Your self-storage facility probably sells at least one product or service beyond unit rentals. For example, it’s incredibly common to offer boxes, tape and other packing materials. But what about trying something new? Read about the ancillary options your fellow operators are exploring today.

March 19, 2024

5 Min Read

Over the years, self-storage operators have introduced a variety of add-on products and services to their offering mix. Most sites sell some moving and packing supplies, for example. Truck rentals and vehicle storage are also incredibly common. These extras not only feed into the business revenue stream, they help meet consumer demand. But what about trying something new?

To compete in today’s market, it’s time to think beyond the basics! Self-storage is evolving, and shoppers are looking to do business with companies that provide more—of everything, including variety and convenience. Following are fresh ancillary ideas from some of your fellow facility operators, including words of profit-center wisdom. Use them as inspiration to jazz up your own business.

Individual Unit Motion Detectors

Submitted by Dwight Broering, Vice President of Self-Storage Operations, The Jenkins Organization

We recently added the option of portable motion detectors in our storage units at select properties. For a monthly fee, customers get a text message any time the device senses motion in their unit. It goes through a progression of texts to see if the tenant or another authorized person is at the space. Based on how the renter responds, authorities can be called, management is informed, etc. We’re currently evaluating the return on investment.

Ancillary advice: Try to gauge customer interest ahead of spending money to roll out a new product or service—word-of-mouth, surveys, talking to others in the industry who may be doing the same thing. Run models to determine how much to charge. Make sure the technology or service works as intended. Again, do your homework or due diligence by researching and talking to others.

Retail Space for Rent

Submitted by Denise Bowley, Owner, Self Storage Science LLC

We have just recently started remodeling our old rental offices at our remote locations to lease as retail space. Our business can charge a premium for this newly renovated space, and our tenants feel better knowing someone is on site.

To offer this, first, you'll need to secure a lease with a retail tenant. We have these renters sign a three-year contract.

Ancillary advice: When it comes to add-on products and services, I suggest starting with one item at a time and giving it a good enough go before adding another.

Package/Delivery Acceptance

Submitted by Helen Ng, Chief Executive Officer, General Storage Co. (Lock+Store Singapore and Malaysia, The Store House in Hong Kong)

In a highly competitive market, product differentiation is key to success. We’ve launched a new service at The Store House Hong Kong: the receipt of goods on our e-commerce and small-business customers’ behalf. By helping to receive our customers’ goods, with official documentation of the receipt and eventual handover, we free them from the hassle of traveling to our facility just for this purpose. They can focus on other business priorities.

Ancillary advice: Conduct market research and be sensitive to customer feedback. If different customers consistently ask for a specific service over time, it means there’s market demand. As facilities become increasingly remote-managed, operators should also think about offering accessible online channels for customer feedback and analyzing the data for pain points to improve the customer experience.

App-Based Facility and Unit Access

Submitted by Nick Moulder, Business Development Manager, Storage Asset Management

Every business and market is different, but generally, adding something that brings value to the customer and business is the way to go. One way to do this is to upgrade the access-control system to a cloud-based model that allows tenants to access the property and/or building by using an app and their cell phone’s Bluetooth technology.

There’s a greater sense of security for the customer when adopting a high-tech access-control system, and the business benefits from this in a few ways. The greatest advantage is having the ability to pass on a monthly technology/maintenance fee to customers. Depending on the market, this can range from $2 to $10 per month. In addition, the apps for these systems typically allow the business to have better tracking of who’s coming in and out because a cell phone is used at each access point instead of a digit sequence.

Ancillary advice: Seek out companies that offer this product and see if this upgrade makes sense at a property. Dig into the market. Research what’s being offered by competitors to determine which add-ons bring a strategic advantage over other facilities in the area.

Advertising Space

Submitted by Andrew Barcenas, Property Manager, Ultra Storage in Ventura, California

A great source of untapped income for self-storage facilities would be renting advertising space on the exterior of the facility and, in some cases, the interior. I worked for a storage company that had a huge wall right next to a Walmart parking lot, and all they had there was a small logo. If they had a process in place for renting advertising space, I’m sure that would’ve brought a steady source of income, especially for that location. It might also help customers learn about local businesses and special offers.

Implementing this would involve determining ad spaces, ensuring the facility is complying with regulations regarding outdoor advertising, and learning about ad pricing and structure. It would also take a sales and marketing team with a strategy to attract local businesses as advertisers, a contract/agreement specifying terms and conditions, and regular maintenance for ad spaces.

Ancillary advice: When adding a new service in general, I would say that making sure the rollout plan is airtight is important, and doing market research and getting pricing right is key.

Warehouse Space

Submitted by Bill Webb, Manager, Helm Storage, in Cleveland, Ohio

My suggestion is to rent open, climate-controlled warehouse storage for motorcycles, ATVs, boats and other toys people would like to store in a worry-free space. Many people don’t have room at home to store these large toys. For most properties, it would take new construction of an open warehouse building with access control to offer this.

Ancillary advice: Ask customers what they need and/or could use as well as what would save them a trip if we offered it. Then, capitalize on these items or services.

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