As part of our annual Know Your Distributors coverage, Locksmith Ledger sent a questionnaire to a sampling of different locksmith distributors of varying sizes and in different regions. Our questions included:
Where do you see your company going in the next five to 10 years?
How has your role as a locksmith distributor changed in the last 10 years?
What types of new products have you added to your inventory in the last 10 years?
Has there been a purchasing change by the locksmith? What types of products are different?
What do you see as the overall direction of distribution?
A few conclusions can be drawn from our admittedly unscientific poll. First, all the distributors commented that they are taking a more active role in training locksmiths on their new product lines. And despite the prevalence of Internet ordering, they all stressed the added value of personalized, knowledgeable customer service. Distributors are stocking a wider variety of brands and product lines to help the locksmiths meet offer their customers’ complex needs. Access control and automotive were cited in particular as growth markets.
Thanks to the distributors who took the time to answer our questions. Their responses are listed below in alphabetical order.
ACCREDITED LOCK SUPPLY CO.
Accredited Lock Supply is currently in its 32nd year of operation. We have gone through three phases: locksmith shop, wholesale distributor, and now in addition to wholesale distribution, a provider of locksmith education in our newly constructed training center.
With the increasing advent of licensing laws requiring ongoing education, and with the ever advancing technology, the locksmith must cope with or sink, we feel that providing factory training is a service that the locksmith must have. Our training center has classes scheduled just about every Thursday, and whenever else we can get a factory to send someone in. The schedule is on our website (www.acclock.com), and Teresa is the coordinator.
Our wholesale distribution continues to grow. We keep adding suppliers, staying abreast of the advances in automotive technology, access control, CCTV and other areas of growth in our industry. Our SKU count keeps increasing, now standing at approximately 68,000.
We believe in stocking lines in depth, so the locksmith can be sure of getting what they need when they need it. When we took on the Schlage Accent line, we stocked EVERY function in EVERY style in EVERY finish, over 1400 SKU’s in this line alone.
Our new catalog has increased by another 32 pages, up to 624. This, while simultaneously deleting approximately 25 pages of older, obsolete lines, makes for about 55 new pages. And we still stock much more than our catalog shows.
Our major project for this year is implementation of a more robust software package to operate our company on, including a full shopping function website. We hope to have this running by the end of the year.
Key Products is an established distributor with a corporate heritage that dates back 60 years. Key Products is positioned to serve customers nationwide from our 70,000-square-foot warehouse located in Columbus, Ohio. Our warehouse utilizes a computerized random location system which features simultaneous picking from multiple zones; this state-of-the-art shipping system makes it possible to effectively ship over 1 million line items annually, allowing between 500 and 2000 packages to be routed per day. All of this simply means that our customer gets a fast turnaround on all orders. This coupled with a 97 percent fill rate equals service that helps you keep the edge on your competitors.
Key Products continues to partner up with today’s locksmiths and manufacturers creating the necessary strong relationships and developing an extensive network of technical information that is passed on to our customers, as well as information about new products as they become available. By doing so we are meeting the needs of our customers. In order meet the needs of every customer we are staffed with Customer Service Reps and locksmiths that have extensive hands on and class room training.
Perhaps Key Products is known for being the leading distributor in the automotive field. However, to date Key Products has grown into a full line distributor offering a wide selection of quality products including residential and commercial products from many of the leading manufacturers at very competitive prices.
Key Products is also known for our easy to use, high quality catalogs containing high resolution graphic illustrations and detailed descriptions of our products. In addition, a CD version of the catalog is available upon request. Our goal at Key Products is to earn your business and be your best supplier.
SECURITY PLUS INC.
Security Plus Inc. has been servicing the locksmith industry for the past 17 years. Part of our service is knowing the product lines you (locksmiths) are working with and having the ability to recommend the best product for the customer’s application. This requires a well-trained sales staff that can continually adjust and keep up with an ever-changing industry. This also requires that the distributor expand the amount of lines the company carries and make each line more extensive.
With the advancements in the ordering process, it seems that personable service has taken a back seat to Internet ordering. Often, sales people tell their customers to go to the manufacturer’s web site. We at Security Plus still believe in close personal service and going the extra mile for our customers. This includes satisfying their every need. Timely answers help them grow their business and enlighten them with all the newest information.
Looking towards the future, we at Security Plus are always looking for new ways to better serve the locksmithing industry. This includes improvements in the ordering process but not forgetting to continue to offer the same personable service we are known for giving.
In the next five or 10 years, we see ourselves as a leader in our region, offering many extensive lines with service as our top priority.
In the last 10 years, the consumer is demanding a lot more convenience in security door hardware, safe hardware and the auto lock industry. We’ve become educators to the locksmiths when confronted with the demand. Making sure we’re up to date has become of much greater importance.
In order to serve our customers completely, many additions to our inventory were procured in the past 10 years. The areas of the largest growth were in access control products and auto locking system product lines. Because of the growth we experienced, we found it necessary to open a separate division devoted to the auto industry. This also enabled us to focus on our hardware division and expand our offering.
One of the largest changes in the market in our region is the purchases of items that are different that the regular items offered in the average hardware store. Selling the unique design and finish instead of a common design and finish allows the locksmith to compete against larger buyers.
With world events, accountability in commercial business and government applications became vital in our region. The demand for additional features in security access systems increased.
After 1995, the changes in the domestic auto lock industry have created a diverse array of locking hardware. The profitability also drastically improved with the higher cost of hardware. This required the locksmith to carry a much greater variety of auto locks. The investment became much larger with the advent of transponder systems.
The demand for distribution is just going to get stronger with the support of the locksmith industry. A larger demand for education from the distributor for new products is inevitable. Service and knowledge from the distributor will be in greater demand. The sales staff must be capable and knowledgeable enough to keep their customers abreast of all the current changes in the industry. It will be Security Plus’ plight to be there for the locksmith.