Self-storage has evolved over the years. Not only does it offer space for personal or business storage, it has become a retail center that sells boxes, locks and packing supplies.
Some stores even offer personal mailboxes, faxing services, car washes, rental trucks and even UPS shipping. Your facility might not offer all of these services, but I can almost bet you do sell some retail product. If you don't, you are missing added revenue that could increase your profits by $200, $400 or more every month.
With the spring and the summer months approaching, now is a good time to take a serious look at the services and goods you offer. For most of you, this is probably a very active time at your facility with people moving in and out on a daily basis. These people need locks for their units, some boxes, a marker to label boxes, mattress pads, maybe some rope, box tape or more. You need to take stock of the items you currently have on hand, estimate inventory based on last year's sales, and place an order for the supplies you need. If you place an order now, it will give you plenty of time to receive and display these items.
When was the last time you took a really good look at your retail area? I bet it's been awhile, so do so now. Are price stickers items faded and old, or are items even priced at all? When was the last time you dusted your boxes? Are they old and tired looking? Is it time to put out new ones? If your office is big enough for a retail display but you don't have one, consider purchasing a professional display from one of the retail suppliers. These make it easy to showcase retail items in an appealing manner. Is it time to rearrange the items you do sell? Make the area "visible" again. Clean everything in and around your display. Make it attractive!
I have seen some facilities use very unique displays, including a lighted sign with a clear front bolted to the side of the building near the office door. This display included locks and one side of several different size boxes with prices. In facilities with very small offices, I have seen boxes bolted to a plywood cart with wheels that was pushed out every morning and placed near the door. Just keep an open mind and think of ways to display these items instead of how and why you can't. You can always find space to display them if you try.
Once you have cleaned and arranged retail items and ordered new inventory, how do you market them to the public? One option is to hang a banner outside the office that reads, "We Sell Moving Supplies." If you have a marquee-type sign, express a similar message on it. If you can't hang banners due to code restrictions in your area, get a sandwich-board type of display you can put in front of your facility daily. People driving by will often stop and purchase moving supplies even if they don't need storage. When they do need storage, they will come to you, of course, because you were helpful and offered them great customer service when they purchased their supplies.
What about your Yellow Pages ad? Does it tell people you offer packing and moving supplies or other ancillary services? What about any ads or fliers you distribute? Maybe you include a starburst on all advertising that reads, "We Sell Boxes," which draws attention to the fact you offer more than just storage.
How about your telephone presentation? Do you make it a habit to state in your telephone sales that you offer retail items to make the caller's move easier? You should. Does your phone-hold system play music or messages when a caller is placed on hold? Purchase a system that will allow you to make your own commercials in which you can state your office hours, gate hours and the fact that you offer moving and packing supplies. Do you have an intercom system for your interior hallways? If so, make a tape or CD with a commercial that plays every 15 to 30 minutes telling those tenants onsite you offer retail items for sale.
Don't forget to ask each new rental if he needs a lock or some boxes. This simple question can increase the retail sales at your facility. It is fairly customary in this industry to offer some type of move-in special to new tenants. But it doesn't always have to be free rent. Consider offering a free lock, or a moving-supplies package of three or four boxes and a roll of tape. You can also offer a moving-and-packing supplies shopping spree of $25 for each new move-in. Packages can be pre-made and displayed right in your entry with a sign that reads, "Each new move-in receives these items!"
Selling moving and packing supplies does not take nearly as much time or effort as offering rental trucks, mailboxes or faxing services. Every facility can find some space in its office to display retail items. Just remember, displaying them is only half the battle. Letting people know you have these items for sale by mentioning them in your ads and telephone sales will help sell these retail items and increase profits at your facility.
Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management®, a nationwide manager-placement service. Mini-Management also offers full-service and "operations only" facility management, training manuals, inspections and audits, feasibility studies, consulting and training seminars. For more information, call 800.646.4648.