MOST OF YOU HAVE AT LEAST VAGUE RECOLLECTION OF THIS 1979 PRETENDERS HIT IN WHICH CHRISSIE HYNDE PULLS OUT ALL THE STOPS to get her muse to see how "special, so special" she really is. She croons, "I feel inventive. I'm gonna make you notice ... I'm gonna make you see, there's nobody else here, no one like me..."
She's got brass in pocket, baby.
And so do many self-storage operators these days. Unlike Chrissie, they're not using their arms, legs, style or sidestep--well, not per se--but they are indeed using their imaginations to capture market share and more consumer dollars. I'm talking about specialty storage. While this genre used to be limited to records management and boat and RV storage, in recent years, it has expanded to include the storage of wine, art, antiques, vintage cars, memorabilia and more. With innovation, self-storage has really blossomed.
The most important element to deciding whether a storage specialty may be right for your facility seems to be location--not only the geographic area, but the cultural milieu of the immediate neighborhood. Let me give you a couple of examples. A facility along the California coast offers high-security boat storage to capture overflow from a nearby marina. A Las Vegas facility caters to a high population of retiree, RV enthusiasts. A facility in Napa Valley harvests profits from local wine aficionados storing their collections. And here's my personal favorite: Hollywood Storage Center in Newbury Park, Calif., owned by the founder of the Hollywood Wax Museum, provides a new storage offering called The Vault, a safety-deposit space for consumers who need to store pricey art, antique collections or other valuables. (See the detailed facility spotlight.)
Specialty storage is not for everyone. If you haven't the time, money or inclination to research, cultivate and market it, you're better off steering clear. Don't approach it half-heartedly--you'll only create frustration for you and your tenants. But those of you in amenable areas, who have the space and marketing savvy, can't go wrong. Read in this issue articles on the possibilities of boat and RV storage (including how to market it), the legal liabilities of wine storage, and how mobile storage becomes less of a competitor and more of an ally to standard self-storage stores.
Look at the state-of-the-art facilities in your area. Have they tapped into a special niche you'd like to be part of? If so, what are you willing to do to get your facility noticed? With a little tenacity and inventiveness, you can all have more brass in your pockets.
Teri L. Lanza