One word that comes to mind is “office,” which owners and managers commonly use to refer to the lobby area customers see when they visit a facility. True, it’s where prices are quoted, contracts are signed and money changes hands, but is it just an office? The reception areas of a hotel or bank are used for these same functions, and yet they aren’t referred to as offices. Those businesses work at making their lobbies inviting.
An office atmosphere tends to be serious, almost cold. To soften their image and put customers at ease, many service businesses dispose of that look and go with something more personable. You don’t need to use marble flooring, fountains and chandeliers, but take another look at your lobby. Accentuate its positives and play down its negatives. For instance, many selfstorage facilities use clean, colorful slat walls to brighten their lobbies and provide space for merchandise. The result is so “retail,” you’d almost expect to meet the Ace Helpful Hardware Man. Now, that’s friendly.
Let’s go back to our first point: Your business is shaped by your vision and how you give voice to it through language. If “lobby” summons a better wordpicture than “office,” “store” is even better. Once you see your office as a store, it will become more profitable. In addition to putting new customers at ease, it can trigger a new thought process that views tenants as prospects for a whole variety of products.
For example, every self-storage operation offers keyed-alike locks to renters of multiple units, but how many think to offer them to singleunit renters? Consider selling them for use on a customer’s storage unit, garden shed, gym locker, RV trailer, etc. What brings you to this new approach? Beginning to think of and see your office as a store. You’ll be amazed at the variety of products you can sell—everything from packaging, shipping and storage supplies to seasonal gift wrap and decorative boxes. Home, business and school supplies can fly off the shelves. Your store can be a planned shopping destination for residential and commercial customers.
Are commercial customers a sizeable part of your clientele? Do they make frequent visits and regularly interact with your employees? If so, learn more about them, their businesses and needs. Then stock your inventory accordingly. Electrical- and plumbing-supply stores know that every contractor and worker who stops in to buy materials for a job is likely to make impulse buys. You should explore the potential of this similar market.
To turn your office into a store that sells more than just boxes and locks, where do you begin? Ask your current retail suppliers if they have experience in setting up, stocking and promoting in-store sales. Many will offer brand-name products, displays, plan-o-grams and professional signage. They should be happy to provide anything you need. After all, if your store is successful, they will be too.
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.