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Ancillary Products and Services Expand Self-Storage Earning Potential and Consumer Appeal

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By Katie Self

Self-storage operators wishing to differentiate themselves from competitors have begun to cast a wider net, looking for add-on products and services that will appeal to consumers. Ancillary items allow storage businesses to create convenience and expand their earning potential. Here are some ideas on profit centers to create, benefits and challenges, advice for promotion, and more.

A Range of Offerings

There are some items that have long been mainstays in self-storage retail stores, including locks and boxes. “It’s natural for the customer to expect those. They need locks regardless,” says Ed Hainrihar, vice president of operations for Compass Self-Storage, which operates 59 facilities in 12 states.

Items such as lifting straps, utility tie-down straps, trailer lock kits, utility knives and furniture slides provide assistance to manually move or arrange items in storage and make great add-on revenue items, according to Nancy Martin Wagner, vice president of marketing for Chateau Products Inc., a Bradenton, Fla., supplier of retail products for the self-storage industry.

Reliable options such as dust covers, mattress bags and chair covers are often forgotten by customers, Hainrihar says. “Air movement within the space can spread dust, which can make an impact on stored items. Additional [retail] items are necessary to keep them free from damage. Eighty percent of customers have never used the products and are unaware they need them.” A simple logistical oversight can be remedied when an operator supplies these conveniences.

Truck rentals have proven to be popular among customers, according to Rob Consalvo, director of operations for Winter Garden, Fla.-based iStorage, which operates 67 facilities. Not only are they well-liked, they’re a convenient alternative for tenants, creating a single location for several needs. “We like to offer a one-stop shop for our customers,” Consalvo says.

Finally, some operators have begun to expand their offerings to stay ahead of the competition and attract a broader range of consumers. Universal Storage Group (USG), a third-party management firm that oversees 53 facilities, is one such company. While its properties offer traditional amenities, they also feature some less typical services including business centers and beverage stations. USG tenants can even participate in “pop-up” sales, in which they can sell their personal items from their units during garage-style sales.

Bona Fide Benefits

An obvious benefit to providing add-on services is higher income. “A professional storage counselor can explain exactly how to pack [customer’s] belongings with the boxes and supplies that are best-suited for the job, and even show them how it will most efficiently fit into their unit,” says Stacie Maxwell, USG’s vice president of marketing. “This positive interaction will result in positive testimonials and also into referrals.”

Consalvo stresses the importance of creating a stress-free environment for customers, which results in an overall pleasant storage experience. “We find that time is precious for our customers,” he says. “The more we can do to make the move seamless, convenient and worry-free for our customers, the better their experience and the sooner they can move on to other priorities in life.”

Something as simple as listening to customers can also prove beneficial. Self-storage is a “people” business, says John Wharton, director of marketing for American Classic Self-Storage, which operates 11 properties in Virginia. “If we listen, they’ll often open up to us and tell us exactly what they need,” he says.

Complexities and Challenges

There are also aspects to selling ancillary products and services that can generate challenges for a facility, from maintaining proper inventory levels to a property’s physical location. “Purchasing the inventory, having the correct inventory in stock at all times and being competitive in price on those items, as well as knowing how to display them to best attract the customer’s eye, are a few aspects,” Maxwell says. Conducting regular competitive surveys as well as having candid conversations with tenants will help operators determine their market’s specific needs, she adds.

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