European Storage and Security

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The European self-storage market is moving full-steam ahead. This expansion has been highly anticipated for years. Offering superior security creates a strong, competitive marketing advantage. It’s a lesson the European self-storage industry can learn from the U.S. experience.

Most self-storage facilities built in the United States and Europe are geared for every type of occupant. The customers range from short-term transitional renters to long-term commercial clients, and to even people like me, who need an extra garage or closet to store their valuables for an extended time. When I needed a place to store my custom motorcycle, I looked for a facility that has all available modern security features and a management team that was attentive to all aspects of their site.

Most operators in the United States have discovered the detriments of a shoddy security program. Although it is a renter’s responsibility to secure his belongings, it is the facility owner’s responsibility to provide safe and secure surroundings.

Security features can create a marketing advantage that separates you from your competition. The long-term customers who store their business tools or prized possessions look for extra security features. These customers are looking for additional security measures and are willing to pay a little more for it.

The extra security features begin at the entrance of your facility. The site should have a welcoming appearance but still have visual signs of security in place. Access-control points are key for controlling unauthorized vehicles from entering your site.

The first step in security is keypadcontrolled access linked to your propertymanagement system. By linking access to your system, you can record trips for each renter. If you install surveillance cameras, make sure you have at least one to scan and record vehicle license plates. A second camera could scan the driver. Since recording the duration of visits is important for security purposes, you should have a separate keypadactivated exit gate. In addition, delinquent renters can be locked out at the gate.

The management office is the next critical security point. Most facilities market their security measures by displaying monitors showing the cameras scanning the site. Be sure one monitor allows your manager to view the site while facing customers. It’s a good idea to scan the front office also.

Not all of your security features involve hardware or software. Security procedures can go a long way in creating a safe atmosphere for renters. Be upfront. Ask customers for identification, phone numbers and addresses. Let renters know that is your practice for keeping the “bad guys” out.

At the unit, door alarms tied to your property- management system add a layer of protection. Just make sure your installers are experienced and accountable for their work.

The last line of your security, and a key marketing advantage, is your lock system. Some operators make the mistake of lumping locks with boxes, tape and other ancillary products to sell for a profit. Locks are not an ancillary product. You cannot market or provide security without a high-security lock system. This is not an option to leave up to the renter any more than door alarms or security cameras.

A cheap padlock, whether you sell it or the renter provides it, indicates you are not serious about security. The minimum step is to sell or provide disk locks, which have a hidden shackle that can slow a thief. Better yet, invest in a cylinder-latch system, which buries the lock mechanism inside the door and presents a uniform face to a potential thief. With a deposit and administrative fee, you can recoup the price of the system over a few rentals and ensure that every link in your security chain is secure.

One of the most valuable tools the European self-storage market has is knowledge gained from the U.S. industry. With the number of facilities operating in the United States, the level of competition creates a wide variety of marketing and operational ideas. The features and services you provide will unquestionably determine the customer base you attract.

Christopher Shope is vice president of sales and marketing for Lock America Inc. (L.A.I. Group). For more information, call 704.824.8363; e-mail lailocks@bellsouth.net; visit www.laigroup.com.

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