Although I have been involved in merchandising and marketing for the past 30-plus years, I still critique every retail store I visit. Sometimes what I see is not good but, nevertheless, revealing.
Several months ago, I was in the local mall looking for a new pair of sunglasses. When I entered one specialty store, my initial reaction was disappointment. I was unimpressed with the displays and personnel, and the absence of images associated with the product. Displays were old and desperately needed to be cleaned. None of the employees welcomed me or asked if I needed assistance.
After looking at various pairs of sunglasses, I did find a pair I liked. However, when I removed them from the case, I noticed a thin layer of dust covering them. I wanted to learn more about these particular glasses before making my purchase. Unfortunately, the only information I could gather was they were manufactured by a well-known designer, they cost $100, and my hands were getting very dirty from holding them. I left the store.
The second store I visited was significantly smaller than the first; but immediately on entering the store, I was greeted by a salesperson who asked if I needed assistance. He showed me a pair of glasses just like the one I had tried in the other store. He gave me information about them such as the warranty, the amount of protection against UV light and the material of which the glasses were made.
As I looked around the store, I saw it was professionally merchandised—it was obvious the owners understood what they were selling. I could see my reflection in the glass of the displays, and the manager did a great job keeping the store spotless. There were colorful advertisements displayed of attractive men and women wearing sunglasses. The only difference was these sunglasses cost $130 instead of $100. Everything about this store made my decision easy. I spent the extra $30.
What does this have to do with self-storage? First, it demonstrates how easy it is to win or lose customers. Remember, your facility is like any retail business. First impressions count! Customers buy where they feel comfortable.
Store personnel, displays and environment are important factors. If customers enter your office area—excuse me, your retail area—and see poorly packaged products or carelessly merchandised displays, you are silently communicating many things to them. Having a clean store, nicely merchandised displays and informative personnel all give customers important clues about the way you do business. The wrong first impression makes a potential customer not only uncomfortable about purchasing supplies but possibly about renting storage space.
A professional image is one way to help rent units, and good merchandising is part of that image. It doesn’t only increase retail-supply sales, it gives customers confidence in doing business with your organization. Once self-storage operators understand merchandising is an important piece of the marketing puzzle, they’ll understand it’s not just about selling moving supplies.
The truth is, customers are always judging you when making their buying decisions. Saving a penny here and there on supplies is important; but what good is it to save pennies if you throw away dollars by not effectively merchandising your store? You’ve already spent a significant amount of time and money building or buying a facility. Don’t stop there! The sales office/retail area is one of the first things a potential customer will see when visiting your facility. If he is unimpressed, you might not get a chance to talk about the benefits of storing at your property.
Roy Katz is president of Supply Side, which distributes packaging as well as moving and storage supplies. The company has developed merchandising programs for many leading companies including Storage USA, the U.S. Postal Service, Kinko’s and Mail Boxes Etc. For more information, call 800.284.7357 or 216.738.1200.