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Strategies for Operating and Marketing Wine Storage as Part of a Self-Storage Business

Wine storage paired with traditional self-storage has become increasingly popular, but this novel storage niche requires a different approach to operation and marketing. Here, facility operators share their impressions and strategies for this add-on business.

December 11, 2015

5 Min Read
Strategies for Operating and Marketing Wine Storage as Part of a Self-Storage Business

By Katie Self

Wine storage paired with traditional self-storage has become increasingly popular, notably in affluent areas that are dense with restaurants or enthusiasts who require storage space for their esteemed collections. However, this novel storage niche requires a different approach to operation and marketing. Here, facility operators share their impressions and strategies for this add-on business.

Management

A self-storage facility can only operate as strongly as those who commit to its day-to-day needs. When it comes to wine storage, site managers need to be prepared to offer professional guidance and instruction for the use and capabilities of its storage lockers. “Our onsite management team is responsible for leasing the wine units just as any other unit at the facility,” says Donna Edwards, manager of Plantation Self-Storage in Bluffton, S.C. Her facility also has an agreement with a local repair company to service the facility’s wine-related equipment the same day if there’s an issue.

Mathieu Seguin, director of operations for A1 Mini U-Store-It in Ottawa, Canada, says his current staff stepped up and transitioned into wine storage. “The pricing structure is similar [to self-storage], so we have managed with our existing software,” he says. “Many of the same features sought for wine storage already exist for self-storage, and our staff has done a wonderful job renting out.”

Marketing

Wine storage is a separate service from self-storage and requires its own unique promotional efforts. Because it sometimes needs a little specialized knowledge and finesse, it’s not unusual for operators to seek outside marketing support. There are many third-party advertising businesses that offer a keen eye toward the needs of potential patrons.

Kris Fetter, operations manager of Pacific Highway Storage in San Diego, Calif., says a wine-specific marketing firm offers particular tools to zone in on her niche market. “They know the area wine people and recommend us,” she says. “They also find local artists to hang their art in our office, conference room, kitchen and wine area. We have a new artist every quarter and have a meet-and-greet with the artist, and wine tastings with invitations to the tenants.” The marketing is focused on various categories and includes private collectors, sommeliers and wine companies, she adds.

“Many of our customers were referred to us by existing customers and area wine stores,” Edwards says. “In some cases, our customers are building or remodeling their homes and need storage for a short period of time. We are the only facility in the area that offers wine storage, so we also include it in our marketing online, several social media outlets, print media, and direct marketing to apartments, property-owner associations and through the local chamber of commerce.”

Interactive marketing plays a key role in garnering business, including onsite events and tastings. “At first, we hosted wine tastings and events for our local sommeliers,” Seguin says. “We also made our services known to businesses that sell wine accessories. Once the momentum got started, we dropped our advertising altogether, and we now rely on word-of-mouth.”

Once you’ve earned consistent business, marketing becomes an important role in keeping it. However, Seguin says it’s easier to maintain business for wine storage than traditional self-storage. “Collectors who have access to space tend to buy more wine than they consume,” he adds.

Part of operating a gainful wine-storage facility includes insurance to cover goods and an understanding of local legislation. Broken valuables can create an unpleasant experience for operators and tenants, and someone must be liable, whether the items are in storage or on transport to a locker.

Plantation Self-Storage doesn’t insure the contents of any unit, including wine-storage units. “In terms of insurance, we require proof of insurance from the customer that [his] wine is insured through [his] homeowner's policy while stored at our facility. Most customers have riders on their policies to cover wine storage, both for their home and at off-site storage facilities,” Edwards says. When a tenant ships wine to his respective locker, facility staff will place the cases inside the customer’s unit, but the customer must sign a waiver granting the facility permission to do so.

Offering customers a shipping addendum absolves an operator of any problems that may arise from shipment, Fetter notes. A somewhat remarkable addition to her facility’s contract language is a section that requires the tenant to waive any claim for “emotional or sentimental attachments to such wine.” However, possibly the most important narrative in any contract is the proclamation that tenants store at their own risk.

Local liquor regulations also affect wine storage. “Since the Liquor Control Board of Ontario is the only body legally allowed to sell alcohol in our province, selling off any lien proceeds is impossible,” Seguin says. While this is a rare instance, every nook and cranny must be insured to cover the integrity of the facility and its operation. “In the event that we would have to lien the wine, we would settle with the customer,” Seguin adds. “Failing that, the [facility] owner would keep the collection for himself.”

Those who rent wine-storage space also have legalities to consider. “It’s illegal to sell wine outside of our liquor control board. Collectors usually have to donate bottles to charities and use tax write-offs to downsize their collection,” Seguin says.

While several conditions create an engaging wine-storage experience for customers, they also generate a lucrative enterprise for operators. By employing helpful staff, devising a strong marketing strategy and establishing insurance boundaries free of loopholes, facilities can offer clientele proper storage for their prized potables.

Katie Self is studying journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, with a focus on print. To read more of her material, search her name at www.insideselfstorage.com.

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