Dealers rally early to explore Smith & Wesson opportunities

Thursday, April 9, 2009

LAS VEGAS--Early morning activities on the second day of ISC West are not generally a huge draw, but an 8 a.m. Smith & Wesson dealer event proved an exception to that rule: 127 potential dealers showed up for a three-hour Smith & Wesson dealer information breakfast on April 2.

"No one left, everyone stayed and was engaged the whole time. We got a lot of positive feedback and many others who were not at the meeting stopped by the booth," said Wayne Wahrsager, Smith & Wesson Security Services CEO.

The Smith & Wesson team was overwhelmed with the turnout, he said. They'd received 100 responses, and expected 50 people to turn out.

Howard Avin, VP of sales & marketing for Smith & Wesson, gave an overview of the program, and industry attorney Ken Kirschenbaum gave a presentation. Potential dealers also heard presentations from Smith & Wesson partners DMP, Xtralis, Maxwell, Xanboo, and Post Direct, all of whom have designed special Smith & Wesson-branded products.

Smith & Wesson is offering dealers "semi-exclusive territories." Where some companies will have "50 to 80 guys in one territory," Wahrsager said, Smith & Wesson wants to have "two guys in a territory," the size of which will depend on demographics. Montana for example, will likely only have "two guys in the entire state," whereas more populous states will have more territories.

The ideal dealer will not be a rookie, Wahrsager, said. "We're looking for veterans who have existing businesses, are experienced, and are licensed within their areas," he said. "We are not looking for entrepreneurs. We need to protect our brand and survive into the future."

The goal, he said, "is to form a nationwide alarm company made up of independent dealers."

There are now 14 active dealers, located in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee and New York. Applications are being processed for dealers in several other states, and Wahrsager expects to have 10 more dealers on line by early May. All major areas in the United States should be covered by the end of the year, he said, and there are plans on the books to expand into Canada and Mexico in 2010.

The application and vetting process for new dealers takes roughly 60 days. Wahrsager attributes the high interest in the program primarily to the Smith & Wesson brand.

He also noted that some dealer programs have dried up, while other major dealer programs will be changing their names in the near future. The economy has delivered "a wake-up call to the security alarm companies that in difficult economic times it's important to align with a brand that will be sustained into the future," he said.

In addition, some dealers are realizing that they don't want to sell their accounts to a big company. "Dealers are realizing they need to build RMR, keep their accounts rather than sell them, and save for a rainy day."