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Retail’s Digital Revolution Starts With The Front Door

A SALTO XS4 ONE DL lock on a front door

The mechanical key has been opening doors for centuries, and for most of us, keys are something we never give a second thought. But for the nation’s retail owners, from big-boxes to local mom-and-pops, all those pieces of metal can be a headache and a serious drag on the bottom line.

Whenever a retail employee with a physical key leaves a job, a manager typically has to round up all of the keys that their employees have, change the locks and reissue new keys. At an average cost of $25 or more per key, the process can become staggeringly expensive for retailers with high employee turnover. 

Mike Mahon, senior vice president of commercial sales at SALTO Systems, a global leader in access control, describes how one client, a national bank with hundreds of locations, used to budget millions of dollars every year to “re-key” its many remote offices and branches.

His solution is for retailers to leave mechanical locks behind and move to electronic access control. With the need to re-key eliminated, retailers can return those millions to the bottom line.

“Before now, smart locking technology was being used in every type of commercial real estate except at the retail storefront,” Mahon said. “Now, in retail, electronic locks are taking over the market because of the return on investment, lower total cost of ownership, audit trail capabilities, and automatic door openings and closings.”

One of the main reasons that retailers have been slow to move away from traditional mechanical locks is aesthetics. The first generation of electronic locks needed to be connected to an external power source, requiring bulky and expensive wiring that ran from the door handle through its frame. For many retailers that wanted the clean look of full-glass doors, Mahon said, those early digital locks were a no-go. 

But now, electronic locks have eliminated many of those issues. SALTO, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of locks for commercial spaces, has recently updated its XS4 series, a suite of digital locks that run on batteries that last for years, eliminating the need for wiring systems. And with the same security and functionality of a wired lock, the XS4 ONE DL deadlatch lock is available at a fraction of the price of traditional access control systems. 

Making the switch to electronic access control systems means getting rid of the burden of re-keying for good. The XS4 series can use keycards or smartphones to control access. So with a tap on a smartphone or tablet, Mahon said, a manager can grant access to new hires and revoke access to employees who have moved on. 

“Metal keys can be very easily duplicated, and that’s a huge source of vulnerability and creates security concerns for business owners,” Mahon said. “Having an electronic lock allows owners or managers to simply remove a user’s access, thus eliminating any potential risks.”

The SALTO XS4 ONE DL from the front and the side

Electronic lock systems can also give managers a clearer picture of what is happening in their stores while they are away. SALTO provides a dashboard on which a manager can see that a store has been opened on time and make sure that the door is locked securely at the end of the day. Plus, managers can ensure that locations are not losing out on business by opening late or closing early. 

Electronic locking systems also offer retailers greater flexibility. Mahon said one of his clients, a chain of salons, needed to bring on an employee from one location to open the store at another location, and the regional manager was easily able to give the employee access to the second location, then remove the credential a few days later.

The ease of giving and revoking credentials makes digital locks especially useful in tourist destinations and college towns, areas that rely on heavy seasonal workforces and consequently see a great deal of employee turnover. But even shop owners with just a few employees can benefit from these systems. 

“Say you’re the only employee working at the store and you have to run into the back room for a moment,” Mahon said. “You can tap a button on your phone to lock the front door, then step out without having to worry about anybody coming in while you’re not watching.” 

As contact tracing efforts continue around the country, Mahon said, having a complete record of which employees opened not only the front door but back rooms and access doors is especially valuable. But while the coronavirus pandemic has made retailers focus on the importance of digital ways to control access to their locations, Mahon thinks that it has only accelerated what was already a fast-growing trend.  

“This is a true game-changer for the industry,” Mahon said. “Any retailer, no matter if they have one door to protect or tens of thousands, can use this technology.” 

This article was produced in collaboration between SALTO Systems and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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