What do Tri-Ed customers think of merger with Northern?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

WOODBURY, N.Y.—By virtue of its nearly 40 branch locations, it’s fair to say that Tri-Ed’s face-to-face interaction with its customers is considerably larger than Northern Video’s. Though Northern Video touches its customers at road shows and trainings, Tri-Ed has a reputation for BBQs and branch events that get the dealers out of the offices and mixing with employees.

So, what do Tri-Ed customers think of the merger with Northern Video?

Tim Creenan, CEO of Amherst Alarm, who uses Tri-Ed’s Buffalo branch, said it’s a little too early to tell. “I saw that it happened,” he said, “but I don’t know what it means to them or to me, whether it’s good or bad.” However, he agreed that adding Northern’s video capabilities made sense considering the path his business is taking. “Absolutely we see video as a growth market,” Creenan said, “and there’s probably some different lines that they’ll have available that we previously couldn’t get from them.”

Further, he said Northern was never going to do well in Buffalo otherwise. “We also buy quite a bit from ADI,” he said. “We have loyalty to both of them, and they each have separate product lines that we use. We get great service out of both of them, and the locations for both of them are ideal, and that’s made it extremely difficult for someone like Northern Video to get any business out of us. The locations are just minutes away.” He said he’d rather pay a little bit more, and get it right away, than have to wait for something to be shipped to him.

Al DeMarzo, owner and president of DFW Alarms, which uses the Dallas Tri-Ed location, said the brick-and-mortar nature of Tri-Ed’s business was also very important to him. “One thing that might seem selfish,” he noted, “is that with these locations, you’ve got a meeting place you can use, maybe have an association meeting, or having a training session with a vendor looking to hawk their newest wares.” Further, he said, “you can come in and you can touch and you can play ... If I don’t see it, I probably won’t consider it.”

“But, then again,” he said, “I’ve been in the industry a long time. I don’t know how the younger guys feel about this.”

Jason Sokol, operations manager at Monitor Controls and president of CASIA, uses Tri-Ed’s Milford, Conn., brand and said he welcomed a more competitive atmosphere in distribution and felt the combination of Tri-Ed and Northern would give dealers like him more choice in how they like to buy. “Over the phone is primarily how we buy,” Sokol said, “but the stop by to the store is important also for those last-minute emergency situations.” Plus, he agreed it’s nice to have a meeting place. “I’m going to be at Tri-Ed this weekend,” he said, “for an NTS level one class.”

Both Creenan and DeMarzo agreed on another point: Tri-Ed’s longstanding position of only selling to the dealer channel is very important to them. 

“We would not do business with somebody that’s selling to the general public,” Creenan said flatly.

“Yeah, it’s extremely important to me,” Creenan agreed. “If I were to find they were selling to the public, I would stop using them immediately. And I think that goes fairly universal here in Dallas. They know well from their dealings with the alarm industry that that’s an important thing to a lot of us.”

Sokol wasn’t quite so adamant: “Clamping down on selling to anyone over the Internet, that helps us to a certain degree, but I’d probably still use them anyway.”