When it comes to the overall appearance of your self-storage facility, image truly has an impact on your success. In today’s business environment, perception is reality to most people. Your tenants and prospects look at your facility with a critical eye, and if they don’t like what they see, it will surely affect your bottom line.
One of the most important facets of your facility’s appearance is the condition of your buildings. Even if your landscaping is relatively attractive, curb appeal is the key.
The Customer’s Viewpoint
Picture this: A tenant comes by to drop off or retrieve stuff from his unit and has difficulty opening or closing the roll-up door. Or maybe the door’s paint is faded. What kind of impression does this leave?
Perhaps a prospect is thinking about storage and happens to drive by your facility, but it appears unkempt and shabby compared to a newer, more appealing site he saw the day before. Which facility will he choose?
Customers scrutinize the appearance of your facility because they want to ensure their valuables are in an environment that is safe, clean and dry. Did you know that 60 percent to 70 percent of self-storage decision-makers are women? They tend to be more discriminating about appearance. The better they feel about the look of your facility, the more likely they are to rent from you.
Why the Obsession With Image?
This preoccupation with facility appearance on the part of customers is relatively new. It hasn’t always been this way. To get a proper perspective, a little industry history is in order.
Anyone who has been in the self-storage industry for a while will tell you that, in its early years, it didn’t have the best reputation as far as businesses go. In fact, it didn’t have much of a reputation at all. But in the 1960s, as construction migrated eastward from the West Coast, people saw more and more rows of cinderblock or tin buildings pop up. Sure, they were on the wrong side of the tracks, because no self-respecting neighborhood wanted these unattractive buildings polluting the landscape.
As a result, storage facilities were relegated to the industrial and commercial sections of town. But in spite of its modest, somewhat questionable and unheralded beginnings, self-storage began to draw operators and customers from all walks of life who recognized its value. Whether folks were moving, divorcing, downsizing or simply needed extra space for their valuables, finding a suitable storage facility at a reasonable price became important.
Faded self-storage doors are unattractive to renters (left). Replacing them gives your facility a fresh look (right).
Predictably, demand led to growth, and when industries grow, people pay attention. That includes potential investors as well as consumers. Wall Street also began to take notice because entrepreneurs soon discovered self-storage was a much better investment than most real estate. The more self-storage entered the limelight, the more it was expected to meet to the expectations of consumers and communities.
Over time, self-storage evolved from being a marginal investment to where it is today—a business with a good return on investment, but stiff with competition in some areas. It now operates from well-designed, state-of-the-art complexes, often in upscale neighborhoods and retail environments, offering the latest technological features. These are the reasons facility image has become so important.
A New Day in Self-Storage
To fully understand the impact of your building’s appearance on the mindset of self-storage customers, you must realize that they have more choices than ever before. If they don’t like the way your facility looks, they can go elsewhere—without ever leaving the neighborhood. Here’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to your facility’s curb appeal: If your competitor’s buildings look better than yours, it’s time to refurbish.
Another reason to consider refurbishing now is the state of the economy. If you were forced to put expansion plans or new construction on hold, a viable alternative is to refurbish existing buildings to make them look like new. It will cost less than new construction and has other advantages. For example, refurbishing may increase rental rates and occupancies, reduce maintenance, and eliminate roof leaks. Plus, the cost may even be a tax write-off.
Look closely at your buildings for signs of deterioration. From a practical point of view, look at your competitor’s buildings too. If they appear pristine and new, it’s all the more reason to level the playing field and refurbish your buildings to equal or exceed their appearance. If your facility has a few years on it, now might be the right time to consider a facelift.
Matt Doyle is the national sales manager in charge of repair and refurbishing for BETCO Inc., a single-source manufacturer in the self-storage industry. For more information, call 800.654.7813; visit www.betcoinc.com.