals. Despite periodic conflicts, the majority of many SHDA members' customers are still locksmith dealers. Locksmiths are not only customers, but, more importantly, friends and associates of many of the SHDA distributors. A strong relationship with locksmiths continues to be a core value of SHDA and its members.

The future of SHDA continues to be the future of the security professional and locksmith. For over 50 years, the two groups have been invariably linked, both necessary for each other's survival. And hopefully, for the next 50 years, the partnership will stay just as strong.

Arnie Goldman is committee chair of the SHDA Industry Advocacy Committee.