Midwestern Retailer ‘Unlocks’ the Smart Home Market Using Kwikset

Sherman’s in central Illinois constructs large demo wall in its appliance stores to engage clients with smart home technology.


Since 1976, Sherman’s has been a retail fixture in central Illinois selling appliances, electronics, furniture and mattresses, but what many of its customers may not know is that the company has also had a thriving custom installation division since 2005.

“The custom installation department has previously been hidden upstairs out of the way doing its own thing,” admits Doug Lehr, sales manager for the custom installation division.

Sherman’s, which has three retail storefronts in central Illinois (Normal, Peru and Peoria), sells appliances, electronics, furniture and mattresses. The custom division generates its own sales, but also installs equipment that is sold over the counter from the retail stores, like soundbars or TVs. The group does long-term projects for new construction as well. The headcount in the division can fluctuate between eight or nine individuals, consisting of a base group with Lehr, a project manager, an installation manager and four technicians.

But the capabilities of Sherman’s Custom Electronics are not “hidden upstairs” any longer.

“One of the things we have done right in the middle of the main sales floor in two of our showrooms is put in a Smart Home wall,” say Lehr. “We have lots of customers that pass by the wall on the way to the appliances or the bathrooms.”

The wall incorporates the Kwikset products, along with Control4, Lutron, QMotion and Sonos among others. Either on their own or with the help of a salesperson, customers can play with the equipment on the wall to control lights and doors … there is even a small door with a glass window that represents a garage door that actually moves up and down. There are small placard signs on the wall to describe what each of the keypads does.

Doug Lehr, sales manager for Sherman's Custom Electronics, says customers like the ability to edit their own user names and set access permission levels on the Kwikset smart door locks. 

“We are trying to introduce on more of a mainstream level to our customers what a smart home is. We are in the process of training two to three salespeople in each store to be specialists in demos. We want to guide the conversation to smart home technology when customers are looking at TVs and audio systems so they become more aware of the services we offer,” says Lehr.

He adds, “We want people to pick up the remote control, play with the touchscreen and operate the Kwikset door lock. We have a written sales script to step customers through the wall just like they are arriving home from a day at work turning on lights, music and their favorite TV channel just by plugging their code into the Kwikset door lock.”

Kwikset Locks Central to Sales Conversation

Kwikset locks are an integral part of Sherman’s smart home offering.

“We have been a Control4 dealer since 2007 and the first Kwikset lock integration came within a couple of years of that,” notes Lehr. He started out using the Kwikset SmartCode 910 Pushbutton Deadbolt with Home Connect and has since evolved to the new SmartCode 916 Touchscreen Deadbolt. Overall, about 50 percent of all Sherman’s home control installations include Kwikset locks.

“With the drivers for Control4 that have been developed for the Kwikset line, it has just gotten better and better. We have a bunch of them installed in the field. I have had it in my own home for a long time. That has always been part of my pitch to customers about the product … I can tell them how when my son comes home from school and he plugs in his code, I get a text message. I show clients a video of how the system works from our website all the time. I tell them how much easier the product makes my life,” he says.

The smart locks are central to sales conversations with new customers, according to Lehr.

“Whenever customers are looking for some way to automate their home, the Kwikset door lock is one of the first products that comes up in the discussion. That leads us to lighting control, then HVAC control, and so on. Even with all the marketing out there, people are not aware of home automation and what a custom electronics professional can do for them,” he says.

10-Minute Installation Time

Lehr says Sherman’s has had success with the Kwikset locks on many levels.

“The new Control4 driver is awesome because customers can now edit their own user names and their access permission levels for other people [such as housekeepers], so we don’t have to do that programming for them anymore.  We certainly did not mind getting paid to do that programming, but there are a lot more functions that clients can now do themselves. Also, the ability of the lock to generate text messages about an event is fantastic. Finally, Kwikset has an excellent warranty. We have had a few that faced the sun most of the day and the finish faded. Kwikset just sent us whole new locks. They are super-easy to deal with.”

In general, Lehr says the door locks take a single technician only 10 minutes to install.

“We never have problems. In fact, on our last project we had an installer put one in as his first task on his first day on the job and he did not have any problems at all,” he recalls.

The smart door locks not only have made for easy installation for Sherman’s technicians, but customer feedback is high.

“The feedback from homeowners is always positive. They like the available finishes. They comment frequently that it matches their other handle sets. One of the other features that homeowners seem to gravitate to is the ability to re-key their own locks and to match all the locks with the SmartKey® feature. We will let clients choose between the Kwikset and the Yale, but that smart key feature is the biggest reason that most customers select Kwikset over competitive locksets,” says Lehr.

Customers are invited to engage with the demos on the Smart Home demo wall in two of Sherman's retail stores.