Over the past couple of years, I have seen more and more self-storage facilities trying to get on the “retail bus.” Operators and managers realize retail supplies are an important part of their businesses for a number of obvious reasons.
First, the sale of retail product is a relatively easy way to increase revenue. Next, since most of their competitors are in the retail business, operators don’t want to be left behind. Finally, retail can enhance the image of a facility if the “store” area is properly merchandised. It is exciting to see operators becoming aware of the retail side of their businesses. However, to maximize retail dollars, an implementation plan is necessary.
Merchandising involves more than providing retail products. Operators and managers need to promote supplies as they would other services. This activity should become a routine part of a self-storage facility’s marketing plan. It can be as simple as creatively displaying various products, asking a tenant a few questions regarding his packaging needs, and hanging promotional fliers around the property. The techniques described below can easily be instituted.
Self-storage customers look to the facility manager as their moving and storage expert. We all can agree a manager is expected to know what size unit works best for a customer, how to properly store valuables without damage, and how to resolve any problem that might occur. However, customers should also be able to count on the manager to know what lock provides the greatest level of security, how many boxes are needed when moving out of a two-bedroom apartment, and if antistatic foam is the best way to protect a computer when packing it. The manager’s opinion can go a long way. Customers trust and listen to what he has to say.
Recently, a manager told me he always keeps a disk, brass and laminated padlock on his mobile cart. He then demonstrates the benefits of each lock when he takes customers to their storage units for the first time. When I asked about his success rate of selling locks, he said it was about 95 percent. Since he spoke so highly of his most expensive lock, which is the disk, almost all of his customers purchased this one.
Another manager asks each customer a couple of leading questions so she can be prepared to recommend at least one retail product. For example, if she learns a customer has a lot of china, she will show him the boxes that can be used to properly pack plates, bowls and glasses. Once the customer is sold on the box, she recommends partition kits and foam pouches. Other items such as tape and bubblewrap are then easily sold because she now is a trustful advisor. This manager has found most of her tenants spend an average of $50 or more on supplies.
Items that usually sell well for facilities are moving kits, which are pre-packed with various sizes of boxes, rolls of bubble-wrap, tape and a marker. Many facilities merchandise these kits by displaying them against the wall with the rest of their boxes. However, one manager showed initiative and took out every item in the kit, assembled all of the boxes, and put a sign above them that read, “You can get all of this for only $39.99.” As a result, sales increased threefold!
Make retailing profitable by developing and instituting different techniques to promote and sell various products. Remember, people are visual, and a few adjustments to your layout can completely change sales numbers. If customers see something that looks attractive and are able to understand its usefulness, the probability that they will purchase is greater. Increasing retail sales isn’t difficult. However, planning, training and creativity—and managers who see themselves as self-storage experts—are all essential.
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.