As the self-storage industry evolves into a more retail-style business, it’s only natural that facilities expand their offerings beyond unit rentals. Although some properties have employed ancillary profit centers for many years, more and more operators are putting emphasis on business extras. Rather than simply stocking boxes and locks, many are dedicating prime office space to create a robust retail store. The end result is twofold: more profit and a greater customer experience.
“A retail store provides multiple benefits. The major one is it’s an opportunity to provide potential renters that ‘just right feeling,’ which will lead to more rentals and profit. It can be the factor between renting now and checking with another facility, which often leads to a lost rental,” says Marc Goodin, president of Storage Authority Franchising and the owner of three facilities. “Also, many people who come in just to buy boxes will remember you when they need self-storage. Of course, product sales will add profit to your bottom line as well.”
If you’re thinking about adding a new, bigger or better retail area to your storage facility, there are several factors to consider. Whether you’ve dedicated 80 or 800 square feet to this venture, the key to success is a well-rehearsed sales approach and the quality and quantity of inventory. Read on to learn how to bring in more bucks and become the moving and packing shopping destination for your community.
Of course, the primary objective behind any retail store is to make money. However, most retailers also aim to provide the ultimate shopping experience. Think about your favorite store. It probably has artful displays and signage, perhaps streaming music and soft lighting. The idea is to create an inviting atmosphere that leads shoppers to linger and buy. The same can be true for a self-storage store.
“As with any retail setting, the No. 1 benefit is building customer rapport. Having retail merchandise in your facility will not only benefit the property’s sales and profit, but also give the customer more time in the office, thus creating more opportunity to build the relationship between the customer and the employees,” says Danielle Campbell, district manager for North Carolina and Virginia for Storage Asset Management Inc., a self-storage management company. “Creating a memorable experience will increase the chance of the customer remembering that instance and sharing it with others as well as create customer loyalty.”
Part of creating this “ultimate” experience is anticipating customers’ needs. Someone who’s moving needs supplies. With your business, he now has a place to store his belongings as well as buy the products that will help him transport and store them safely. It’s one-stop shopping at its best.
Facilities built 15 or more years ago generally don’t have large offices, while more modern sites sport large lobbies complete with lounge areas, spacious workstations and ample retail space. “The larger, the better,” says Goodin, noting that a 1,200-square-foot office devoting half of its space to retail is ideal.
Even so, a property with a smaller footprint can still capitalize on product sales. “A tiny office can simply display a photograph of moving boxes and supplies and store them in a unit,” says Nancy Martin Wagner, vice president of Chateau Products Inc., a supplier of locks as well as moving and packing supplies. Some operators have even retrofitted a small unit near the office into a retail store. Shelving, baskets and bins can easily be added. Campbell suggests using slat walls and peg boards, the wall behind the manager’s desk, or another small spaces to promote products.