The story of Norbain’s financial troubles is, from one installer’s perspective, a tale of gradual decline in service.
Kent and Sussex Security has used the company as key supplier of CCTV products since 1996 and always been “a fan”, says MD Geoff Hilton, largely on the strength of technical support and customer service.
“Unlike other suppliers we use, when it comes to warranty, returns or credit issues, Norbain have been generally very understanding, and have even leaned on manufacturers on our behalf when necessary.”
However, in recent times things have changed, he says.
“Our retrospective discount disappeared two years ago, the famous Norbain evening at IFSEC went this year, our established sales contact was made redundant and many of the services which were previously free – for instance, technical support, assistance with surveys, design help etc – they are now charging for.”
Even so, news of the acquisition by Newbury came as a surprise, he says.
“We first heard about Norbain’s administration and subsequent pre-pack in a SecurityNewsDesk release yesterday. We had no official announcement from Norbain but have since received one today after we had talked to our Norbain sales contact. It says little more than the SecurityNewsDesk release. The official word for customers is ‘business as usual’, as we might expect.” Hilton has been told that all Norbain UK-based staff are to be kept.
From a practical perspective, Mr Hilton says his first concern is whether returns and other outstanding credits will be honoured – and he expects that they will, purely on grounds of self interest. “If they have any sense, the new owners will want to honour existing customer obligations, even if they do not have to legally.”
His next worry is supply of equipment.
“My guess is that all the Norbain suppliers, from DM to Panasonic to Paxton, will be left nursing varying levels of Norbain debt,” he speculated, raising questions about future supplies. However, the message from a Norbain sales contact was, “If it’s on the shelf there should be no problem”.
So will this customer, at least, keep buying from Norbain? Possibly in the future, says Mr Hilton. “Our approach in the short term is to steer clear of Norbain and order from alternative wholesalers which, with the exception of Vista-branded equipment, we can do. We’ll give them time to stabilise the business and then we’ll see!”
After 16 years he admits he does still feel some loyalty to Norbain, but in business there is little place for sentiment – concerns for his own customers and employees must come first.