By ISS Staff
When a customer walks into your self-storage facility, he’s usually looking for more than just a secure place to store his stuff. He often needs a convenient and cost-effective way to pack and move it as well. This is a golden opportunity to highlight your retail prowess and inspire loyalty by fulfilling those needs.
Your facility’s retail display isn’t only a way to generate add-on profit, it’s a solution center for customers who need guidance and products to “get the job done.” Proper inventory, design and display will ensure your facility attracts more customers and makes more money.
First, you have to decide which merchandise to offer. “Keeping ample stock of the high-selling items such as locks, boxes of various sizes, and packing and protection supplies is key,” says Julie Bayley, project manager for Pogoda Cos., a third-party management firm that owns and manages 18 properties in Michigan and Ohio. “Other supplies such as markers, box cutters, tape and gloves offer the customer the convenience of a one-stop shopping area for all of their moving and storage supplies.”
Also carry items that go beyond the basics. Anything that helps tenants safely prepare their possessions for storage is guaranteed to sell. Consider dish-packing kits, mattress covers, moving blankets, box labels, rope, zip ties, and boxes specifically designed for mirrors, pictures and TVs. Also consider impulse items people are likely to grab on the go like cold drinks and snacks, flashlights, and first-aid staples (bandages and pain relievers come in very handy during a move).
When it comes to designing your retail store, your office size will usually dictate how much space to reserve. Fortunately, there are strategies to make the most of any area, big or small. “We have everything from 25 square feet of space to 300 square feet of space for merchandise display. Each store has at least 4 to 8 feet of wall space for product display,” says Rob Consalvo, director of operations for iStorage, which operates 67 facilities in 10 states.
A large office provides ample room for stacks of boxes and floor fixtures brimming with packing materials; however, it can also be overwhelming for customers. A novice packer may wonder where to start. To produce a sense of simplicity and calm, create a large focal point at eye level. This could be an artful display of boxes or a rotating stand of locks.
When you carry a wide array of products, it can be tempting to display everything. While it’s great to offer variety, too much in a small area looks cluttered and will make your store feel overstimulating. If a customer can’t quickly find the items he needs, he’ll go elsewhere.
If you have a large retail area, consider dividing it into sections. Boxes and bubble wrap can be grouped together, as can smaller items like markers and tape. The goal is to make it easy and convenient for people to shop with you.
If you have a very small office with no room for retail, consider converting a nearby unit into a store. You can even replace the roll-up door with a glass store front to make it more like a true retail space.
Here are some other design elements to keep in mind:
- Use a mix of natural light, fluorescent lighting and spot lighting to showcase products.
- Carefully consider the flooring. Non-marking floor types are best. Entice customers to the retail area via a colorful carpet runner. You can even use your facility’s brand colors and add your logo.
- If possible, choose an area with high ceilings, which will make your retail center seem more spacious.
- Retain your countertop space for small and impulse-buy items.
An easy way to manage your displays is to use a plan-o-gram, a pre-designed sketch outlining which items go where. Your retail vendor can often provide one or you can design your own. A good plan will organize items by price points within categories, allowing customers to quickly decide which product is right for their need and budget, says Mark Petro, national account manager of Supply Side USA, which offers retail-merchandising programs to the self-storage industry.
The goal is to use your advertising and displays as effectively as possible. Position fast-moving items at eye level and keep the products that are most relevant to your customers in open view. Ensure items are professionally organized and priced.
Consider building your store in an office alcove or corner, which will allow you to take advantage of wall space. Ideally, you want an area 8 to 12 feet wide so you can add grid-wall panels, which typically come in 2-by-4-foot sections. This type of display is an excellent way to keep product tidy.
Using your floor, shelving, wall and even window space allows you to maximize your retail area and offers more options to show off your inventory. “Displays that are neat, clean, full, organized and symmetrical are the best way to show retail merchandise,” says Petro. “Get creative when displaying boxes to highlight features like handle holes and graphics that describe what to use the boxes for. You want the customer to be able to handle the products.”
If you have a small office, you can still make a big impact. Consider a small countertop display with just a few samples, then keep extra stock behind the desk where you can reach it quickly when customers make a purchase. If you have wall space behind the counter, consider installing shelving or a peg board to display items.
You can do the same for box displays. Assemble a few sizes that are popular and stack them near the counter. You can weigh them down with rocks to keep them stable and post prices on each size.
Of course, building your retail center isn’t the end of the job. You have to keep it clean and organized. Crevasses between boxes and shelves are constant collectors of dirt, and customers will notice. Schedule time to regularly clean and stock your retail area. Keep it full. You can freshen it every few months by rearranging the items.
“We encourage our managers to move things around every now and then to change the look,” Consalvo says. “Customers get used to seeing the same thing over and over. When we refresh the area, it adds new interest.”
When stocking and designing your retail store, keep the customer at the forefront of your mind. None of your effort matters if he isn’t inspired to buy. Create a welcoming atmosphere, use suggestive selling, and get imaginative with your designs by adding banners and other signage. “The more that’s done to create a retail look and feel, the more this effort shows commitment to the customer, which equates to additional sales,” Petro says.