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Accurate Law Enforcement

By Jackie Rosselli

Anyone looking for police products is certain to find them at Accurate Law Enforcement. But don’t be fooled by the name; ALE is much more than an average uniform dealer.

First, Accurate Law Enforcement has a unique backstory, at least from the perspective of what Made to Measure readers have come to expect. Its owner, Vicky Harrison, opened the shop in 2005. “Customers at my other business asked me to start selling apparel, gear and other items, so I saw an opportunity and decided to open a uniform store,” says Harrison.

Law enforcement agencies from across the country trade their fired casings to Harrison’s other business, Southern Belle Brass. They receive credit to purchase needed products for the department from Accurate Law Enforcement.

Buying fired or empty brass is something that many shooting enthusiasts do, and thanks to the country’s growing interest in guns, the brass business is booming. At Southern Belle Brass, its stock comes exclusively from law enforcement. The brass isn’t processed but is sorted by caliber and color, and any cracked or bent casings are discarded.

Like many who got their start on the uniform side, Harrison was first introduced to the brass business by family. “I was helping out my brother at the time, buying brass for him, and I bought so much he thought I should open my own store,” she remembers. “And I did.”

And that one business has spawned another, thanks to the relationships established through Southern Belle Brass. “Because of the brass side, we have the opportunity to work with many of these agencies,” says Harrison.

Accurate Law Enforcement is located in Memphis, Tenn. The showroom makes up over half of the facility’s 5,500-square-foot space; an embroidery area and warehouse fill up the rest. ALE’s five-member staff includes Harrison’s son, Joseph, who serves as VP and helps oversee day-to-day operations.

ALE’s customer base includes police and sheriffs departments, the TSA, FBI, and fire industry, and it is actively pursuing the private security market. As previously mentioned, many purchases come about as the result of bids, but the shop does receive a fair amount of business from walk-ins.

The store carries many of today’s most sought-after brands, including 5.11, Blackhawk, Horace Small, Bates, Streamlight and Safariland. What’s the number one seller? “Our customers really love 5.11 brand products, especially their pants,” says Vicky.

Pricing is in line with the competition, so ALE distinguishes itself through service, offering customers an exceptional shopping experience. “An officer came in the other day to pick up his new duty gear, but didn’t know how to affix the items to the belt,” offers Joseph as an example. “So I took all the old gear off, put the new stuff in, and made certain he knew how to use it.”

There are other value-added services as well, including in-house embroidery, a must for a law enforcement dealer. And if a customer doesn’t have time to pick up his finished garments, ALE will get them to him no matter what. “We deliver to all local agencies, sometimes on the same day or by the next morning,” says Joseph.

Running a small business is, of course, not without its challenges. ALE tries to keep as much inventory on hand as possible, particularly from West Coast suppliers. “The freight costs can become burdensome,” notes Joseph. Still, it can be difficult to maintain stock.

Then there’s the catch-22 scenario many small distributors face. Vicky says, “If you’re not big, it’s hard to get discounts from manufacturers. But how do you get big without discounts?” There’s also pushback from suppliers who are sometimes reluctant to add a small dealer to its network of distributors.

Staffing issues are another hurdle. “It’s hard to find good dependable help,” says Vicki in a familiar lament.

The Harrisons are bullish on their current team though, taking their employees to the SHOT Show in January. “It was a first for us, but we thought the experience would help them better understand the business and feel invested in its future,” says Joseph.

That future includes branching out into markets beyond their niche. “We want to be a uniform shop, but we want to carry everything else,” says Vicky. ALE is the only authorized repair site in the area for Streamlight flashlights, and the service is used by both law enforcement and civilian customers. And recently, it’s taken on a number of area schools as customers, a result of the spate of highly publicized school shootings. “They’re buying uniforms, even body armor,” notes Joseph.

ALE also wants to tap into the corporate market. Vicky says, “We offer embroidery services, so why not?” Since many of these companies also need promotional products, plans are in the works to stock these items as well. “We can’t just limit ourselves to law enforcement. We need to think outside the box,” she says.

A savvy marketer, ALE uses various platforms to create buzz and attract new customers. Business is brisk on its ecommerce site, and a recent contest on Facebook produced great movement.

Last year, Vicky had the store certified as a woman-owned business, a designation she hopes will pay off in the future. “It’s only been a year, so it takes time to see results,” she says.

It’s also certified through the governor’s diversity program, a process Vicky says required much less paperwork. “The government sets aside a certain amount of work for minority businesses, and since we’re certified, we would have an edge over other businesses if the bids result in a tie,” explains Vicky.

And while they’re busy growing the business, they haven’t forgotten their connection to the community. They regularly participate in fundraisers for cancer research, including the Jason Motte Foundation’s Strike Out Cancer benefit, donating items to raise awareness. “It’s a way to help the community and get our name out there too,” says Joseph.

“We’re here for the long term,” adds Vicky. “We want to grow, and if that means thinking of ourselves as more than just a uniform store, so be it.”

 

Accurate Law Enforcement

3562 Summer Ave.

Memphis, TN 38122

(901) 774-9595

www.accuratelawenforcement.com