(last updated July 2019)
What has been happening in the security installation sector
Crime survey figures published by the Home Office show that crime rates have been falling consistently from the mid 1990s to the present time. However, these figures cover all types of crime. Police data for the year ended June 2017 show that there was a rise of 21% in domestic burglaries and 11% in thefts. Just as important as the published figures, however, are people's perceptions of the level of crime. For example, media coverage about rising crime rates due to the economic crisis following the banking collapse in 2008 was not supported by the Home Office figures, which showed that property crime actually continued to fall even during the worst of the crisis. Despite this, many people remained worried about crime in general and domestic burglary in particular. The publicity given to the police data for 2017 and the continued rise in the number of burglaries in 2018 can be expected to help sales of alarm systems.
A buoyant housing market - as occurred up until 2007 - is helpful to security system installers. People often upgrade a system when they move home and newly built houses are increasingly fitted with alarms from the outset. However when the housing market slumps, as it did from 2008 until starting to pick up again in 2013, there are fewer property transactions and the number of new builds also generally falls. The number of housing transactions grew modestly from 2013 to 2016 but slumped again in 2017 after the vote in 2016 to leave the EU. In 2018 the number of housing transactions was lower than in 2016 and 2017, and well below the peak achieved in 2007. Little change is expected in 2019.
Growth in the construction industry was subdued during 2016, 2017 and 2018 and little change is forecast for 2019. New private industrial orders have been falling and growth has been dependent on an increase in infrastructure activity and private housebuilding offsetting a sharp fall in the commercial and industrial sectors. This pattern is expected to continue into 2019.
Despite the expectation of subdued growth and some pessimism about the future, it appears that the housing market will continue to provide work for burglar alarm fitters, now and into the future, although it seems likely that there will be fewer opportunities in the commercial and industrial sectors until the economy picks up.
The home security market is well established and in certain areas a high proportion of homes will already be fitted with some kind of alarm system. Due to the maturity of the market, it is becoming increasingly important to encourage homeowners and commercial clients to upgrade their existing security systems to newer models that incorporate new technology. Fitting - and using - a home security alarm is sometimes a requirement of a home insurance policy.
The Security Industry Authority (SIA) regulates the private security industry and licenses those working in the sector. Although security alarm installation is not a licensable activity, 'key holding' is. This is where a person has custody of or controls access to any key or similar device for operating any lock. A 'front line' or 'non-front line' licence is required depending on the activities carried out. If you operate an alarm receiving centre, there may also be a requirement to be licensed if the nature of your role falls within the definition of manned guarding. You can find out more about licensing requirements on the SIA website.
The requirement for residential landlords to fit their premises with smoke and carbon monoxide alarms - and to carry out periodic checks - potentially creates a diversification opportunity for the specialist security installation sector.
Bearing in mind the current trends in the sector and your local market conditions, you will have to decide whether:
- there is sufficient demand in your area to support your proposed business
- you will be able to compete against other local businesses offering security system installation
- you can identify a particular niche in the market in which you can specialise
- you will offer additional services to attract customers
- you will be able to weather the current challenging economic conditions
Keep up to date with developments
The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) is the professional trade association for the sector in the UK. The BSIA website contains details of many publications and fact sheets of interest to the security industry.
The International Professional Security Association (IPSA) is an international organisation for those involved in industrial or commercial security. Visit the IPSA website for more information.
You will be able to obtain a lot of useful information if you go to a trade show for the security sector such as IFSEC or Security and Policing. You will be able to learn about the latest developments, meet manufacturers, suppliers and importers of equipment and plan your future stock buying. Visit the websites for further information.