Staff Photo by Shane McMillan -- Brothers Craig, left, and Tim Bankston from Rick's Lock and Key move a 700-pound safe to a home in East Brainerd on Tuesday. With the recent economic uncertainty the sale of safes has soared, causing shortages in supply and waiting lists at some retailers.
As the economy founders and some banks falter, some people want their own at-home banks to secure their money.
At-home safes are selling at a brisk pace, with local shops reporting a 10 percent to 20 percent rise in sales. Nationwide, one safe manufacturer said sales are up between 12 percent and 18 percent.
“It’s hard for us to keep safes on the floor right now,” said Rick Napier, owner of Rick’s Lock and Key in East Brainerd. “I guess people are wanting to keep their money at home right now. They don’t trust the banks.”
However, one Chattanooga bank executive cautioned against stashing their cash at home.
Keeping large sums of money at home could make a residence a target for theft, said Frank Hughes, president of Cornerstone Community Bank. The safest place for cash, he said, still is the bank vault.
“It’s still currency. If someone takes it, there’s no getting it back,” Mr. Huges said. “In a bank, you have all of our security, all our cameras, our very secure vault, and if something happens to your money, it’s going to be insured by the government no matter what.”
Still, Mr. Napier said sales at his shop are up about 10 percent from last year.
Over at AAA Lock and Key on Ringgold Road in East Ridge, sales are up by 20 percent compared to this time last year, said manager David Lowery.
It’s not just a local trend. Tim Reeves covers 22 states as sales representative for American Security Products, the nation’s largest safe manufacturer.
“The last time I saw an effect on the marketplace like this, it was in the run-up to the year 2000,” Mr. Reeves said. “During the Y2K craze, everyone bought safes ... to put all their money in.”
Now, consumers are buying the safes to hold just a portion of their money or to protect investments in precious metals, he said.
These aren’t the cheap $20 lock boxes, either. The cheapest model is $95 for a small safe not designed to withstand fire which could hold small amounts of jewelry or perhaps a pistol, according Mr. Reeves.
But the average price is in the $500 to $1,000 range. Those models will protect items in a house fire for as long as an hour, have a half-inch steel plate door and can be bolted to the floor.
Insurance companies may offer coverage for up to $20,000 for money and items stored in a safe built to those specifications, Mr. Reeves said. Insurers will offer protection for even larger sums of money or valuables, depending how well the safe is made, he said, and prices for such safes can go as high as $11,000.
Even though sales are up, Mr. Napier and Mr. Lowery said they hadn’t experienced a mad dash of customers, and that’s mostly because safes still are relatively pricey.
“I think that bank scare put the fear in people,” said Mr. Lowery. “But people still aren’t spending a lot of money ... for a real safe, they aren’t cheap.”
But safe sales may be more recession-proof than other industries — especially other retail trades.
“Our business hasn’t really suffered as a lot of the other ones around town,” Mr. Napier said. “When the economy gets bad, people want to lock up everything. Locksmiths do good business when it’s like this.”
Said Mr. Reeves: “I hate to say this, but when things are bad for other people, business is good for us.”
Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...