On the run up to the ISC West exhibition, held earlier this month (April) in Las Vegas, the Export Council of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) conducted exclusive research for SecurityNewsDesk to find out the thoughts of its member companies regarding the pivotal North American market which is still home to the world’s largest economy, the United States of America. Some of the headline findings from the survey range from the way that British businesses are starting to reap the rewards of strong growth across the continent to the fact that security integration and hybrid solutions are leading the charge on the security front.
Although as an earlier ‘State of the Nation’ study by the BSIA served to illustrate the US, in particular, is facing stiff competition from other areas such as Western Europe, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and China and the Far East for the attention of exporters, it is still very much on the radar having been ranked as important by 30% of respondents.
Drilling down into the key findings of the latest North American-specific research by the BSIA’s Export Council, of those surveyed, half of member companies said that they were active in the market. Considering the business levels seen in the region over the past year, the news is positive with an impressive 80% reporting an increase and only 20% flagging-up a fall-off in demand. The good news, moving forward, is that these figures are also mirrored in respondents expectations for the coming 12 months.
Of the countries making up North America, the US was way out in front when member companies were asked to rank each in terms of business importance, with eight of ten placing it top. Interestingly despite being only a tenth the size of its larger neighbour, proportionally Canada came out strongly securing top billing in 20% of cases. For its part Mexico failed to feature in the survey at all. Within the US the top geographical area was the Northeast on 66.7%. Another third reported that the South of the country was the most lucrative.
Turning to the security-related technology, or approach, which, in their view had the most impact in North America during 2014, it was a two-way split at the top between hybrid security solutions and integrated security. This is perhaps not too surprising as both reflect a growing trend in the market towards more flexible security systems that can actually talk to each other rather than sitting, isolated, in their own discrete silos. Of course enhanced interoperability also allows security provision to be expanded more readily when requirements change. Outside of this, turnstiles for corporate office foyers and lone worker devices were also mentioned as proving strong sellers for British exporters to the region.
Another aspect of the survey sought to find out if there are any special considerations or cultural differences that British exporters are having to take into account when working in North America. There was a resounding no to this question. Perhaps the reason for this is that a common language and similar approach to business makes the region one of the most straightforward for Export Council members to target. Added to this, the vast majority of those who completed the survey (66.7%) felt that it was more of an advantage than a hindrance being British when dealing with customers in the region, with only a third feeling it didn’t open any doors.
Questioned about the vertical markets across North America where they are seeing most traction, banking, critical infrastructure and healthcare shared top billing. Certainly there is much greater awareness of the need for enhanced security systems in banks, especially around ATMs and in branch. Given the volatile world we live in many critical infrastructure sites are, not surprisingly, also keen to ramp-up security. For hospitals, concerns over the safety of staff and patients in areas which are relatively open to the public is influencing new purchasing decisions.
Asked what factors customers were weighing up when deciding to buy a security solution, the three that were equally ranked by respondents were: initial purchase price, Return On Investment (ROI) and technological innovation. The big surprise here was that compliance with industry standards and ease of use didn’t register in the results.
With North America known for its major security exhibitions the survey sought to establish which of these members usually attend. ISC West was the clear winner here with all of those who responded saying that they exhibited there, also showing strongly was ASIS with two-thirds attending and a similar number made sure that the Security Canada events were in the diary. This last result underlining that the northern part of North American isn’t being overlooked.
Commenting on the findings of the North American research, Tom Sharrard, Vice Chair of the BSIA’s Export Council, said: “This research sends out a positive message that there are real opportunities for British security companies who want to do business in this important market. The fact that eight out of ten member companies who are active in the region have seen a surge in demand certainly bodes well for the future. Whilst the US may not be the dominant force it once was in terms of the share of global security business, given the expanding footprint of other fast developing regions, it remains very welcoming to British suppliers.
Tom Sharrard, who is also Regional Sales Manager at Integrated Design Limited, manufacturer of the Fastlane range of entrance control products, added: “In our company’s experience we haven’t found the American market to be parochial and would certainly encourage other member companies, who have not already done so, to look again at the export potential that can be unlocked here, especially given our shared language and security challenges.”