SCOTT SIMON, host:
Sentry Group is one of the nation's leading sellers of safes. Since its birth during the Great Depression, the Rochester, New York company has seen sales increase during times of economic turmoil. From member station WXXI, Julie Philipp reports on the impact of today's economic crisis on the company.
JULIE PHILIPP: About the same time Lehman Brothers was filling for bankruptcy and the Dow Jones Industrial Average began plummeting, Sandra McFarlane noticed something. Company sales were starting were starting to rise.
Ms. SANDRA MCFARLANE (Head of Marketing, Sentry Group): Actually, it did catch us a little bit by surprise.
PHILIPP: McFarlane heads up marketing for Sentry Group, most of its safes sent up in homes or small businesses. If you go to just about any of the nation's big-box discount stores, office superstores or do-it-yourself retailers, chances are you will find a Sentry safe. Sentry CEO Jim Brush tracks sales at several of the stores across the country.
Mr. JIM BRUSH (CEO, Sentry Group): And I saw an email this morning saying that a couple of our retailers were seeing month-to-date sales up 70 percent over prior year levels. Now that's a lot different from what we saw earlier in the year when our point of sale was, you know, up single digits.
PHILIPP: Brush says he can't prove it, but he thinks it's fairly obvious the recent spike in sales is due to people losing faith in banks. McFarlane says a safe is a more secure place for cash than, say, a mattress or a cookie jar. But she's hoping all these new safe buyers are not putting their life savings inside.
Ms. MCFARLANE: We see ourselves as offering protection for valuables to give peace of mind in uncertain times.
PHILIPP: Sentry markets its safes as protection from a short list of what they call perils. Banks are not among them.
Ms. MCFARLANE: That's not something that typically we would use as a peril. We go with fire, security and water.
PHILIPP: Glenn Miller spends most of his time driving around western New York installing locks and offering security advice. He's been doing it for 30 years. Lately, he has been selling a few more safes, too, so he's decided to put more advertising in the local newspapers. This isn't just to cash in on growing demand. He says he also wants to educate. He says too many people run into Wal-Mart and grab the first safe they see on display.
Mr. GLENN MILLER: You pick up a safe that weighs 150 pounds. They cost you $150. If someone gets into the house, they can just carry that safe away, write you a little thank-you letter while open in it later. They'll just carry it off on you.
PHILIPP: As for Miller, he says he believes in diversifying his assets. He's keeping some of his money in a safe, but only enough for emergencies. For NPR News, I'm Julie Philipp in Rochester, New York.