By Angie Guerin
We are like eggs at present and you cannot go on being an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
~ From Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Im quite sure C.S. Lewis didnt have the boat- and RV-storage business in mind when he made this analogy, but I like the way it applies to the dynamics of change within our industry. Twenty-five years ago, while in its infancy, self-storage was like a prequel to the ugly duckling. It was an egg. It was the era of unimaginative industrial metal structures on equally unattractive industrial sites. Then it hatched, grew up and evolved. Self-storage became a swan.
Boat and RV storage, like its older sister, is also evolving. Its getting bigger, fancier and more profitable. New developments are building in amenities that differentiate them from the facilities constructed a decade ago, and existing operators are adding features that are helping them compete with the new grown-up version of the business.
One of the ways these developers are finding success is by tapping into the mindset of a typical boat and RV renter and providing amenities to add value to potential customers. Having a fully lighted wash bay and dump station for my tenants has been a great draw to my facility, and a key selling point for our management team, says Jeff Jenson of North Plains Boat and RV Storage just outside of Portland, Ore. People like the idea that they can access the site in the early morning or late at night and not have to worry about adequate lighting while they are vacuuming, dumping or washing down their boat or RV. This, along with our secure site and friendly office, has helped draw tenants away from our competition.
Understanding the competition has been a key factor for many developers when determining what types of amenities to add to a new boat- and RV-storage development. Its a delicate balance between having enough to establish interest from your tenant base and adding more than a specific market can bear.
Higher construction costs can lead to a lower rate of return. One piece of advice I heard years ago from one of my earliest mentors was Find out what your competition is doing successfully, and do the same thing ... just a little bit better.
Be aware, though, the tricky part may be determining who the competition really is. Unlike its self-storage predecessor, boat and RV storage has the ability to draw from a wider geographic area. Some owners offer such a wide range of amenities and perks that they draw tenants from across state lines.
Consider Garage Plus, in Spanaway, Wash. Heavily marketed via billboards, commercials and radio ads, its a facility that offers unlimited potential extras. These include the ability to add a mezzanine structure or loft space, electricity in every unit, Wi-Fi access and cable hook-ups throughout the site, customizable flooring, and a club house with meeting space thats unmatched, featuring big screen TVs, an indoor fire ring, a wet bar and a pool table.
Garage Plus offers every conceivable perk to draw interested parties to the site, including a number of events and gatherings it hosts throughout the year to target the market its trying to reach. Another major difference between Garage Plus and a more typical boat/RV-storage facility is the condo concept.
Designed as for sale units, many of the additions or luxuries offered to tenants help increase the value of the unit and have a quantifiable return to the original owner.
Whether its a wash bay or dump station, mezzanine or outlet in every unit, Wi-Fi or a luxurious clubhouse, amenities are essentially convenienceswhich is always a selling point to tenants. The need for convenience has been a catalyst in hatching the egg of this industry. Tenants wanted convenient access, and we provided it by raising the bar on security. They wanted heated or cooled space, and the industry delivered standardized climate-control systems. Tenants wanted meeting spaces, conference rooms, wine storage and better lighting. The self-storage industry responded.
Boat and RV storage is changing, too, and the market demand for amenities or conveniences are the driving force. What was once merely an afterthought in the form of a fenced and graveled yard is morphing into an industry thats becoming architecturally more interesting, can stand on its own merit, and is giving its swan of a sister a run for her money.
Angie Guerin is the national sales manager at Mako Steel Inc., a Carlsbad, Calif., company that designs, supplies and installs steel buildings for the self-storage industry. She has worked in the self-storage industry for 12 years, assisting developers and contractors with their steel-building needs. When shes not peddling metal at Mako or writing blogs for the companys website, she works for a 3-year-old dictator named Isabella. She enjoys both jobs immensely. For more information, call 800.383.4932; visit www.makosteel.com.