By Rob Kaminski
If you dont believe you can improve retail sales and services at your self-storage facility, think again. If youve done all you can to maximize unit rentals, then youre ready to apply those sales skills and expand the impact retail has on your business. Take a fresh look at your retail sales with these concepts that have been market-tested by self-storage professionals over the past 20 years.
1. Low, Low Pricing Is Not the Answer or Even the Question
Some operators think they cant compete against the retail prices at big-box or home-improvement stores. Those who lower their prices to improve sales find it rarely works, for two reasons. First, they usually turn to obviously cheaper products that dont get purchased, and second, they give their employees (and maybe themselves) an excuse for not trying to sell retail.
Your business is storage rentals. You offer locks, boxes, tape and so on as a convenience to your customers. Convenience stores prosper not because they have the lowest prices but because convenience has value. How many of your rental customers would go out of their way just to save a couple of bucks on a disc lock? For that matter, how many even know what a lock or box or roll of bubble wrap costs? The takeaway here is if you sell good products at good prices, youll have great sales.
2. Sell Packages, Not Just Packaging
Most consumers have little experience at packing and moving. Left to choose what boxes, tape and cushioning theyll need, they usually get it wrong. When this occurs, theyll be unhappy, and youll miss out on making a better sale and a new friend.
Offer packing kits for one, two or more rooms. The kits should exist only on charts that suggest a balanced mix of packaging for a kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc. The suggestions make decisions easier for customers and your managers. You could even offer a discounted kit price as an added enticement for renting a unit. Box-bundle discounts work, too. Your supplier should have the information and sometimes even the printed materials youll need.
3. Show-and-Tell Retailing
Many of your customers have probably never used wardrobe boxes or stretch wrap, and your managers may or may not be able to explain their functionthats if customers even ask for assistance. A more proactive approach managers can take is to demonstrate their use.
Creating a display of clothes and hangers in an assembled wardrobe box is worth more than a thousand words. To convey its benefit, add a sign that asks, Why pack and unpack? By adding a similar sign on a piece of furniture with drawers that are stretch-wrapped closed, you can visually explain the use and benefit of another product. Glass and dish kits can also be displayed using items purchased at local rummage sales.
4. Slow Movers vs. Better Selling
Every retail display features several fast-selling products and a few slow movers, so why not have all fast sellers? Because retail displays should be sized right for your space. A 4-foot display of just five fast sellers against a 15-foot wall wouldnt get attention and sales would suffer.
Your supplier should offer plan-o-grams (POGs) to fit every space. Professional POGs are designed to position the fast sellers for maximum impact. The slower sellers act as a frame that draws customers into the display. Convenient reorder tags make it easy for staff to keep things stocked and organized. POGs, reorder tags, signage and merchandising consulting from your suppliers should be free. After all, if you sell more, your suppliers sell more, right?
5. Lock Picking and Placement
Many of your customers might be unfamiliar with disc locks and assume theyre designed specifically for storage units. Thats a good thing, but it also puts a special responsibility on you.
The ideal lock will look tough and be packaged to communicate toughness. More important, it must actually be tough inside and out. Offering locks that use stainless steel inside and out to prevent corrosion demonstrates quality at a competitive price.
There are two common lock missteps. The first is if you display locks at the counter, customers will have less reason to visit your retail display. The second is if managers are given the option to give away a lock to close the sale, you can bet they will.
6. Better Retailing Through Better Retailers
Of all the retail techniques you can use, employee training will have the greatest impact on your bottom line. A well-informed, friendly manager can compensate for a cramped space, a less-than-ideal display, and even prices that may be higher than youd like. But how do you get managers the training they need?
Again, call your suppliers. Training materials shouldnt only give product specifications but suggest cross-selling techniques. Your suppliers should be eager to help your employees improve their sales skills since they, too, stand to profit.
Many self-storage owners report employees who have learned retail skills are also able to win over rental prospects as well. This is just one reason why many of them are exploring ways to reward increased retail sales.
7. Thinking Like a Retailer
Many of the best retail ideas came from other retailers. The next time you go to a store, compare it to your own retail center. Look for devices such as clearance bins. Not everything in a bin is marked down much if at all, but the technique helps to sell outdated merchandise. Could your facility use a clearance bin to move product?
If you keep your eyes open at supermarkets, convenience stores and hardware stores, youll notice they treat their checkout counters like prime retail real estate. Hardware stores in particular have discovered that cold drinks, energy drinks and snacks are great impulse-buy items. How can you use your counter space more effectively?
To make your retail sales take off, you must think like a retailer. If you can do that and implement several of these strategies, increased sales are sure to follow.
Rob Kaminski is vice president of Supply Side USA, a national distributor of packaging, moving and storage supplies for more than 50 years. The company assists self-storage operators in improving retail performance through plan-o-gram programs that sell more merchandise. For more information, call 800.305.6110; visit www.supplysideusa.com .