When the self-storage industry first began, most people only needed the product during a move. But as the business evolved, storage owners added ancillary products and services such as truck rental, records storage and retail items to attract a broader range of tenants and boost profit. Wine storage is also making a splash, giving storage operators yet another means with which to serve a niche market.
The Right Storage
Wine is a delicate commodity requiring specialized conditions to maintain proper storage. Customers of wine storage tend to be collectors, and their wine collections are personal to them, their families and friends. By letting tenants know you care enough to provide the best home for their prized possessions, you secure long term-customers.
The most important elements to protect wine include:
- Temperature. Wine should be kept at 55 degrees, which will assure it will mature. Lower temperatures slow aging, and higher temperatures affect the wine’s quality.
- Humidity. Wine needs to be stored in humidity from 60 to 70 percent. Excessively high humidity breeds molds and damages labels. Low humidity causes corks to dry out, resulting in the wine inevitably spoiling.
- Light. Ultraviolet light can damage wine even if exposed for a brief period. Keep your wine storage dark when not being used by customers.
Red and White
Here are some more pointers to successfully launch wine storage at your facility. I’ve used the acronyms RED and WHITE for easy memorization.
R is for racks. You will need wooden, wire, decorative or designer racks to hold specialty bottles of wine. Racks are typically priced between $50 to $500.
E is for extras. You want to attract and retain your potential customer with extras. Why not sell corkscrews, coolers, wine tags, glasses, cases, carriers, books and wine magazines? Become a one-stop shop, allowing tenants the ability to pick up extra items when they’re scrambling with last-minute party preparations. They’ll appreciate the convenience; your bottom line will appreciate the profit.
D is for different. Wine-storage operators attract a different type of self-storage customer. Accept the challenge and diversify your amenities to fit their needs. Wine storage can become quite personal to connoisseurs. Make them feel special by treating their belongings with great care.
W is for wine lovers. Remember your audience. Wine is their baby. They want to know it is safe, and they need to trust you and your facility. Give them every reason to believe in your services and make those services obvious in all marketing materials.
H is for high-tech. Let your customers know their wine collection is safer at your facility than in their own homes. People like high-tech and will go great lengths to obtain it. Install the equipment necessary to maintain the correct humidity and temperature. Finally, invest in high-tech security measures to assure safety.
I is for insiders. Wine appreciation is like a club. People who are in-the-know about wine terminology are accepted as members of the club. Walk the walk and talk the talk by studying up on wines and proper storage.
T is for tasting. Wine-tasting tops the list of fun activities for this group of enthusiasts. Consider bringing in a local expert to share knowledge about special wines. You’ll bring your audience of wine lovers to your lobby, where they’ll see how great your provisions for storage can protect their own collections.
E is for educate. Marketing is a form of education. Inform consumers about your service and how to find you. An educated consumer can be your best customer.
To promote your new wine-storage service create relationships with existing local wineries, breweries, restaurants, spas, hotels and chambers of commerce. Circulate brochures describing your wine storage and amenities to every business within a 3- to 5-mile radius. Word-of-mouth is often the best kind of marketing.
Another smart move is to partner with local wine retailers. Not only can they refer customers to you, but they may also store extra cases of wine at your facility.
Most important, know your customer base. Connoisseurs can store their wine in their basements, garages or hide it in the back of their refrigerators, so give them a reason to store it securely in your facility. By storing with you, they can savor every bottle at its peak, and you can enjoy the profit of a successful wine-storage business.
John R. Wharton is a resident manager for Space Mart Self-Storage in Newport News, Va. He is active in the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, where he was recently awarded the Entrepreneurial Success Award for 2008. Mr. Wharton has been in the self-storage business for nearly five years. To reach him, e-mail [email protected].