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An Array of Self-Storage Profit Centers: Products and Services to Expand Your Business

By Amy Campbell Comments
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When John Fayard Self Storage opened its second facility in Santa Rosa, Fla., a year ago, the goal was to provide the ultimate customer experience. Not only does the property resemble a grand hotel, its services expand well beyond unit rentals. From the impressive lobby retail display to covered vehicle storage to the conference room, the facility represents a new era in self-storage.

As the industry evolves into a more retail-style business, operators are experimenting with add-on products and services that will attract a broader customer base and diversify their business. “The ancillary services get people in the door to showcase the features you offer,” says Mary Limberg, manager of the John Fayard site in Gulfport, Miss., which also offers gun and wine storage.

Whether its offering well-tested ancillaries or experimenting with up-and-comers, facility operators aren’t just providing greater customer service with add-on offerings, they’re generating extra cash flow. Presenting more makes your site a one-stop-shop, helping it stand out in a crowded market. It also increases foot traffic, exposing people who aren’t currently customers to your numerous amenities.

“The more products and services we offer, the more we are top-of-mind for our customers and potential customers,” says Lenorah Durel, operations manager for Elmwood Self Storage & Wine Cellar in Harahan, La., which features vehicle, records and wine storage as well as other services.

Invest in Retail Therapy

Moving and packing supplies such as tape, bubble wrap and boxes have long been staples available in the self-storage office. However, the importance of offering a variety of quality products has increased in recent years as operators began to maximize their value. This has led to bigger retail centers packed with more options.

“The secrets to success are having a clean, professional, well-stocked retail display combined with an enthusiastic manager who listens to the customer’s situation, and then recommends ancillary products accordingly,” says Ed Hainrihar, vice president of operations for Compass Self Storage, which operates more than 80 facilities across more than a dozen states.

Whether your retail area is big or small, it should be well-lit and attractive. To keep everything organized, think shelving, baskets and bins. Slat walls and peg boards are also ideal. While it’s important to stock common supplies such as locks, boxes and packing tape, consider specialty items such as mattress and couch covers, dish-packing kits, wardrobe boxes, moving blankets, rope, labels, and permanent markers.

The key to moving inventory is to marry similar products and catch customers’ attention with artful designs. For example, boxes can be displayed through clever stacking. You can also create a “mover’s bundle” consisting of an assortment of boxes, tape and dispenser, a utility knife, and a marker. “It’s also important to have knowledgeable staff to suggest what products would be good to use, given the customer’s reason for storing,” Hainrihar says.

Park It Here

Vehicle storage is one of the most prevalent profit centers in the industry. The service is also diverse, allowing operators to taylor their offering to their market. From simple open parking to covered parking to fully enclosed units, there’s something for every customer.

In addition to creating revenue for the rental space, operators can charge tenants for a variety of perks, including 24-hour access, concierge or shuttle service, and electrical hook-ups. Some even partner with local mechanics to provide vehicle-maintenance services to tenants.

Facilities near bodies of water and recreation areas are ideal for vehicle storage. Both John Fayard facilities are centrally close to the Gulf of Mexico and other waterways. “Due to neighborhood restrictions, boat and RV owners are not always able to park at their homes. We offer them another option with covered/non-covered spaces and 24-hour access if needed,” Limberg says. “Our Gulfport location has an amenity station with a pressure washer, vacuum, water and air. We do charge for the pressure washer and vacuum, which does generate revenue and is a nice convenience for tenants who want to clean up their vehicles between trips.”

Uncork a New Business

Wine storage can be a profitable business for facilities in the right market. “Our wine cellar is 100 percent leased and stays that way. We have a waiting list,” Durel says.

In addition to having the right location, a successful wine-storage center includes enhanced security, temperature and humidity control, and wine-themed décor and even social spaces to attract attention. “Our facility has a wonderful wine-storage room with mahogany cabinets and a tasting area. Although most of our local customers have private collections for their enjoyment, we do have some collectors who store long-term,” says Limberg.

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