As the self-storage industry continues to grow and evolve, operators are constantly looking for new ways to stand out in their markets. If you’ve already tried adding retail space, RV storage or valet storage to your offerings but are still searching for a way to differentiate your business and attract new tenants, you might consider wine storage.
Wine storage can be a profitable addition to your service mix if you operate near a vineyard or are lucky enough to be in wine country. Don’t discount it as an option, though, if you live in Chicago instead of Napa Valley. While wine storage is typically more prevalent in vino-centric communities, you can still provide an untapped service to an underserved market. You’ll want to conduct research to determine if there’s sufficient demand in your area—affluent neighborhoods or those where homes lack basements are good indicators—and then consider the following.
If your storage facility already offers climate-controlled units, you might be tempted to think you’re all set to start courting the business of wine lovers. Well, not so fast.
Wine storage differs from typical climate control when it comes to temperature and humidity. In general, it requires a temperature of 55 degrees and humidity of about 65 percent, though certain wine varieties require higher or lower conditions. According to researchers at the University of California, Davis, the aging rate for wine doubles every 10 degrees, so bottles kept in a household (or storage unit) at 75 degrees will age four times faster than it’s supposed to. When it comes to humidity, anything above 70 percent will negatively affect labels and corks. Low humidity will actually dry out corks, which is why a typical air-cooled unit won’t be sufficient.
For these reasons, wine storage must be well-insulated and totally sealed. Build units with steel and concrete to prevent any excess air moisture. You must also install backup generators to negate the effects from power outages, since even a few hours above or below 55 degrees could spell disaster for a rare bottle of wine.
Tenants seeking wine storage will typically fall into two categories: commercial tenants and private collectors. You’ll want to build units in a variety of sizes to accommodate both. Small lockers should typically appeal to private collectors, while units as large as 10-by-10 feet should be considered for commercial tenants.
When planning units, think of the space in terms of how many cases of wine they can hold. A case of wine typically holds 12 bottles and is about 10-by-10-by-12 inches. These details are important for your marketing, since potential tenants will be more focused on a unit’s case capacity than its square footage. Consider visually representing this storage capacity on your website with photos or graphics.
You wouldn’t bring your truck to a mechanic who doesn’t know anything about cars, so why would someone store his wine collection with a facility that doesn’t know anything about wine? You don’t have to become a sommelier, but it helps to learn the basics. Read up on wine varietals, vineyards in your region and related topics. Communicate this information to your staff through training. Your goal should be to ensure that every member of your team can effectively explain the basics of wine storage to interested customers.
Once you’ve added wine storage to your facility, it’s time to let the world know. Approach your marketing strategy for this market as you would for any other demographic.
First, incorporate wine-storage content into your digital presence. This means adding information about your wine-storage service to your website as well as advertising it on social media. If your facility has a blog, you may also want to push out wine-specific content. If you don’t have a blog, you can still share articles about wine and wine storage through your Facebook page.
Another way to create buzz around your service is to develop relationships with wine vendors, vineyards and liquor stores in your community. Introduce yourself to these business owners and ask if you can leave fliers or business cards with them.
If you’ve ever added a little detail or obscure amenity to your facility and thought, “None of my tenants will notice or appreciate this,” then you’ve never catered to wine connoisseurs. With wine-storage users, the small details count. This positively impacts to your day-to-day operation in several ways.
For example, you may want to renew your focus on facility curb appeal. Flowers, updated signage and exceptionally clean grounds will all be appreciated. You may even want to replicate the look of a wine cellar in your wine-storage area or create a lounge for these tenants.
You’ll also want to focus strongly on security. These customers will pay close attention to things like individually alarmed units, hallway lighting and the placement of surveillance cameras.
You can also add wine-related items to your retail space, host tastings, accept shipments for commercial tenants and add a forklift to help customers move full pallets of product.
When considering wine storage, approach the decision the way a vintner approaches his wine: If you invest time and patience into the process, you can create something exceptional.
Krista Diamond is a staff writer for StorageFront, which allows customers to custom search and compare thousands of self-storage facilities. She’s a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and lives in Las Vegas. When she isn't writing about storage, she’s climbing mountains in the desert. For more information, visit www.storagefront.com.