Mission: Profitable!

Ever-shrinking electronic equipment, and a new appetite for voyeurism has fueled steady sales for electronic suveillance equipment store SpyWorld Electronics

November, 2000

Ever-shrinking electronic equipment, and a new appetite for voyeurism has fueled steady sales for the electronic surveillance equipment store Spyworld Electronics.

Sandwiched in between episodes of television’s runaway hit “Survivor” and its nosy sister show “Big Brother,” you might have seen a commercial for Spyworld Electronics, an Aiea store that sells surveillance equipment. At first the commercial may seem odd and out of place on prime-time television, but then considering the shows you’ve been watching, it seems wholly appropriate.

America likes to watch. “Reality-based TV shows had a definite effect on my sales,” says Brad Ishii, owner of Spyworld Electronics. “In fact, I know for a fact that a few people who run Internet voyeurism-type sites have purchased their cameras from my shop.”

The Aiea-based Spyworld Electronics has been steadily generating gross sales of roughly $75,000/month since late last year. Ishii saw an untapped market in surveillance equipment and decided to capitalize on it. He opened Spyworld in 1998 on a hunch that if he built it people would come.

Whether he knew it or not, Ishii‘s hunch was well founded. According to Security Distributing and Marketing magazine, in 1999, revenue for security dealer and installer firms reached $15.23 billion, a 5.2 percent increase from 1998. Much of these new sales are being fueled by ever-improving technology that is shrinking equipment and prices.

Traditionally used only by professional private investigators, Ishii says that spy gadgetry has general public appeal as well. “People have always been curious about the unknown, it’s just that technology is making the unknown more accessible. The people who want to protect their property and loved ones are who I’m targeting with my commercials.” Besides people’s desire to know more about the unknown, worries about local and national crime has had a direct influence on Ishii’s sales. “I have people telling me their wife’s cheating on them, or their neighbor’s dog keeps dumping in their yard, or someone’s stealing sodas out of their house,” says Ishii.

While Spyworld has been profitable since day one, Ishii felt that his sales had reached a plateau and he decided to make a creative attempt to jump start revenue. “I’ve committed myself to $40,000 in television advertising,” he says. “Most of our customers come by word of mouth. I want to see what more we can do with the ads.”

Leroy Araujo of Waipahu says that he might never had found Spyworld if it weren’t for the TV ads. “I’ve always been worried about crime in my neighborhood, so the ad caught my attention,” he says. “I bought one of the outdoor video cameras, and it was a small price to pay for that feeling of security.”

Whatever the customers’ needs may be, Spyworld offers a variety of products for these wannabe spies. Vaguely resembling a Hollywood prop room, the 1,200-square-foot shop is filled with gadgets made popular by movies such as Mission: Impossible and Enemy of the State. There are body microphones ($149), night-vision binoculars ($799), even tone-altering voice changers similar to the one used in the teen-slasher flick Scream. Mini-cameras, however, are the must-have gizmo for aspiring security pros. The cameras are called pinholes because their miniscule lens can literally fit into a pinhole. The cameras can be hidden in and disguised as regular household items such as clocks, pens, stereos and much more. They can even be custom-installed, space permitting, into practically anything. They are regularly priced at $249, during which Ishii sells an average of 45 a month. About once a year, however, the model goes on sale for a more pocket-friendly $149. That’s when sales really start to increase. “When those are on sale we sell about 100 per month,” says Ishii.

However, using surveillance equipment you buy at Spyworld may have its complications. A private investigator with Covert Investigative Agency, who wished to remain anonymous, says that the purchase of surveillance equipment by the general public offers limited benefits. “They can buy the products, but once they have the evidence, what are they going to do with it?” he says. “Do they know, or are they concerned with the privacy laws?”

It is not of great concern to Ishii. He does not encourage misuse of anything he sells and says his products are intended for protection and novelty purposes. Perhaps we’ll just have to tune into Court TV to find out what happens.

 

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