Do-It-Yourself security systems adding confusion to the market

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Installers may have been wary of security systems sold to the do-it-yourself market in electronic and home improvement stores in the United States, but the moderate success of one such program may calm some anxiety.

“A lot of dealers have been concerned over this,” said Steve Craig, director of sales and marketing at GE - the manufacturer of the SmartHome line sold at Circuit City, Lowe’s and Home Depot stores in selected cities. “They see it as a threat to their business when it’s actually not at all.”

GE is one of several companies entering the do-it-yourself arena in the retail market, selling products in big box retailers to the consumer. But the manufacturing giant does not anticipate the division will generate high revenue.

“We don’t expect this to be a big part of the business,” he said.

Craig says the program’s humble grasp of the market is largely due to the fact that the system is sold self-monitored - although monitoring has been offered as a tie-in in some stores through ADT Security Systems.

“The areas we’ve had more success in is when it’s tied to monitoring,” Craig said. “Ultimately, that’s what makes security happen.”

According to Ken Kocher, president of Force Security Solutions, the problem with do-it-yourself systems - GE’s version is a basic self-monitored wireless system with two-door motion - may not lie in the competition factor, but in the confusion it brings to the marketplace.

“I understand what they are trying to do and I applaud their efforts from a business standpoint,” Kocher said, “but let’s keep the consumer in mind who doesn’t know what they need from a security standpoint.”

The brunt of the confusion may stem from consumers who do not reognize the difference between a $300 GE system sold in retail stores versus one that is professionally customized and installed at a higher cost. In addition to that, the systems can be considered another version of mass marketing - a move that Kocher said affects the industry’s reputation.

“I am concerned with it devaluing the importance of security to the consumer and taking out the expert,” he said.

But some consumers, especially in the popular do-it-yourself age, feel as though an installing expert is a part they do not require. GE said its SmartHome systems specifically address this need.

“There is a difference between do-it-yourself and having a professional install a system,” Craig said. “The systems address that side of the market.”

This market has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade with the popularity of Home Depot and Lowe’s stores. Whether or not the sector continues to expand, Kocher said security is one thing that should not be left up to chance.

“You can’t take a cookie cutter approach to security especially in this day and age,” he said.