Running a Profitable Boat/RV-Storage Operation: Service and Amenities Drive Success

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Heil, who developed his Lake Havasu facility with wash bays, a shower and bathroom, included these perks as a customer benefit and to attract high-end clients. While the wash bay was expensive to build, it was not designed to be a profit center. "It did two things: It helped with customer retention and it also helped with marketing," he says.

Security is another amenity critical to boat/RV-storage tenants. Gregg Sherwood, president of AZOH Storage Group, which manages Power Ranch RV, Boat & Mini Storage in Mesa, Ariz., provides enhanced security features such as individual keypad access, security cameras, individual unit alarms, personal key fobs for tenants who choose not to use the keypad for entry, and video monitoring that tenants can access online at any time. These features allow Power Ranch to provide 24-hour access to the facility, which Sherwood says is a key component of the facility's customer-service model. "[Tenants] do expect a great level of customer service, but mainly in the form of access to their stored RV, boat or jet skis," he says. "As a result, we offer 24-hour access 365 days a year."

Some facilities include a clubhouse where tenants can relax and socialize. [Photo courtesy of Ted Deits, owner of Eucalyptus at Beaumont in California]Like extra amenities, advanced security can be a big expense, but it pays off for tenants who want assurance that their expensive toys are secure. "We spent an awful lot of money on security, but it was an amenity that differentiated us in our market," Heil says.

Location Is Key

Most successful RV- and boat-storage facilities are built near a recreation destination that supports the tenant base, such as a lake or state park. Other ideal locations include communities in which these types of vehicles are prohibited from being stored outside in a driveway or in the homeowner’s yard, or places that simply lack space for storage of large vehicles.

Lake Havasu RV & Boat Storage is not only close to a lake, it’s in a resort town. "We chose to be in an area that had a very huge attraction to RVers," Heil says. "There are probably about 10,000 people that come to Havasu between October and April, and that's huge, so we built the facility to cater to those people."

North Plains RV and Self Storage is in a smaller city that borders the Portland-metro region. The lack of excess space in the larger city draws tenants to store there. "In the Portland-metro region, lot sizes have been constricted such that there's really no room for people to park boats, RVs and large toys, so they're somewhat forced to find a facility like ours to store their toys and equipment," Jensen says.

Marketing Strategies for Unique Tenants

RV- and boat-storage operators reach out to potential tenants using many of the same techniques used to connect with traditional self-storage customers, including referrals and online marketing. However, the the market does require some additional and inventive promotion.

"We have multi-faceted marketing, from going out and setting up relationships with vendors and condo associations and apartments to Internet marketing," Jensen says. He also reaches out to storage facilities that lack RV and boat storage to form a referral partnership.

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