ISS Blog

A Little Extra Scratch

A garage sale can be a good way for a self-storage operator to draw people to his facility, helping customers and prospects unload junk and acquire 'treasure.'

Last summer, my husband and I hosted a garage sale at our house, inviting a few friends along for the adventure. In truth, we were only hoping to unload some junk we'd been collecting over the years in our various closets, drawers and cabinets, and maybe pick up a few bucks in the process. We had no idea what we were in for.

In Arizona, the militant yard-sale crawlers get started eeeeeearrrrly. It's not just a bird-getting-the-worm kind of thing, but our thermometers hit 100 by 9 a.m. in the summer months, sometimes even earlier. I knew this to be the case, so we planned to open shop at 6:30. What a joke. Our signs went up the evening before, and the fanatics were ringing our doorbell at 5 a.m. No lie.

Once the garage door was opened and we rolled out our goods, we were besieged by hordes of bargain-hunters. Our attempts to set up tables and organize our offerings were fruitless. People grabbed things right out of our hands. It was like they'd never seen the likes of a wall-mount toothbrush holder, a bicycle foot pump or a dress-making dummy.

I sold clothing by the pile. A woman would hold something like a polka-dot dress and fuschia tube top into the air and scream, "How much?!" across the crowd. I would yell back, "A buck makes it yours!" A sweaty, crumpled dollar would make its way to me through a universe of hands, the garments would disappear into a strange car, and the whole company would roll off into the sunrise.

After five hours of haggling, making change, and alternately drinking coffee and Bloody Marys, we were left with nothing but a faux fur jacket, a broken lava lamp, a stack of old magazines and a fist full of cash—hundreds of dollars worth. We were amazed, sunburned, exhausted and a little drunk. It had been a good morning.

So what about you? Have a garage sale at your self-storage facility, I mean. Involve your tenants and your community. You can sell your own stuff. Tenants can open their unit doors and sell their stuff. You can even rent out your empty units as sales spaces for the day at a nominal fee of $10 or $15. As a bonus, donate these fees to a local charity, or use them to hire some form of entertainment for the day. This will allow you to bring in potential new customers and build relationships with the community. You can even invite a local hot-dog, kettle-corn or ice-cream vendor to set up camp on the premises.

Talk about a killer marketing opportunity! People love a party. And they'll love you because they're making money off their unwanted stuff. Maybe a few will pay rent out of their gravy cash. Some might even buy items that temporarily require storage, like furniture or recreational gear they can't fit into their vehicle or don't want to tell their spouses about!

Today on Self-Storage Talk, there's a manager asking for input about hosting garage sales at self-storage sites. She's wondering how people feel about these events as marketing and business-building enterprises. It's a good question, and a timely one, as we're about to host a Legal Learning webinar on that very topic on July 8.

If you've got some experience or advice regarding a facility garage sale or similar event, be a buddy and chime in at the forum. Or you can post a comment here. We'll all appreciate the input!

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