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Teri Lanza

Teri Lanza
Editorial Director
tlanza@vpico.com

New Ideas for Creating a Luxury Self-Storage Experience (at a Premium, of Course)

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This weekend I enjoyed the best movie-going experience of my life (not counting the very first time my parents loaded my brother and I into the car with blankets, pillows and pajamas to go to the drive-in theater ... It's very hard to top the delicious joy of that one). My husband and I discovered an AMC Theater that now offers dine-in viewing. But it's more than just serving you food and beverages while you watch your flick. AMC has tapped into a special segment of movie-goer, one who is willing to pay a premium for a luxury experience.

AMC's dine-in options include Fork & Screen and Cinema Suites. The former includes upgraded seats, an extensive food menu and service from a full cocktail bar. It's for customers 18 and over, unless accompanied by an adult, which means children may be present. I don't know about you, but one of my biggest pet peeves at the theater is parents who have no commonsense. I often choose the latest possible showing on a Sunday night to help ensure minimal interruptions, but some parents will haul their kids out at any time, with no consideration for their fellow customers. Who brings a five-year-old to an R-rated movie at 10:30 on a Sunday night? You'd be surprised. You might think the kid would just sleep, right? Not when mommy and daddy give him a Coke and a candy bar! It's parenting at its finest.

So, Fork & Screen was intriguing to us, but Cinema Suites sounded even better: an upscale movie theatre with comfortable, premium recliners, access to a full menu and bar at the push of a button, and the best part: customers 21 and over only. No babies crying. No kids chatting and whispering and running between seats. An added bonus? Thanks to the theater design, which minimizes viewing obstruction even with servers bustling to and fro with trays, there is absolutely no way for someone to kick the back of your chair! Another? You can order tickets online in advance and reserve your exact seat location (not that there's a bad seat in the house ... the entire theater seats only about 40 guests).

We arrived to the theater about half an hour early. By the time the previews began, we had chatted with our server, Cheryl-Lynn, enjoyed our first cocktail, dived into an appetizer of queso blanco with fresh tortilla chips, and ordered our entrees. The bar and food menu was far beyond our expectations. Our seats were plush recliners with a swinging table attachment, as well as built-in drink holders and additional table space along each seat. We were comfortable and well cared for. If we needed anything at all once the film began, we had only to push a button and Cheryl-Lynn would come running.

Was it expensive for a night at the movies? Sure. It was $15 for each of the tickets, plus what we spent on our meal. But we would normally go to dinner before or after a movie anyway, and there was no set food or beverage minimum. We could just as easily have ordered a couple of sodas and a bottomless bucket of popcorn and spent a lot less. From our perspective, it was worth every dime to have a custom-tailored experience we knew would be free of the usual aggravations.

Now think of this from the perspective of self-storage. What could you offer to customers that would improve their experience of storing with you and generate more income? I'm not talking about selling boxes and tape or offering climate control. That stuff is the norm now. I'm also not talking about storage condos, which are truly a luxury, but generally are offered as a real estate acquisition. Those units contain upscale amenities because they're designed for the customer who owns and customizes his storage space. I'm asking, what could you add to your operation with reasonable effort that would create demand for your specific self-storage facility and make customers excited about storing with you?

Maybe it's a truck loading or unloading service. Maybe it's a "meals for movers" service whereby you deliver cold beverages and pizza or subs to folks who are moving in or out. Maybe it's a storage-organization service, where you outfit a storage unit with shelving and plastic bins for the customer who wants to store business inventory or simply wants to be more organized. Maybe you set up a massage chair in your office and bring in students from the local massage school on weekends. Who wouldn't love a massage after hauling heavy boxes all day? Maybe you offer daycare for parents in the midst of a move. Not only would it free up the parents to deal with their goods more quickly, it will keep those kids from getting into trouble on your property. (If you think I'm exaggerating, see the Storage Brats video shared on Self-Storage Talk.) All of these would come at a price, of course, but one a customer would be happy to pay.

Go on, let your creativity run wild. For this exercise, don't focus on logistics or cost, just spin off as many ideas as you can. Please share some on this blog! Then go through your list and pick just one that feels feasible, one that will make customers go "wow" when they learn about it, one that will really pique their interest.

Consumers absolutely love it with they can fulfill multiple needs through a single business outlet, particularly when some of those products and services come as a pleasant surprise ... for example, when they can rent movies at the grocery store or get a flu shot at Target. (Hmmmm. Couldn't you bring in a local agency to administer flu shots in your management office twice per year? What about installing one of those Redbox DVD kiosks?) Come on ... Whaddaya got for me?

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