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Self-Storage Profit-Makers: Ancillary Products and Services With Staying Power

By Amy Campbell Comments
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Unit rentals are the bread and butter of your self-storage business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a little jam on top. Since self-storage came on the scene many decades ago, operators have experimented with ways to expand their product and service offering. While some add-ons haven’t panned out, others have proven to be ideal companions to the base business. Here are some profit centers that have proven their staying power for bringing in new customers, satisfying existing tenants and generating additional revenue.

The Retail Store

Locks, boxes, tape and other packing and moving items are considered the golden standard when it comes to self-storage ancillaries. People need these items when moving or storing, so why shouldn’t they purchase them from you? Operators are fulfilling much-needed supply for a huge demand.

But just putting products on display won’t make them sell. It takes packaging and salesmanship. Consider creating moving kits that bundle boxes in several sizes, packing material, tape and a permanent marker. If you sell dish-packing kits, put one on display so customers can see how it works. You’ll also want to practice suggestive selling techniques.

“To have successful retail sales, the biggest thing that helps me is to convince the people they need these retail items,” says Penny Casassa, manager at Bordentown Self Storage in Bordentown, N.J. “As storage operators, we are the professionals. We need to explain to them that they may have paid a lot of money for their mattress, and wouldn't they want to protect the investment with a quality mattress bag?”

Offering retail products makes your facility a “one-stop shop” for customers. To entice them, keep your walls and displays full of product so you always have fresh stock, advises Nancy Martin-Wagner, marketing vice president of Chateau Products Inc., which supplies retail inventory for self-storage operators. “Also, ask your customers what they’re moving to allow you to suggest items they’ll need.”

If you’re not sure where products should go, try building a plan-o-gram for your retail area. This diagram, or image map, provides details on how to artfully place your items in your store. “This gives every product a consistent place that suggests other products the customer may need in conjunction, and also makes sure every empty space is filled back up with products after each sale,” Martin says.

The cost to stock your store will vary depending on the products and your vendor. A general rule of thumb is about $20 of product cost per square foot of retail space, Martin says. “So if you have a 72-square-foot wall of display, you’ll need approximately $1,440 in product at your cost on the wall.”

Some must-haves include locks, boxes in several sizes, packing material—such as clean newsprint, peanuts or bubble wrap—tape and tape guns, marking pens, and utility knives. Other items to consider include label kits, gloves, furniture and mattress covers, glass and dish cell kits, stretch-wrap rolls, and tie-down rope or bungee cords.

Most important, let people know you carry these items. “Make sure the items you offer are clearly posted on your website, and always mention it to your customers on the phone, in e-mail, on social media and in your printed materials—from the busy street and when customers are in your office,” Martin says.

Although a large space is ideal for a well-stocked retail store, even small areas can be successful. “A small space could work by hanging a display of one of each item and then having the stock in a storage unit,” Martin says. “You could ring up the customer’s purchase, and then have the customer pull his vehicle up to the unit to load the items.”

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