What's Your Best Unit Mix? Creating an Effective Inventory for Self-Storage Projects

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By Amy Fuhlman

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to determining the best unit mix for your self-storage facility. However, examining customer demographics can help you define the ideal number of small, medium and large units to offer. Here are some clues to creating the perfect unit inventory:

Age. Areas populated with college-age students tend to require smaller spaces. Their income is usually tighter and their storage requirements are minimal, even seasonal. Elderly renters who may have downsized tend to use smaller spaces as well, but median-age families often want to hold on to their possessions and will require more storage space.

Population density. Typically, the higher the density, the smaller the unit. Crowded metro-area customers are accustomed to living with less. Plus, rental pricing tends to be higher in urban areas, so lockers and small units are more rentable. Suburban-area renters may have needs such as lawn equipment or furniture storage, which demand more space.

Local business prospects. While larger commercial businesses will have their own storage, small-business owners and independent reps need overflow space. For instance, one New York City self-storage facility has clothing-store owners and art dealers as clients because local storefronts don’t include space for merchandise storage. In both urban and suburban environments, pharmaceutical reps, wine distributors and people with similar occupations often use storage. Understanding the local business needs will allow you to plan your space accordingly.

Designing Your Unit Mix

First, choose a reputable building provider that can help you maximize your layout. While you, the owner, will specify the unit sizes you desire, your vendor partner can find hidden areas—around stairs, above other units, etc.—that will yield your greatest amount of rentable square footage.

Design your unit mix with flexibility in mind. Even the best laid plans may require adjustment. Perhaps you have 20 larger units that haven’t rented, yet your demand for smaller units is increasing. Your building supplier can add or remove partitions and doors to change unit sizing quickly and efficiently.

Furthermore, you may even realize greater revenue for such redesigns. For instance, four large units may generate $175 each per month for a total of $700—but only if they rent. If they’re empty, then creating eight smaller units in the same space that rent for $100 or more each would generate more in monthly rent and provide a better response to market demand.

Visit the competition, know your demographics and partner with a strong building provider. Taking the right steps in advance will better ensure a higher occupancy and market share.

This example of a self-storage unit-mix redesign illustrates how larger units can be repurposed into smaller ones.

Amy Fuhlman is the director of marketing for Janus International Group, a manufacturer of self-storage doors, hallway systems and building components. For more information, call 770.562.2850; visit www.janusintl.com.

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