Your customer’s front door makes a style statement. Your role is to ensure the hardware works as well as it looks. Decorative hardware covers traditional, historic and contemporary styles at both ends of the design spectrum.
This article will explain electronic developments, markets and how to be competitive. We’ll focus on major players that specialize in decorative hardware, as well as where each brand best serves the customer. These brands include Baldwin, Emtek, Marks USA and Omnia.
You don’t have to have a bunch of samples to compete in this market space. The internet and in-store marketing let you compete effectively. Your shop has three major advantages: your installation skills, your showroom and your in-depth understanding of doors and hardware.
You have to do two things to market decorative hardware:
1. Download the online marketing material you want to have at your fingertips. When a customer asks questions, you have instant catalog access. They won’t lose interest while you fumble your way through endless online searches and dead ends. Do your homework and have the selected catalogs on your computer or on paper.
2. Print three or four decent-quality color pictures of some decorative hardware styles. Mount these pictures to posterboard on the wall. Make it look professional -- no Scotch tape. Walk-in customers will see that you handle decorative hardware. You even might have a sample or two, but that’s not really necessary.
Recent innovations combine traditional styles with the latest mechanical and electronic developments. Mortise and interconnected locks allow single-motion egress. Electronic options now include keypads and card, fob and mobile-credential operation, and there’s even a biometric residential option from Yale. Locks increasingly connect with smart-home products.
While the customer browses your literature, you can ask about the application, time frame and traffic level. Let them know that you can be competitive, you know how to get fast delivery and the installation will be done right. Don’t tell them how great this or that product or technology is. Find out why they’re interested.
Here are some questions that will build trust and allow you to find out what they really want:
- Do you have a project in mind?
- Is it new construction, repair or renovation?
- What are the security concerns?
- What’s the time frame: planning, under construction, urgent replacement?
- Is it a contemporary design or specific to some historic period?
- Have you considered electronic options, such as a keypad or your smartphone?
- Do you have a smart-home system?
I once made a sale that exceeded my annual income when I stopped selling and listened to the customer. Maybe your customers just would like to browse through catalog pages while you take care of their immediate concern. A contractor might want you to print out three or four images to show his client.
Here are some online resources I’ve found helpful:
- On the www.baldwinhardware.com website, select Support/Product literature/Price Books and Catalogues.
- At www.emtek.com go to the Dealer section and select Products/Brochures. Excellent catalog and price lists are available from this ASSA ABLOY company.
- Under the www.marksusa.com website, select Resources/Catalogues/New Custom Lock Division catalog. This is a 32-page catalog that contains hundreds of lever designs.
- On the Omnia Industries website, https://www.omniaindustries.com/catalogs/ has several informative documents.
Identify Potential Customers
We asked marketing experts to identify the typical customers for decorative hardware. Of course, you’ll find the usual suspects, including new construction, repair and renovation categories. Principal market segments include residential, small and medium business, multifamily housing and resorts or hotels.
Remember this: People typically buy decorative hardware to make a design statement.
The DIY prospect probably will start at Lowes, The Home Depot or online. By the time they show up at your shop, they might have had a bad outcome from a DIY project. Be gracious and don’t rub it in. You want a customer, not an enemy.
Builders and designers likely will start at a design center showroom where they can see samples. Design centers can be a source of business, because they want good installation. Most of your prospects will walk in at your shop. The pictures on the wall will let them know you’re knowledgeable about decorative hardware. One effective sales tool for those considering a cheap product from a big-box store is a picture gallery of DIY disasters. A couple of hours of your labor are far less expensive than replacing an expensive door. Watch their eyes and facial expressions to read the customer’s attitude.
In days gone by, this marketing triangle was a zero-sum game: Improving one area took away from another. Today you have to deliver on all three, while excelling on one. You can be as competitive on price as anybody, but as a lock professional, you excel in installation quality. And here’s the kicker: You also know where the two- and three-day turnaround is. Employees at DIY stores won’t know those trade secrets.
Another thing about price: DIY centers or big-box stores likely purchase from some wholesale distributor. By going through these channels, they won’t have a price advantage. Your big advantages are that you know where to get fast delivery, and you can install correctly.
After you’ve determined the customer’s actual preferences and time frame, you’re prepared to steer them to the appropriate products. The following is an overview of the strengths and target markets of leading players.
Baldwin has three lines that cover different markets. The Estate line is the premium custom series that includes Grade 1 mortise locks. These locks are targeted to high-end residential clients who want distinctive hardware that has higher levels of security.
The midlevel Baldwin product line is called the Reserve collection. Many of these Grade 2 tubular locks are priced more moderately and available for quick ship. The budget-price Prestige Series is easy to install and targets big-box stores and the DIY market.
Baldwin’s Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) finish is available on the Estate and Reserve lines. The PVD finish provides exceptional corrosion and ultraviolet protection. The lifetime warranty on the finish is particularly important in coastal areas that have salt air or extreme temperature and sunlight exposure. These often are resort locations.
As of press time, ASSA ABLOY was in the process of acquiring Baldwin and Kwikset, which would give ASSA ABLOY a much larger presence in the residential market and on the shelves at big-box stores.
Emtek is an ASSA ABLOY company that focuses on traditional and modern decorative hardware for the residential market. Emtek sells through the locksmith community, builder’s hardware suppliers and design centers. They don’t sell through big-box stores.
Two-day shipment is standard, because all items are assembled to order at the California warehouse. Any combination seen in the catalog can be assembled immediately. Working samples often are seen at local design centers.
Standard mortise locks, tubular deadbolts, latches and drive latches are shown in the price book. The Yale Expressions Grade III line also is available through Emtek.
Marks USA locks have been made in the Long Island, New York, plant since 1977 and are well-known in the lock community. Decorative hardware trim is shown in the Custom Lockset Catalog on the Marks website. The company sells to the locksmith community, to large users who have in-house lockshops and through contract-hardware dealers. Marks doesn’t market through big-box stores or residential design centers. The company focuses on larger construction or renovation projects in hotels, casinos and multifamily housing that have to meet higher traffic and security levels.
The Custom Lockset Division has a large selection of decorative levers and escutcheons for existing Marks mortise and tubular locks. These are primarily Grade 1 products for commercial duty. More than 200 custom lever styles are shown, in addition to escutcheons and knobs.
Omnia was founded in 1964 to bring quality Italian decorative hardware to North America at moderate prices. Distribution is primarily through lockshops, because they’re close to the customer and understand the critical details of door and hardware operation.
The extensive line of traditional and modern hardware includes tubular and mortise locks, multipoint lock trim, and decorative hinges. Although the locksmith focus is on residential and small- to medium-business customers, many hotels use Omnia products to help to create the desired modern or historic environment.
An interesting recent development is the Omnia partnership with the California-based Level brand smart deadbolt. This product has all components contained inside the deadbolt housing. It’s powered by a $4 CR2 lithium battery that lasts about a year in residential applications. The battery is hidden inside the projecting deadbolt, while the robust gear-driven drive mechanism and Bluetooth electronics are contained in the lock housing.
So what’s the business case for decorative hardware? HGTV shows do the expensive promotion. You can capitalize on this massive marketing machine when customers walk in for a key or call for a lock or door repair. Many of these projects will be a single door, but renovations generally will replace all door hardware — a nice job if you’re prepared.
A little training for your counter staff can go a long way toward making the sale. If your salesperson knows what’s in the images on your wall and catalogs on your computer and can ask a few simple questions, you stand to build additional business with near-zero overhead. Low overhead is always a great business model!
Cameron Sharpe, CPP, worked 30 years in the commercial lock and electronic access industry. [email protected]