Stay in Control

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Cost self-storage owners use retailing to increase revenue, improve their business image, and better serve customers in a professional manner. They want to minimize overhead and maximize profits. In other words, they need a system of inventory control.

Now before you yawn and turn the page, hear me out: Inventory control isn’t as complex or boring as it may sound. All it means is having just enough of the products customers want without tying up too many dollars. It’s that simple. Big-time retailers have elaborate and expensive systems—even whole departments—just to keep a handle on what to stock and how much of it to buy. I’m going to offer a way to do the same thing at your self-storage operation without all the fuss and expense.

The secret lies in two things: displays and plan-o-grams. A well-designed display lets you exhibit everything you carry in a neat, space-saving manner. It makes you look as professional as you are. And it keeps your retail area from crowding your office space. But a display without organization won’t be as effective or profitable as one that is well-planned. You need to make sure there is a permanent home for every item and nothing goes into a slot except the item for which it is labeled. In this way, you can quickly see what’s selling, restock and reorder inventory, all without complicated, pricey programs.

“But how do I know what to stock and where it should go on the display?” you ask.

Well, that brings us to plan-o-grams, which are like blueprints for retailers. Supermarkets get them from their suppliers, who can tell them where the bestsellers should go on the shelves and how many “facings” to give them. For example, soup and cereal companies are famous for their plan-o-grams.

In the self-storage industry, decent suppliers of retail products offer plan-o-grams with their displays and merchandise. After all, it’s in their best interest to sell you only those items that do well and tell you how to make them even more marketable. The more you sell, the more they sell. It’s a win-win situation.

Making it all Work

So you’ve got a display, a plan-o-gram and retail products from a supplier that knows merchandising. How do you use them to control inventory and your investment? First, keep every retail slot filled. No one ever wants to buy that last can of baked beans on the shelf! Second, don’t run out of stock because, as they say, “You can’t sell a hole.” Finally, at least once a day, have an employee go over your display, restock slots and pegs, and see to the back-room inventory. Also have him remove any opened or shop-worn items and put them in the “clearance” bin.

How do you know how much stock to keep on hand? The best retail suppliers provide 24-hour processing of orders. If you add one day of processing to the standard transit time, you’ll know how many days worth of supply you need to maintain a minimum-cost inventory. How much is too much? Your supplier should be able to provide you with recommended minimum/maximum levels for each item based on the experience of other self-storage operators.

Stock your displays with the best name-brand products while you control your inventory and you’ll be on your way to selling (and buying) like a retailer. If you have questions, ask a reputable supplier for help.

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, Mail Boxes Etc. and The UPS Stores. For more information, visit www.suplyside.com.

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