Gaining retailers as customers for your self-storage facility depends a lot on your networking abilities.
National retail chains typically see a crush of customer traffic around the holidays and may need extra storage space for inventory during that time. Local specialty stores near your facility that do a high volume of business around the holidays also are prime candidates for storage of seasonal inventory.
Making connections with retail store managers in your area should be done well before the holiday season. Your competition: Companies that provide on-site containers and warehouse space. You’ll discover that some stores won’t have a need, as they have enough space to accommodate extra inventory.
The Calvin Klein store at the Premium Outlets retail center in San Marcos, TX, has used self-storage facilities for many years to handle the influx of inventory over the holidays, a store manager said. Others at the outlet center said they use a variety of methods for inventory, from off-site storage to on-site containers.
Getting a Jump on the Holidays
John Manes, chief operating officer of The Jenkins Organization Inc., a regional self-storage owner and operator based in Houston, recommends talking with retailers before they see a boost in holiday inventory. That boost typically occurs in October, November and December.
“National chains and specialty retailers get an influx of freight,” he said. “It’s a perfect time to network.”
Manes recommends that self-storage managers go store to store and introduce themselves to local or regional store managers. Let store managers know you can meet their needs at a cost that’s typically lower than placing a container behind a store, he said.
Manes said he once worked at a self-storage facility near a large outlet mall that proved to be a great place to generate business from retailers.
Tom Maxfield, national operations director at Move It Management and Move It Self Storage, a Dallas-based regional operator of self-storage facilities, said his company’s partnership program encourages facility managers to develop long-term relationships with local business leaders.
Those relationships eventually will lead to referrals of business customers, including retailers, according to Maxfield.
The ‘Personal Connection’
Maxfield challenges his managers to find 10 business partners for every 10,000 rentable square feet at a facility. A typical self-storage facility has about 50,000 square feet.
“They will run across one, two or three people over the year that they can refer to you and then if they have the need, they’ll think of you first,” he said.
At Move It, self-storage managers treat their business partners as VIPs and offer discounts or other incentives, Maxfield said.
“That personal connection is critical,” he said. “Most self-storage customers have a relationship because they like it there. In my own routine, I go to the same oil-and-lube place. I go to the same dry cleaners. I go to the same pharmacy. I go because it’s convenient, they have what I want, the price is fair and I like the people. It’s the same way with self-storage.”
Promoting Self-Storage Amenities
Industry experts also recommend promoting the cost and amenities of self-storage versus on-site containers. Self-storage facilities tend to be more economical, and retailers can choose a climate-controlled option to fully protect consumer goods.
Brad Sherman, managing principal of StoreSmart Self-Storage, which has locations in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Illinois and Arkansas, makes sure the company’s on-site managers meet retail managers each time a new store opens nearby. Besides the initial meeting, it’s important to maintain regular contact with the manager to increase the likelihood of a business relationship, he said.
Facilities should tout access to 18-wheelers, ramps and security features, and point out any other amenities that might be attractive to retailers.
Persistence Pays Off
Persistence is paramount, Sherman said. Regular follow-ups—even sending gifts or taking store managers to lunch or coffee—should help a retailer think of your storage facility first when a need arises. Most retailers’ decisions about self-storage are made at the local level, not the national level, which should make networking that much easier.
“We spend a lot of time maintaining those relationships,” Sherman said. “We don’t just go by one time, but we continually go back in and check in with them.”