By its nature, the self-storage industry encompasses a diverse collection of companies, each made up of owners and managers working toward a common goal. But what truly makes it exciting to work in this industry is more than just the people and objectives, it’s the pure variety of services found at each facility. As one storage operator told me, the self-storage industry is unique because it is made up of hundreds of companies who that have found hundreds of completely different, distinctive ways to succeed.
How are they doing it? Simply offering standard storage space is the first step, but the market is becoming increasingly competitive. Moreover, today’s customer is looking for more services. Gaining the edge you’re looking for might mean adding new, unconventional storage options that attract new tenants, expand your existing clientele, and increase your income and success.
I spoke with several storage operators who offer the types of features you wouldn’t necessarily consider when you think of standard storage. These services do more to add value to their respective facilities by promoting the brand, creating another source of cash flow, or both. Think about your facility while reading the list below. You might find something that catches your eye and inspires you to add your own unconventional services.
Contract Postal Units
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) offers contracts to business owners who wish to house a post office. These spaces operate independently of the USPS and put a post office right on the grounds of your facility. You might have seen these CPUs (Contract Postal Units) in convenience stores or other businesses in your area.
Essentially, you provide the space on your property and the U.S. Postal Service provides the signage, meter, computer system, training, and everything else you need to get started. As a matter of fact, the only upfront cost to your facility is the building of the space you’ll use to house the post office services. The service will, more or less, break even on a monthly basis. You will make a cut of the profits on stamp sales, but the operational costs usually match these profits.
According to the team at National Self Storage, the main goal of adding a CPU to your facility is to increase traffic. Consider the amount of walk-ins you get on a daily basis. It probably ranges dramatically. With a post office on site, National Self Storage’s post office space is generating somewhere around 100 new walk-ins every day, creating a large amount of new leads.
This option is perfect for facilities in rural areas or those that are far from an established post office. For new facilities, it can expedite the leasing processes, attracting customers before the facility has even opened.
Post Office Boxes
Many facilities offer rentable post office boxes for transient customers who need a permanent place to receive mail. You can combine this service with package receiving services. Similar to the CPU, this service operates outside of the USPS.
To receive packages, your facility will need to be registered with the U.S. Postal Service. You can charge a premium for this service or require that storage tenants also rent a post office box.
As stated above, space equals money. Installing a set of post office boxes means usurping some of that space. You can use a 5-by-5 or 5-by-10 space for this service; and the units are reasonably priced, making it easy to get started.
The team at Stuff Hotel says the return is huge! As an example, if you rent a 5-by-10 space for $45 to $50 per month, set aside one of those units for post office boxes and charge $10 per box per month. If you have 100 boxes in that 5-by-10 space, at 100 percent occupancy, your income increases to $1,000 a month from that single unit.
However, you must have the right type of client base in order for post office boxes to be this successful. They tend to attract more transient, mobile clients such as truck drivers. For example, Stuff Hotel has facilities on the border of Mexico and Texas that are rented by Americans living in Mexico who want a permanent U.S. address. Additionally, you’ll need to price your boxes competitively with other area businesses that offer them such as UPS stores and the local post office.
Band Practice Rooms
It’s a wild idea, but think about it: Your storage space is a perfect place for bands to have a secure place to practice as well as store their instruments and equipment. Offering spaces that have power, and perhaps heightened security, for use by local bands is a fresh way to use your space. Bands rent the spaces for the same price as a standard storage renter might and then use it to both store and practice their craft.
According to the Lockaway Storage team, converting standard or climate-controlled units into practice rooms is very cost effective, especially if your facility already features an up-to-date security system. All that’s left, if anything, is adding electricity to the units, which is inexpensive when you consider the marketing you’ll get within the local music scene.
Locakway also mentioned that they don’t charge more for these spaces—it isn’t necessary. It creates another avenue for referrals and traffic, which is enough to make up for any additional cost of adding electricity or security. Once one band knows of a secure place where they are allowed to practice, other local bands will come.
The one potential drawback is noise. Lockaway says the noise issue hasn’t been too much of a problem for them. In fact, those who are on the property have mentioned that they like having live music to listen to while moving. Moreover, the bands normally practice in the evening when there are fewer tenants around.
Of course, before jumping on the band wagon, you’ll want to gauge the local music scene to see if this service is feasible. In addition, you’d need to focus some of your marketing efforts toward attracting bands.
While you may offer business or document storage, what about actual office space? Providing space that a small, local business can use to operate means you can attract long-term renters. You can also offer attached storage spaces for business inventories, making the space more versatile.You can build spaces that have heating, cooling, Internet access, water, and more security features for an increased monthly fee. Storefront spaces can be attractive to small retail businesses.
If you’re already building a climate-controlled building, then adding a few office spaces won’t cost you much more than the initial cost of the building itself, says the team at Lockaway Storage. The trick is planning out the spaces, then adding more insulation and drywall in some of your 10-by-10 or 10-by-20 units. You can easily charge more for these spaces because they offer more amenities. The tenants have to pay for the utilities themselves, and they drive more traffic to your facility because the clients of each business renter will visit your property. Plus, word of mouth is a powerful thing among business owners.
Although these spaces require more maintenance than a standard storage unit, when you consider the price you can charge per square foot, adding these spaces is really only limited by your ability to provide them.
It’s clear that there are many options when it comes to selecting another source of income for your facility, and the above list is certainly nowhere near comprehensive. When selecting a new feature, it’s perhaps most important to remember your demographic and the overall cost of the new service. These factors will determine your ability to make it a profitable stream of income.
Unconventional services are an important part of success in the modern self-storage market. As customer needs adjust and the market continues to be flooded with new facilities, your capacity to react and stay on top of the trends will be the deciding factor in your facility’s ability to remain relevant.
Erich Noack is a content writer at storEDGE, a leading technology provider for the self-storage industry. His work focuses on using language to advance small businesses through the development of unique web-marketing strategies.