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A quarter century of distribution

Mergers may have altered the landscape, but the net result is a more mature security industry


February 2, 2021
By Anita Brunet

SP&T News is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. We’ve invited guest columnists to share their memories of the past 25 years of the Canadian security and alarm industry — with a focus on how far we’ve come since 1996 and where the industry might be headed next.

Smoke in hand, Vic strolls into Tri-Ed to pick up an order that he had faxed over earlier that day — his stack of Sony VHS security surveillance tapes is ready
for pick up.

Anita Brunet

Twenty-five years ago, I couldn’t have imagined the changes that were to unfold within the security distribution space and within our industry.

At that time, a major distributor had just closed its doors for good, and Tri-Ed Distribution had emerged, opening 10 branches coast to coast.

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It’s hard to imagine today, but we only had one product line for sale when we first opened. However, it didn’t take long before we supplied 300+ vendors. I clearly remember the day we sold our first DVR for $24,000! Boy, did we celebrate.

Today, we would need to sell over 50 units to hit that number.

In 2014, Tri-Ed Distribution was acquired by Anixter and Anixter was acquired by Wesco last year — the most recent of many distributors acquired over the last 25 years. The synergy of the combined teams has proved to be a winning formula.

Many equipment manufacturers have also been acquired and rebranded over the years, most of which you wouldn’t recognize today. Their intellectual properties and technology are likely embedded into products still in use, their engineers and creators on the verge of retirement from the company that had acquired theirs.

Back then, home alarms were mostly hardwired, and were very costly, which created a significant barrier to entry for potential customers. This changed drastically once recurring revenue became part of the sale.

Large companies entered the marketplace using their deep pockets to completely subsidize the upfront cost of a home security system, banking solely on monthly revenues to build equity.

Today, with affordable systems and better technology, we still only have a 25-30 per cent saturation rate in home alarm systems. The evolution of the smart home and DIY will continue to propel our industry.

Analogue cameras were the standard and I distinctly remember when IP made its debut. There was doubt in its longevity from some of the CCTV manufacturers. It did take a while to catch on, but as more cost-effective technology translated into better image quality and ease of use — and field technicians gained experience — IP video was here to stay.

The ability to discern important clips through video processing or integration and remote access, to cloud-stored video from a phone, had an amazing impact and greatly expanded the marketplace. It is hard to fathom today technicians being paid for a service call to go on-site, review hours of time-lapse video through a multiplexer to help find a perpetrator, but that was how it was.

Technology and business models are not the only aspects of the industry that have evolved around us.
One manufacturer, catering to a male audience, thought shipping their products with calendars and posters of scantily-clad women was a great coup. That idea didn’t age particularly well with more women entering the security industry. Without a doubt, women have influenced and helped change the face of our industry, bringing a dimension that was lacking in its infancy.

Change is inevitable. While it’s sad to see the names disappear over the years, mergers and acquisitions have brought a level of professionalism and standards to our industry that was lacking 25 years ago. The industry has created product offerings and services that are better than ever. As the barrier to entry is eroding and big tech is lurking around, I think we will still be relevant as an industry for years to come.

I’m happy to say Vic has quit smoking and even learned how to “Zoom.” I no longer have to unroll the thermal paper from the fax machine and decipher his handwriting. He has placed his order online and the product is sit- ting in a 24/7 locker where it can be picked up at his leisure.

Anita Brunet is vice-president of Western Canada – Security Solutions, Anixter Canada (www.anixter.ca).


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