By Kevin Bledsoe
Over the last 25 years, the self-storage industry has experienced amazing growth, and it's more important now than ever for facility operators to get creative in their product offerings and differentiate their facility from the competition. One add-on business model gaining momentum is the pack and ship store concept.
A traditional pack and ship store is usually in a shopping plaza near a large anchor or grocery store. The anchor store helps generate business for the smaller stores in the plaza and can drive revenue for these smaller enterprises. A downside for store owners operating in a high-traffic plaza is the cost of rent, which can be very high and create difficulty in turning a reasonable profit. This is where adding a pack and ship store to your self-storage operation can be very lucrative.
Most operators probably have no idea how to run a pack and ship center. I had the same problem when I began looking at the concept. At first, I had very little desire to bring the pack and ship store to the self-storage facilities my company manages. But with time, practice and training, I embraced the concept and now believe this business model is one of the best to enter the industry.
This article will provide insight to the pack and ship model and help operators identify the various profit centers associated with this type of business. At the very least, it will give you something to think about and possibly research further to see if this is the right fit for your and business acumen.
A pack and ship center offers shipping services through providers like UPS, FedEx, United States Postal Service (USPS) and DHL. Store operators use these carriers to offer shipment services such as ground, express, international and freight. In addition, most stores generate revenue from the cost of packaging items for customers.
Most consumers are unaware of the difference between an inexpensive box from a local retailer and an approved shipping box that will keep the contents safe during shipping. As the store operator, its your job to educate the customer and offer to pack all shipments in an approved, secure manner. The shipping process will help you generate revenue through the sale of boxes, packaging materials, labor charges, shipping costs and any additional coverage purchased to guarantee the value of items in transit. You can offer the same products and services on international, express and freight shipments, which offer the highest profit margin.
Additional Profit Centers
Most pack and ship stores also offer a variety of other profitable services. For example, a good store will offer a number of digital printing and copying options. Why do you think Staples transformed a large portion of the front of its stores into a digital print shop? They make a huge profit!
Your print-shop offering can be as simple as a copy machine customers can use or as complex as design services. Most operators fall somewhere in the middle. The majority of locations offer to print a wide range of products for customers, for example postcards, business cards, brochures, letters, fliers and posters from pre-designed files.
mailboxes for rent is another profit center you can include as part of a pack and ship center. You can purchase a bank of mailboxes for a one-time fee that will pay for itself for years to come. A small mailbox will cost customers approximately $20 to $25 per month. A medium or large mailbox would increase in price from there.
Most stores offer a variety of add-on options for mailbox services such as text or e-mail notification and large-package storage for customers who rent a mailbox. These services save customers time and money, eliminating the need for them to check their mailbox every day. Most pack and ship stores will have 75 to 150 mailboxes available for rent.
Other offerings to consider including in your pack and ship store are notary services, passport services, fingerprinting, greeting cards, fax services, computer workstations, shredding services, digital scanning, impulse items, office products, binding services, laminating services, stamps, electronic postage and money orders. All of these items help drive traffic to a well-equipped pack and ship center and increase the bottom line.
The pack and ship concept isnt for every storage operator, but it can greatly benefit facilities in high-traffic areas. At my company, the model has tripled our in-store traffic counts and benefited the self-storage side of the business. To get more information, you can start with several reputable franchises that specialize in this industry, including The UPS Store, Goin Postal, Safe Ship, The Mailbox Stores and Postal Connections. I wish you the best of luck with your research and hope this information will point you in the right direction when choosing your differentiating factor.
Kevin Bledsoe is a district manager of York, Pa.-based Storage Asset Management Inc., which provides full-service management, consulting and website-development services to self-storage owners on the East Coast. For more information, call 717.779.0044; visit www.storageassetmanagement.com .