Retail Results: Taking a Chance on Self-Storage

Like most of you, I look forward to industry tradeshows, which give me the chance to see old friends and associates and make new ones. These events also represent an opportunity to learn more about the business and the people who are making it grow as never before. For the most part, storage operators are a shrewd bunch that makes smart, level-headed decisions; but weve all met a few characters. As the ISS expo in Las Vegas approaches, I thought it would be fun to write about the quirky personalities you might encounter.

The Poker Player

Also known as Ole Stone Face, this is the guy who prides himself on playing it close to the vest. Offer him a new product or service and hell reply, If its so good, why hasnt everyone else bought it? Always the last to try something new, hell only take the plunge after others do so first. In his few unguarded moments, hell complain his business isnt as profitable as he hoped it would be. Hes well-liked by the other storage owners in his area, because they trap all his lost business!

The Craps Shooter

This guy cant grasp the difference between investing and gambling. To maximize his winnings, hell always buy low (cheap) and sell high (overprice). The only time hell pay more than rock bottom is when a vendor gives him a chance to win a prize with each order, which appeals to his avaricious nature. Could shoddy products cost him customers in the long run? Sure, but thats a risk hes willing to take.

Mr. Let It Ride

Question: How many of these guys does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Change? One thing this type has never been called is flighty. Once hes settled on a line of products and a supplier, he wont consider another. Hes loyal to a fault.

King of the Nickel Slots

This guy is so averse to investing in his business that hes never seen any dramatic growth. In an odd way, this pleases him because it confirms his opinion that the business is not worth the investment! Hes mystified at the concept of increasing profit through retail sales or facility upgrades. His favorite adage is Dont throw good money after bad. Most of the storage owners in his area dont even know he exists.

To anyone who might see a bit of himself in these descriptions, please forgive my oversimplification or exaggeration. One outstanding quality of this industry is the diversity of its members, which has contributed to its vibrant development. Whatever characters you encounter at the show, remember theyre like you in at least one regard: Theyre taking a chance on self-storage.

Roy Katz is the president of Supply Side, which distributes shipping packaging as well as moving and storage supplies. The company has developed merchandising programs for many leading companies including the U.S. Postal Service, The UPS Stores, Kinkos, Mail Boxes Etc., Uncle Bobs Self Storage and Extra Space Self-Storage. For more information, visit

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