Turkish sales of security safes explode as citizens keep cash at home

Sales of security safes for homes and offices have exploded as more Turks elect to keep foreign cash and gold close at hand.

Producers, many of which are based in the eastern city of Gaziantep, have been selling around 4,000 safes per month compared with 1,000 before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in March, Dünya newspaper reported on Thursday citing businessmen active in the sector.

“People who used to buy small safes are now starting to buy larger, high security units for homes and offices,” said Orhan Kıratlı, the chairman of Kıratlı Çelik Kasa, one of Turkey’s largest producers established in 1943.

Turkey’s economy was recovering strongly from a currency crisis in the summer of 2018 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in mid-March. Since then, consumer confidence has slumped to record lows and many Turks have turned to the dollar and gold as safe havens for their savings. The lira hit an all-time low of 7.41 per dollar this week, taking losses since January to almost 20 percent.

Kıratlı said his firm’s stocks of safes at sales offices and warehouses in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Gaziantep were now completely exhausted. The company has opened a new production line for high security safes, but it is still telling customers they must wait 15 days for delivery, he said.

Demand for safes is increasing because of COVID-19 and after the Turkish authorities instructed banks to tax deposit holders for holding foreign currency, said Haluk Dündar, chairman of safe-maker Kasataş. That means more people are now electing to keep their cash at home, he said.

The incentive to keep foreign currency in Turkish banks is also compromised by interest earnings.

The interest rate on dollar deposits carrying a withdrawal notice of 32 days or more at İşbank, one of Turkey's biggest non-government banks, is 0.1 percent annually, irrespective of the amount invested. The rate is 0.06 percent for the so-called time deposits of 28-31 days.

Cemal Bulut, the chairman of Çınar Safe in the city of Gaziantep, said the coronavirus pandemic had created an “atmosphere of insecurity” meaning people now preferred to store cash in their houses rather than keeping it elsewhere.

The price of safes in Turkey typically varies between 150 liras and 5,000 liras, Dünya said.

(Story was updated with dollar deposit rates in seventh and eighth paragraphs.)