By E. George Johnson
Self-storage has evolved from the basement and attic, to remote mini warehouses, to the sophisticated facilities we see built today. Modern storage options for consumers also include mobile, or portable, storage. As the mobile product has gained traction in the storage market, it makes sense for operators of traditional self-storage facilities to consider augmenting their business with a portable component.
Portable self-storage is still a relatively young concept. It was primarily created to add absolute convenience for the customer. It differs from fixed storage in that the portable container is brought to the renter’s house or business, and he packs it at his convenience. What is eliminated are the trips to the facility to pack the goods into the storage unit, which might also have involved the hiring of a moving company or renting of a truck to move the goods.
For existing self-storage operators, portable storage offers several investment scenarios. If he has vacant land or space, either inside or out, an operator can augment his available rental space with the placement of portable containers, charging a rental rate similar to that of traditional self-storage. Customers would bring their goods to the facility as usual, but the portable container can add some additional convenience. For example, perhaps the renter can drive directly to his unit door to unload, or the unit can be brought to a convenient spot within the facility for loading/unloading. (This would require the appropriate forklift.)
An operator can migrate even further into the portable-storage arena by incorporating delivery and pickup of the container at the renter’s location. This means additional investment in people (driver/delivery personnel), a truck, warehouse space and a forklift. It also creates another revenue stream with delivery and pickup charges and possibly a premium for the portable service.
Another option is to become a fully integrated storage provider that offers static portable containers and incorporates the moving element. There are companies that will provide the containers and the moving service to storage operators for these transactions. In this scenario, the operator would receive fees based on the initiation of the action and amount to be moved.