With over 500 stores nationwide, keeping track of all the keys required to lock and unlock product display cases at The Source by Circuit City had become more than a headache for the company’s loss prevention department.
Compounding the issue was that all those display cabinets that house digital cameras and other gadgets are
made by a limited number of manufacturers who, in turn, use locks from a handful of suppliers.
By Jennifer Brown
That means only a certain number of lock variations exist for all
In fact, senior director of loss prevention for The Source by Circuit
City, George Majkut, conducted his own test and found that in fact,
other retailers did have similar locks and keyways. There was the
potential that one cabinet supplier would buy basic locksets from a
supplier and there would be only six to eight keyways for those
cabinets. The keys were also easily duplicated.
“If someone wanted to, they could just go to a locksmith and have a key
cut, so we really had no control,” Majkut says.
The Source wanted to create a more secure system for not only
controlling keys in circulation, but making sure the goods contained in
the cabinets were more secure by having locks that were specific to
“Many times, these cheaper locks on the display cases only
have a handful of different combinations, so half the stores in malls
today have the same keys as other stores do for their display cases,”
says Dave Manser, sales representative with Service Excellence, a full
service door, glass and high security lock company based in Concord,
Getting display cabinets opened quickly for a shopper had also become a
customer service issue. When a customer would ask to see a product, the
sales rep would often waste valuable time fumbling with the key ring
trying to find the right key. If a store had six display cabinets, an
employee would have to go through six different keys on their keychain
to open a cabinet while the customer waited.
“It would take them 10 minutes or so to find the right key to open a
display case. In the meantime, the customer had lost interest and gone
somewhere else. They may have been losing sales because they couldn’t
get into these display cases in a timely fashion,” says Manser. “We
needed to find a product they could manage themselves in crisis
It was Manser who suggested two years ago that The Source invest in a
high security, three-in-one cylinder lock system with changeable
combination from Israel-based Mul-T-Lock, a subsidiary of Assa Abloy.
Since then, the system has been rolled out to all of The Source stores
across the country.
“With the Mul-T-Lock key, the patent is protected and they are
regionally protected as well, so if someone wanted to go from Ontario
to Manitoba and have a key cut, the dealers aren’t allowed to cut that
key, so they keep tight controls on who can cut the keys,” says Majkut.
Now, a store has one key to get into all cabinets but the locks are not
“We issue a certain number of keys per store and we
keep track of them in a log. An employee is able to have one key to
open up all the cabinets and provide better customer service,” says
If a store loses the first key in the three-in-one system the next set
of keys are sent out from head office. That second key — the yellow key
— will overrule the first green key and reset the lock. The green keys
are no longer valid and are returned to head office to be reset. The
locks are reset when the next key in the three-in-one series is
inserted into the lock cylinder. By turning it, a new mechanical
combination is generated through the mechanical set up of the pins in
the lock. All this is achieved without the store having to wait for a
“They can change all the locks and combinations in one of their
locations in a matter of minutes,” says Manser.
If a store loses the yellow key, the red key is sent out and, at that
point, a new set of locks is ordered for the store.
“For a store such as Vaughan Mills, we would have more locks than other
locations so we put two sets aside with instructions. They package up
the locks they have, install the new locks with new keys and
combinations and ship back the locks they took out. We re-pin those
ones and get them ready to go out to the next store that needs a change-over. It’s a really smooth transition that we can do at the drop of a
hat,” says Manser.
By having the system in place, The Source saves time in re-keying and
money in not having to arrange for a locksmith to go out to the stores.
“Each time we lose a key, this new system saves us having to call out a
locksmith and attending at the store,” says Majkut. “It’s a
significant savings because we’ve also gone into a process where our
front doors are keyed with Mul-T-Lock now so, if a manager loses a key,
the keys are kept with the main district manager. That way, if there is
a middle-of-the night call, they can handle it by the same process.”
Every Source store across Canada now has the three different
combinations and all of its stores are pinned differently, which means
there is not ”˜one’ code deployed across Canada — one key will not work
in another store in the country.
Manser credits Mul-T-Lock’s ability to scale the one-key system to
accommodate the number of stores in The Source chain.
manufactured a specific product to handle the number of combinations we
needed; basically they built upon an existing product that they had and
made it bigger in order to make all of those combinations available to
us,” he says.
By integrating existing products with new designs, each store in The
Source was given its own unique code, says Patrick Ogilvie, CPP,
corporate and industrial security representative with Mul-T-Lock in
“It gave them the ability to immediately eliminate a risk situation.
Success was achieved with both The Source’s commitment to reduce loss
and Service Excellence’s subject matter expertise and hands-on approach
to the application,” says Ogilvie.
Re-configuring the cabinet locks at stores across the country took
about two weeks. Majkut worked with Manser and Ogilvie on the project.
Together, they created a package for the stores that contained complete
instructions on how to re-key the cabinets.
“We created a good set of instructions on how to install the locks —
they aren’t rocket science to install — and we rolled it all out to the
individual stores and they installed the locks themselves. That’s how
easy the rollout went,” says Manser.
The keys are stamped with the Service Excellence company logo along
with a toll free number that goes to Service Excellence. If the keys
are found, then the 1-800 number is called and SE fields the call.
“We’ve probably recovered about 10 sets of lost keys that The Source
had no idea were missing in the first place,” says Manser.
In one instance, Service Excellence received a call from an RCMP
officer in Kamloops, B.C. who had recovered one of the keys from
someone the officer had taken into custody. After making a late-night
call to Service Excellence, it was determined the keys had fallen into
the wrong hands.
“When a set of keys is found, we make arrangements for a Source
employee to retrieve the keys; we don’t tell the caller what the keys
are for or who they belong to,” says Manser, noting that the key
database is managed jointly by The Source and Service Excellence.
By handling the calls that report lost keys, Service Excellence takes
on the responsibility of retrieving and managing the lost keys and
notifying each store, which means one less issue Majkut has to worry
about in the middle of the night.