I’ve been associated in one way or another with the locksmith trade for 41 years and have seen so many changes that it would take 100,000 words to detail them so change is not new to me nor is disaster and disappointment. Undoubtedly Covid-19 is a disaster in many ways, some tragic and amongst those who have lost their lives or livelihood are a fair number of our own friends and associates in the trade who were busily jogging along before February/ March changed our lives.
Now, we are coming out of the worst and we are told to adapt to the “new normal”. What might that be?
For some time, there will be less competition even though many of us are a man-with-a-van and can spring back into action immediately. But some have fallen by the way as government assistance was limited to the more orthodox businesses occupying business premises and a PAYE salary scheme.
For some time, there will be less work as many businesses remain shut or will recover slowly. That means that the most versatile and well-equipped locksmith is at an advantage as he has a wider skills and product range. That applies particularly to auto locksmiths who are the most equipment-heavy in the trade. So, it is just as well that Bounce-Back loans were made available and we see many have taken advantage of those to acquire some much-needed and advanced equipment – we sold well over a dozen sophisticated diagnostic machines in one week. At a very low interest rate, a repayment and interest holiday of a year and it is almost like free money as repayments can extend for 6 years. We noticed a lot of purchases linked to those loans that we might never have seen. I suppose that others bought new vans and that brings me to another phenomenon – the increased use of old vehicles.
Commuting has changed in several ways. Quite a lot of public transport services are cancelled or reduced. Capacity of trains and buses is reduced even when they do run. Even though a portion of the work-force will be temporarily unemployed or working from home there are other who need to get to work and the old car used occasionally for pleasure of shopping is now a daily method of getting to work. I heard a used car dealer one Tuesday morning on LBC claiming that on the Monday he had sold 42 cheaper cars to commuters! Now we know that on average cars and vans will have a key or lock incident every 6 years. With more older cars on the road that means more such work, but many jobs would be out of proportion to the value of the car and we can’t all afford to work in the lower end and less profitable category of jobs. You need to think of an overall strategy about the work you can and should accept. Don’t be a “busy fool”.
Another new situation is that the number of people who are not only working from home but also developing a home-based business is mushrooming. For example, we have noticed a sharp increase in engraving machine sales to people who are developing jewellery or ID tag businesses. That offers some job possibilities for the locksmith as many of them will be working with precious metals and semi-precious stones – safes, door video security and the like.
It maybe that after the final severance from the EU on 1st January next that some equipment and consumables may increase in price due to new tariffs. That certainly doesn’t mean you should lay in a stock of consumables but it does mean that delaying vital equipment purchase may be costly.
What I am trying to illustrate is that the New Normal is not a work desert but an opportunity to think smart. Apart from that the recovery of business activity, even with some businesses fatally wounded, is about 1% a month at present. If that trend continues, we will be at full steam (on a slightly different track) in just over one year.
Sum up – when the Going gets Tough, the Tough get Going.