Sure, you know the rentable square footage and occupancy rate of your self-storage property. After all, you want to maximize your return on investment. You also know retail sales represent an opportunity for additional profit. But did you know these sales could amount to anywhere from $12,000 to $24,000 annually? All you need is an 8-by-6- foot floor space or 48 square feet of wall and a properly designed display.
Most self-storage businesses already stock and sell retail products. But stacking a mess of locks, boxes and other items in a corner of the office just doesn’t cut it in today’s competitive market. The more marketing-driven chains are building facilities with well-designed retail areas that use all the tricks of the trade. How can your established storage sites compete?
First, stop thinking of your reception area as an “office.” Offices are perceived by most people as serious, stressful environments. That’s why banks and similar service businesses use interior design to soften their images and put customers at ease. You should do the same.
Enter your facility’s front door and attempt to view the space as customers do. Is the area neat and well-lit? Are the colors bright and upbeat? Do your counters make it easy for staff to see and greet customers when they enter? Is there wall décor rather than “Thou Shalt Not” signage? Do your displays and merchandise look fresh and new? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” you have work to do.
Get some graph paper, a tape measure, and some retail-merchandise catalogs that feature product-display units. Use the graph paper to draw a diagram of your current reception area. Be sure to indicate the placement of doors, windows and other permanent fixtures. If you feel your lighting isn’t up to par, include it as well. Now make several copies of your drawing, get a cup of coffee, and dive into those catalogs.
Look for displays that hold all the products you carry as well as new ones you might consider. (You are planning to offer more items, aren’t you?) To give your retail area a professional look, use one source for all your displays and merchandise. Look for plan-o-grams. These suggestions, based on retail experience, advise you as to what to stock and where it should go on a display. Make note of the displays you like and their “footprint” (dimensions).
Now sketch out the space the displays will occupy on one of your drawings. Allow ample room for aisles, if necessary. If the displays are to be positioned against walls, note their height to determine whether there will be space for merchandising posters or other sales graphics and signage. You don’t have to settle for your first plan. Experiment with different layouts to see what works best.
Make It Pretty
With your layout finalized, contact your retail supplier and see what ideas it can contribute. Ask whether it provides marketing materials. For example, posters, header cards and other signage not only brighten your retail space, they trigger impulse buys. At this point, you may want to consider whether your sales space needs a new coat of paint, improved lighting, plants or other décor.
If this all seems like a lot of work for a small (though profitable) part of your business, consider this: The sales of moving, packing and storage supplies made by truck-rental firms, office-product superstores, parcel-service centers and self-storage facilities is fast approaching three-quarters of a billion dollars annually. Don’t you want your share?
Roy Katz is president of Supply Side, which distributes packaging, moving and storage supplies and more. The company has developed merchandising programs for many leading companies including Storage USA, the U.S. Postal Service, Kinko’s, Mail Boxes Etc. and UPS Stores. For more information, visit www.suplyside.com.