By Tony Jones
The worst mistake one can make in boat/RV storage is to approach the business in the same manner as traditional self-storage. The differences between the two are more than just unit size or type. A failure to adjust the business model to strategically address boat/RV as a specialty, niche market is a surefire way to shortchange what could be a powerful revenue stream. Facility operators who offer boat/RV storage, either as an ancillary service to self-storage or their primary business model, should think like specialty retailers.
While there may be some customer and product overlap between Walmart and Bass Pro Shops, for example, their core customers are not the same demographic. As a general mass merchandiser, Walmart pretty much carries something for everybody, but the primary motivations of its core customer are convenience and price. As a specialty retailer, Bass Pro must meet the higher expectations of a more discerning customer base through quality of merchandise, display presentation and expert staff knowledge.
One can buy a fishing pole at either outlet, but the diehard sportsman is more likely to patronize the retailer that has the best product selection and a 24,000-gallon aquarium than the store where he can also buy office supplies and toilet paper. He will also willingly spend more at the specialty store for comparable products because of perceived quality differences, and a better overall customer experience leads to brand loyalty.
The point is, while self-storage is a service that appeals to general consumers, boat/RV storage applies to a specialty base. The best way to maximize revenue, then, is to attract a core customer—one who will likely spend the most and stay the longest—by meeting or exceeding his expectations for the product.
Before you can rent space, your facility must appeal to boat and RV owners. Building storage designed for this sometimes fickle, seasonal and transient client takes forethought. Today’s successful facilities offer myriad amenities and storage options. After all, the property being stored is generally a valued investment or toy, whether it’s a travel trailer or motorhome. RV values can range from $5,000 to $500,000, but the personal attachment customers have for their prize is virtually the same.
According to a 2011 University of Michigan study commissioned by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), a record 8.9 million U.S. households now own RVs, a 7.6 percent increase from 2005. The typical RV owner is 48 years old and married, with an annual household income of $62,000. RV owners are likely to own their own homes and spend disposable income on traveling an average of three weeks every year. That leaves 49 weeks annually in which they need a safe and secure place to store a prized possession.
To entice and retain boat and RV owners, many of today’s storage facilities resemble first-rate RV parks with beefed up security. At a minimum, facilities need to offer a convenient and accessible location as well as add-ons such as propane, potable water, a waste dump, a wash rack, power to rental spaces and 24-hour surveillance. Many new facilities offer wide drive aisles (35 feet wide for covered, 60 feet for enclosed), large rental spaces for ease of access, 24-hour access, valet service, and even clubhouse-style amenities for luxury appeal.
RV enthusiasts Kelly Woudenberg and her husband, Dana, recently opened RV SuperStorage in Chandler, Ariz., with luxury and convenience in mind. “We have owned RVs for many years and built our facility based on what we had been looking for in a storage facility,” she says. “We think we have brought a fresh approach to RV and boat storage.”
RV SuperStorage features 100 enclosed garages, 300 covered spaces and 50 air-conditioned self-storage units on 11 paved acres. The facility offers power to each space for trickle charging, an ionized wash rack to eliminate water spots, ice and a fully stocked RV store. An onsite mechanic is available five days a week, and the office features concierge staff every day. The office is closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Much like it sounds, the daily concierge service is predicated on pampering the facility’s “members” and exceeding expectations on customer service. “Our concierge can arrange transportation to the airport, detailing and [repair] service,” Woudenberg explains. “We have helped with laundry, groceries and many other personalized services. We even found a driving teacher for a customer who had bought his first coach.”
All 100 of the facility’s garages are alarmed, and the site features 16 security cameras that can be monitored remotely.