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Articles from 2014 In June


OpenTech Publishes Whitepaper Regarding Self-Storage Technology Use in 2013

OpenTech Alliance Inc., a Phoenix-based provider of self-serve kiosks, call-center services and other technology for self-storage businesses, has published a whitepaper examining use of industry technology in 2013. Titled “2014 Self Service Technology,” the 17-page report contains statistics and trends with regard to kiosks, call centers and online transactions.

In examining INSOMNIAC kiosk use at self-storage facilities, the OpenTech product has exceeded $121 million in total rental fees collected since the “Self Service Technology” report was first published six years ago. In 2013, storage customers used kiosks to rent 34,335 units. They made 248,838 payments through the machines and purchased 12,669 locks, company officials said in a press release. This equated to more than $27.4 million in move-in, payment and merchandise kiosk transactions last year.

The whitepaper provides kiosk-use statistics for move-ins and payments by days of the week and time of day. It also contains historical data showing kiosk use dating back to 2010. Similar statistics and analysis are provided on call-center use for reservations and payments, including a monthly breakdown between appointments, leads and support calls last year.

The whitepaper was outsourced and co-authored by several industry professionals, OpenTech officials said. The report, as well as a summary brief, can be downloaded for free from the company website.

OpenTech provides several models of INSOMNIAC self-serve kiosks as well as a range of self-storage rental solutions including the INSOMNIAC Live! Call Center, INSOMNIAC Online Web and mobile applications, LiveAgent! software products, and the INSOMNIAC ILock Security System, all available through the company's Self-Storage Cloud.

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Top 10 Safety Practices for Your Self-Storage Facility

Safety First Road Block Construction Cones

We all know how important it is to maintain a safe and inviting environment for our self-storage customers and guests. But how do you achieve this in an organized manner while maintaining a strong peace of mind for facility staff as well? Here are 10 safety procedures every operator should put into practice at his facility.

1. Adhere to a Daily Checklist

All operators should create and use a daily checklist of tasks to ensure all is well prior to opening, throughout the day and again at closing. Include all the pertinent details of your property. The list can even be customized if you have more than one site. This will help set expectations for managers on what should be reviewed or inspected every day.

2. Review Camera Activity

Make sure no untoward activities occurred during any time you’ve been away. Most of us use a digital video recorder that only captures motion for recording. This is the preferred method and makes camera reviews fast and easy for managers.

3. Install a Panic Button

A panic button should be installed at the front desk and monitored by your security company. If someone were to threaten staff, employees can simply hit the button, silently alerting police or the security company. No one should try to be the hero. A panic button should be a standard part of the security installation at your stores. It can be used in any situation when the manager feels threatened.

Hopefully, your office also has a camera to record everything that happens. This will make it easier to capture criminals after the fact. One camera should face the front door, and the activity should be displayed on a flat-screen monitor in the office. This is part of the sizzle that attracts customers and motivates them to pay higher rent—technology at work! Plus, it makes thieves think twice before attempting criminal behavior.

4. Provide a Back Door for Safe Exit

A back door or other means of exiting the office should be included for staff safety purposes. It should be behind the desk and not visible to others. It works great when the employee breakroom is behind the wall that features the security monitors. Adding the camera system and recorders out of site also makes it easy for staff to access them.

5. Beware of Liability

When something unexpected happens, it’s imperative for staff to preserve the asset and safeguard themselves and their tenants. This could be placing orange cones around a sinkhole, adding caution tape near a fallen limb, notifying customers via e-mail that the property is inaccessible during a storm, placing tarps on a damaged roof or taking other precautionary measures.

You cannot just sit there and allow the weather or other conditions to deteriorate the facility and put staff and tenants in danger.  Preparation is the key here. Maintaining necessary supplies, a vendor-contact list and a set of emergency procedures goes a long way to keeping everyone safe and preserving the property.

6. Consider Your Lighting and Fencing

There’s nothing more important to safety and customer satisfaction than great lighting throughout the site. Inspect your store’s night-time lighting at least monthly. Include the hallways, driveways, signage and other common areas in the inspection process. No one wants to be in the “_elf Storage Business” because the lights are out behind the “S.” Customers will pay higher rates for stores where the lighting makes them feel safe and comfortable.

In addition, inspect your fencing frequently to make sure there are no gaps, cuts or breaks around the perimeter of the store. If criminals know they can cut your fence and gain easy access because you don’t repair it in a timely manner, they’ll keep coming back. If they see you make constant and ongoing repairs or, better yet, improve the boundary protection, they’ll give up and go somewhere easier to access.

The same is true with graffiti. You must keep cleaning it up to get them to leave the area alone. Leaving graffiti intact clearly tells your customers and the community, “We have given up and don’t care about this.”

7. Maintain Cameras and Access-Control Systems

Nothing is more dangerous than a fake or non-performing camera or access system. Your cameras, keypads, monitors and intercoms must be kept in clean, functioning condition. Nothing is worse than a black screen on your office wall or a keypad or intercom system that doesn’t work. These are easy to repair. Your customers will simply go elsewhere if not offered adequate access control and monitoring. Great security is one of the things in which they pay extra.

8. Watch Your Cash Drawers

Here’s your new mantra: Close and balance daily and make a bank deposit.  It’s acceptable to leave about $100 in your cash drawer at the end of each workday if it’s locked up or in a location known only to the manager or owner. The balance should be deposited daily. This prevents overexposure to the business from holding multiple days of deposits. If criminals know you keep a lot of cash on site, you’re inviting a break-in or robbery. This is just good business practice.

We’re a retail business, and this is standard operating procedure for all retailers. Can you imagine your local Walmart not forcing a close and balance daily? This keeps the honest man honest, prevents mistakes from being carried forward day after day, and makes for a clear-cut accounting of each day’s transactions. It also provides a reliable audit trail.

9. Conduct Fire-Prevention Programs and Annual Inspections

While inspecting your site, check the last inspection date on all fire extinguishers, areas in the shop or office that could be a fire hazard, sprinklers and smoke alarms. Out-of-date extinguishers, dead batteries in a smoke alarm or a malfunctioning alarm system can create a negligent situation if anything should ever happen.

10. Beware of Hazards

Safety for everyone involved in our stores is critical to good management and life safety all around. However, using onsite guard dogs, guns or knives is not the way to go. Today’s storage industry has come light years from the outmoded methods for keeping everyone safe. There are numerous access-control system providers that can assist you in adding the latest technology and systems to your property. Call one of them today and ask for a site inspection and recommendations.

The fact is customers will pay more for high-tech surroundings and expect rent increases when they witness these improvements. The payback in higher rents and happier customers and managers is worth the effort.

Anne Ballard is president of training, marketing and developmental services for Universal Storage Group and the founder of Universal Management Co. She's a former president and current board member of the Georgia Self Storage Association and has served on the national Self Storage Association’s board of directors. She has participated in the planning, design and operation of numerous storage facilities. For more information, call 770.801.1888; visit www.universalstoragegroup.com.

Sounds of Storage Podcast: Rick Dodge Discusses Trends in Self-Storage Development and Construction

With self-storage development activity ramping up across the nation and attracting the interest of new investors, the profitability of the self-storage model can sometimes cloud the complexities of storage development projects, which are often opposed by cities and residents.

During this informative podcast, Inside Self-Storage Store Manager Tony Jones speaks with Rick Dodge, executive vice president of Paramount Metal Systems, about whether it’s better to buy an existing self-storage facility or commit to a conversion project or ground-up construction. They also discuss tips and common mistakes new developers should consider when dealing with city officials and local residents. Other topics include trends in building and site design, and the impact the Americans with Disabilities Act can have on projects.

If you're an investor or developer interested in the self-storage industry, don't miss the perspective Dodge, a 30-year industry veteran, has on issues that can effect a project’s timeline, budget and positioning for success.

Duration: 8 minutes, 17 seconds

ISS Releases Podcast on Self-Storage Development and Construction Trends

ISS Sounds of Storage Podcast

Inside Self-Storage (ISS) has released a new podcast examining current trends in development and construction. Part of the ISS “Sounds of Storage” series, the eight-minute recording features an interview with Rick Dodge, executive vice president of Paramount Metal Systems, a company specializing in the design and construction of self-storage buildings.

Dodge has 30 years experience in the industry and is an authority on new construction projects as well as retrofit framing and roofing systems for conversions and facility renovations. During the interview, Dodge talks about whether it’s better to buy an existing self-storage facility or commit to a conversion project or ground-up construction. He also discusses tips and common mistakes new developers should consider when dealing with city officials and local residents.

Other topics include trends in building and site design, and the impact the Americans with Disabilities Act can have on projects.

Dodge has been a speaker at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo and recently presented during the ISS Developers Conference in New York City. The one-day event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center was designed for investors, developers and aspiring self-storage owners interested in the business as well as current operators with plans to expand their portfolio or renovate facilities. Additional ISS Developers Conferences are being planned for the fall in other major cities. Details will be posted to www.insideselfstorage.com/conf.

The Dodge podcast and other installments in the "Sounds of Storage" series may be accessed by visiting the ISS podcasts page.

For nearly 25 years, ISS has provided informational resources for the self-storage industry. Its educational offerings include ISS magazine, the annual Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas, an extensive website, the ISS Store, and Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s largest online community.

England Self-Storage Operator Store & Secure Expands Bournemouth Facility

Update 6/27/14 – England self-storage operator Store & Secure recently expanded its Bournemouth facility by adding 27,000 square feet of storage space. The £300,000 project is part of a five-year growth plan and includes larger units up to 450 square feet targeted at businesses.

Managing director Brian Maidman started the storage business in 2010 while also leading the moving company Maidman’s Ltd. He recently sold Maidman’s to concentrate on developing the Store & Secure brand. The expansion was done in an area that had been leased to Maidman’s former moving business.

“The company is expanding well,” he told the source. “This phase is a year and a half ahead of schedule in our first five-year plan. What comes next is growth around the south of England with further locations.”

The Bournemouth facility targets business tenants by offering office suites for short- or long-term rent. It also has 120 drive-up units for business or residential customers.

“The concept is very popular with businesses, as they can easily upscale or downsize for short periods and are never tied to a fixed space, both in storage and our serviced offices,” Maidman said. “We will receive deliveries on their behalf and provide full handling facilities [including] forklift, pallet trucks and trolleys, even a mailbox. Start-ups can try a business idea by beginning as small as they like and without being locked into a contract.”


5/22/14 – Brian Maidman, co-founder of England-based moving company Maidman’s Ltd., has sold the business to rival company White & Co. PLC to concentrate on developing his Store & Secure self-storage brand, according to the source.

“After 35 years in the removals industry, developing Maidman’s to its size and enviable reputation, I wanted to concentrate on Store & Secure,” Maidman said. “Both my daughters will work with me, and we’ll operate as a family business. Our plan is to develop a multi-site operation. We definitely have growth in mind and will be very active in the market.”

Store & Secure currently operates one self-storage facility in Bournemouth, England, which also serves the communities of Christchurch and Westbourne. In addition to traditional storage, the company offers office workspace.

The entire Maidman’s staff will make the transition to White & Co. Brian Maidman’s daughter Sophie will remain with the new company for three months before joining her father’s self-storage business, the source reported.

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Developer Seeks Zoning Approval to Build Self-Storage Facility and Coffee House in Muskego, WI

A self-storage developer hopes to convert a former car dealership in Muskego, Wis., into a self-storage facility that will include a coffee house. Alex Simic, owner of Storage Master LLC, has requested a conditional-use grant to build a 55,000-square-foot storage facility at S66 W.14444 Janesville Road. The property is the former home of the Salentine Buick dealership, which closed in 2013, and near Tess Corners Business Park.

The storage conversion would include 325 indoor units and 186 outdoor spaces for vehicle parking, according to a proposal filed with the city. In addition, part of the dealership’s building would be converted to a 3,000-square-foot coffee house, dubbed MUG (Muskego Urban Gathering) Place. The coffee house would also feature three meeting rooms available for public rental.

“The intent of MUG Place is an environment where families can gather to enjoy refreshments, play board games, listen to local musicians and/or speakers,” the proposal said.

The city’s planning commission is holding a public hearing on Tuesday at 6 p.m. to discuss the proposal.

Storage Master operates four facilities in Milwaukee, New Berlin, Oak Creek and Racine, Wis.

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Lock-It-Up Self Storage Expands Sylvania, Ohio, Facility

Lock-It-Up Self Storage is planning an expansion over the next several years that will double the size of its Sylvania, Ohio, facility. The property at 7840 Sylvania Ave., between King and Centennial roads, currently has five buildings containing 300 storage units. One building is under construction and expected to be completed in July. Plans are underway to add four more buildings over the next few years.

Last year, Lock-It-Up acquired 10 acres of land adjacent to its existing 6 acres for $300,000. The expansion is in response to economic growth in the community, according to company president Steve Speranza. A portion of the new land may be developed for industrial use, Speranza said, but no specific plans have been made.

Once complete, the new buildings will encompass 10,000 square feet of storage space. Each will contain 50 to 60 units, ranging from 5-by-10 to 10-by-20 feet, some of which will be climate-controlled.

The first phase will cost about $500,000, which will include clearing the land, constructing the single building and installing a retention pond, the source reported. The four additional buildings will be constructed once the property reaches the appropriate occupancy of its existing units.

Lock-It-Up is also expanding its properties in Adrian, Fremont, Oregon and Perrysburg, Ohio. The company’s success is a result of changes it has made to its sites, including the implementation of new technology and security such as video cameras, according to Speranza.

Lock-It-Up operates 15 facilities in Michigan and Ohio. It’s owned by Tolson Enterprises, a Toledo, Ohio-based real estate investment, development and management company with property holdings including office, industrial and commercial retail as well as self-storage.

           

Sources:

ISS Blog

Tailor Your Self-Storage Service to Individual Customers

Tailor Your Self-Storage Service to Individual Customers

When I was a little kid, my older brother and I would make a weekly trek to our neighborhood “dime store” to buy baseball cards and whatever cheap trinkets and toys caught our eye. My middling allowance of 35 cents stretched pretty well in that place—a type of “5 & Dime,” variety retail outlet that kids today know only as “dollar stores.”

This was a small, independent business, not a chain, and every time I walked through the door, the man behind the counter (I always presumed he was the owner, but I really have no idea) would greet me by my first name. More often than not, he called me “Tony the Tiger,” and his friendly demeanor always made me smile. When I was 6 and learned how to ride a bicycle, he gave me a license plate emblazoned with my name across it. Man, did I think I was cool.

I don’t remember a whole lot from when I was 5 or 6 years old, but I remember this man and how he made me feel special as a customer—as if every 15-cent purchase I made mattered to the success of his business. This type of personal touch should be the hallmark of every great self-storage customer-service program.

The more you can make customers feel like they have an ongoing, positive relationship with your business, the more opportunities you create to establish brand loyalty and drive referrals. The core principle here is strategically applying personalization to your marketing, customer service and sales efforts.

You’re likely already applying one-to-one marketing principles in some of your strategies, whether using personalization in e-mail campaigns, newsletters and special promotions, or simply having the customer’s name displayed on your website after they log in to pay bills online. These have become commonplace and remain effective, in part, because customers now expect them. In addition, consider acknowledging customer milestones like birthdays and even anniversary dates that celebrate when longtime tenants became customers.

Personalization should also be integral to customer service and sales. How many of your customers do you know by name when you see them? If they have a reason to walk in through the office door, do you greet them by name? If you’ve developed rapport with your tenants, exploit it at every meaningful opportunity. For example, when you drive a prospective customer around the property and pass a tenant at his unit, do you call out his name and ask him how he’s doing? If so, you’re not only reinforcing with the tenant that he matters to you, you’re impressing upon the prospect that you run a friendly, personable business.

An easy customer-service and sales technique is to repeat a person’s name on occasion while on the phone or in person. You don’t need to do it a lot, but when weaved naturally into the flow of conversation, it indicates that you’re paying close attention and care about the outcome of your discussion. I’m amazed how infrequently this happens, particularly since it’s a technique that can subtly nudge a negative call initiated by the customer in a positive direction.

Besides the good kind of name-calling, you should also think about ways to tailor your service offerings to appeal to customer needs and interests. This is at the core of providing something as simple as meeting space. Having a space customers can use is handy for them and increases interaction with you since they’ll need to reserve it. It’s an opportunity to provide a service and learn something about the customer. Offering pack-and-ship services is another good strategy along these lines. Wine storage is a prime example of a customer-centric service and supports the argument to incorporate add-on profit centers wherever feasible.

Storage Solutions in Winchester, Va., recently launched a Web-application service called Itimizit that enables customers to rent only the space they need, manage stored belongings online, and request valet pickup and delivery service for individual items. The company says it’s hoping to franchise the service to other storage operators.

Each item stored through the Itimizit system is given a unique, scannable code to make locating and tracking it easy through the app, according to the company’s website. Customers can bring belongings they wish to store to the facility themselves or schedule a pickup. When an item needs to be retrieved, customers can use the app to schedule an in-person pickup or have it delivered.

Sounds pretty personalized doesn’t it? Storage Solutions is the first traditional self-storage operator I’ve heard about that has added a service akin to the valet-style storage businesses that have begun popping up around the nation. It’s an intriguing idea that helps differentiate this operator within its marketplace, which is really the whole point.

How do you tailor your service to individual customers? Please share some examples in the comments section below.

UK Self-Storage Operator Safestore Reports Financial Results for First 6 Months of Fiscal 2014

U.K. self-storage operator Safestore Holdings PLC reported a pre-tax profit of £6.9 million during the first six months of its 2014 fiscal year, down 46.1 percent compared to the same period (through April 30) in 2013. Revenue fell slightly year over year from £47.1 million to £46.9 million. The company declared an interim dividend of 2.15 pence, up 16.2 percent from the same period last year.

The company's earnings during the period were hurt by property-revaluation losses and impacted by income-tax charges of £2.1 million, compared to a tax benefit of £61.9 million it received last year.

Revenue from Safestore’s U.K. businesses fell 2 percent during the period to £33.9 million. However, after adjusting for the closure of the company’s Enfield South self-storage location, which was still open during the first half of 2013, and the loss of rental earnings from the sale of its Whitechapel location last year, same-store revenue rose 0.6 percent, officials said.

"Many of our recent operational initiatives are starting to come through with improvements in inquiries, conversion and new lets driving occupancy growth, whilst our new pricing policy is resulting in a positive rental rate trend,” said Frederic Vecchioli, CEO. "As a result, our trading performance has been encouraging and, combined with the improvements to the capital structure and tight cost control, has translated into strong growth in both earnings and dividends in the half year.”

Occupancy at the company’s U.K. facilities was 63.4 percent during the period compared to 72.1 percent at its properties in France. Occupancy for all facilities was 65.3 percent. The company increased occupancy by 49,000 square feet during the second quarter of its fiscal year.

Revenue for Safestore’s French holdings increased 4 percent to £13 million compared to £12.5 million during the first six months of 2013.

"Going forward, we are excited about the opportunity and, although the benefits of the recent improvements made across the business will take some time to be fully reflected in our financial performance, we are confident in delivering the strategy and generating earnings in line with the board's expectations," Vecchioli said.

Safestore operates 134 self-storage facilities, including 97 wholly owned U.K. locations and 25 wholly owned facilities in France. The company also has 12 locations under management in the U.K. It serves approximately 46,000 total customers and employs about 550 people.

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Absolute Storage Management to Host Self-Storage Community Yard Sales in Memphis, TN

Two Memphis, Tenn., self-storage facilities operated by property-management company Absolute Storage Management (ASM) will host community yard sales on June 28. Storage Locker and Midtown Vault Storage have invited tenants and local residents to sell items and shop for treasures.

Storage Locker, at 6303 Summer Ave., serves the communities of Bartlett and Cordova. It will host its yard-sale event from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participants can set up sales booths at no charge but must provide their own tables or means of display, according to ASM. There is no cost to shop for items.

Midtown Vault, at 1485 Madison Ave., serves the Midtown area. It will hold its yard sale from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Current facility tenants can sell their wares for free, while other sellers must pay $10. All participants must provide their own tables. The Midtown event will also feature live music from a local band that rents a unit at the storage facility as well as food donated by New Fellowship Church and the Amateur Athletic Union Fellowship basketball team. Door prizes will also be given away.

Midtown Vault manager Patrice May said she is excited to show the community the property is more than a storage facility. “We love to be a part of the community and to participate in different events,” she said. “This is our way of giving back to Midtown.”

Founded in 2002, ASM owns and manages self-storage facilities throughout the Southeast, operating more than 80 properties in 13 states. The company is actively seeking to add additional properties to its portfolio through traditional third-party management relationships and joint-venture/acquisition opportunities. Headquartered in Memphis, it has regional offices in Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; and Jackson, Miss.