Self-Storage Renovations: What Other Industries Have Taught Us
by Troy Bix
Originally published by Mini Storage Messenger, January 19, 2021
You might be thinking, “How are self-storage renovations the same as other business renovations? They are completely different industries.” Although these businesses are not all the same in what they advertise, it doesn’t mean they don’t have the same goals. Think about it; if you are a business owner, what do you expect to get out of your business? Of course, you would probably say more money, but initially you want a newer, better, and safer experience for your customers. I mean, it’s 2019 … the more modern the better. You stick something shiny in front of someone’s face and they want it. Am I wrong?
There are some businesses that really started to notice consumer behavior and jumped on it immediately. You know what they say, “if you’re not first you’re last”. In some ways, that’s not all wrong. The objective of your business is to sell your product, but how are you going to do that when another business is offering the same thing but better? The idea is to meet your customers where they are. In today’s world, technology also plays a huge role. It’s rare to see someone without a smartphone. As technology evolves, your business should too. Here are some examples of businesses who leveraged this to their advantage.
Big Change Equals Big Success
Walmart saw what was coming and decided to make some changes that started to leave others in the dust. They added wider aisles, shorter shelving, additional self-checkouts, and online grocery curbside pickup that’s all done from an app on your cellular device. That’s a pretty smart move if you think about it. If you are anything like me, grocery shopping is the worst. If I didn’t have to go, I wouldn’t. This takes customer experience to an all new level of awesome. After adding these significant features, within the past year alone, Walmart’s sales have increased by at least 40 percent. Their business will only continue to grow from there.
Like Walmart, Target is another retail store that hopped on board with new trends and renovations. After Walmart upgraded, Target saw how much they were growing and decided to take action before getting left behind. Target also added self-checkouts whereas they didn’t have them before. It used to be a hassle trying to check out when there were only limited registers open and lines were super long. They also redesigned their entire store to look more modern and more appealing to customers. Another feature they added was online ordering through a mobile app on your cellular device that offers curbside pickup as well. Ordering online seems to be cheaper and much faster. After making these changes and upgrades, Target has been a close competitor with Walmart, keeping them on their toes.
A good example of a chain restaurant that did a major renovation is McDonald’s. Aside from the completely all new inside and outside transformation, updating light fixtures to adding new counter tops, they have also installed all new digital menu boards along with kiosks in stores for ordering. Another thing they added is designated parking spots for curbside pickup all through your mobile device.
Some businesses, however, did not catch on. Toys “R” Us is a prime example. The signs were there, and they saw the direction business was heading but didn’t take any action to make changes. Places like Amazon, Walmart, and Target quickly started to increase in sales, leaving Toys “R” Us to play catch up. With online ordering, quick shipping, and lower prices, they could no longer compete—even after 70 years of being in business. This isn’t the only reason they got put out. Toys “R” Us was billions of dollars in debt, which threw up some red flags for vendors who feared they wouldn’t be able to make their payments.
How Does This Tie Into Self-Storage?
Self-storage isn’t any different than these other businesses when it comes to meeting your customers where they are. Our generation is always looking for a faster and easier way to get things accomplished. Just like any of these businesses, if self-storage doesn’t stay on top of what their customers want, they tend to go somewhere else. Here are a several helpful self-storage renovation tips to help you stay ahead of the game.
Newer Is Better
Although it’s not always required, people love upgrades! Your customers are always searching for newer, better, faster, sleeker, bigger, etc., so why not give them what they want? By adding better features, this means you have the ability to raise your rental rates. People will pay extra money for a better and safer experience.
You can start by adding an updated security system that ensures tenants safety and ease of access. Replacing your old, outdated unit doors is also a plus. In some cases, storage doors are too heavy and tend to fall on tenants while they are moving their belongings in and out of their units. This is a huge liability that can be prevented. If the paint is chipping or starting to come off, the best thing to do is go ahead and replace the door. Painting over the problem only makes it worse. Not only does this add more weight to the door, but the paint is guaranteed to flake or chip in a short period of time.
Another thing you can do is add lockers. These are perfect for cramped spaces that you wouldn’t normally put a whole storage unit. This is also good for younger tenants or college students who only need to store a few items or tenants looking for a cheaper option than a unit to rent.
Swing doors are another great idea for your storage facility. These alternatives to roll-up doors offer x-bracing technology that reduces door racketing. They also open up to about 180 degrees and can be a perfect fit for tenants who only need a 5-by-5 or 5-by-7 space.
Climate-controlled wine storage can be a great thing to add to your facility as well. In some areas, there is a higher demand for wine, which people will need a place to store. Your tenants may not have their own wine cellar or storage to keep their wine, so it wouldn’t hurt to give them an option.
If you are already satisfied with the current mix of your facility but want to add some additional units, relocatable storage units are the best option. These units are constructed from the same durable components as traditional units. These units can be situated in unused corners of parking lots, on an underutilized property, or on top of a sloping land that can’t house permanent construction.
You will need to hire someone who is very familiar with renovations to take your personalized ideas and help you create exactly what you are seeking. In addition to this, find someone who will help you get the best bang for your buck. You want your facility to look nice while being cost efficient.
With new tax laws, one of the most significant changes for self-storage owners and operators is an increase in bonus depreciation. This used to only be available for new property owners, however it is now available for used properties before the year 2023.
How can you save money on your insurance by doing a facility renovation? Easy: If there is a better facility with better security, better doors, and that is well maintained, you will qualify for insurance discounts. As said before, your tenants want to feel safe and store in a facility that makes them feel comfortable.
This smart tax planning tool accelerates your tax depreciation deductions and defers federal and state income taxes usually done by a cost segregation study. Faster depreciation is immediately more cash back into your business. Usually a building depreciates within 27 to 39 years. However, there are many things that depreciate faster than your building, including interior and exterior doors, inter partitions, hallway facades, metal framework, parking lots, landscape, signage, etc. When you remodel or update these items, you can write it off and get money back at tax time!
Nowadays, you are at a higher risk of being sued for not having a safe and easily accessible storage facility to accommodate those with disabilities. Incorporating ramps, handrails, braille plaques, and door pulls that meet The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements can save you thousands in legal repercussions down the road.
More Modern Access Control System
When you add a more modern access control system, it reduces the chances of theft or strange activity. It’s also a better customer experience. You can unlock unit doors, slide doors, overhead doors, gates, and much more all on an app straight from your smart device.
Once your renovation is complete, start an A/B test! See how tenants are liking your new and upgraded units compared to the older ones. Would you say your tenants are more willing to pay a little extra for better quality?
Now that your facility is finished or close to it, why not promote it on social media platforms? After all, you deserve it. Using social media, engaging with your community by putting up billboards, or any other means of promotion is a great way to start telling people about your upgraded facility to draw them in.
People Love Renovations
Have you ever wondered why people love to watch extreme renovation shows? The popularity of these shows is outstanding because it addresses the curiosity and need for many homeowners and business owners alike to improve their properties. Here are just a few reasons why these shows are so binge worthy:
All The Drama
Most renovation shows have some sort of conflict that needs to be solved in a certain amount of time. There’s usually a set time or deadline people want their projects to be completed by. As the renovation process begins, there’s usually always an issue that comes up—whether it be the shipment with building materials got pushed back and won’t be there on time or hidden issues within the house that need immediate attention that were just discovered.
Sometimes the hosts and co-hosts don’t always necessarily see eye to eye and boy is it obvious. People love this about these reality TV shows because it shows real disagreements. However, in the end it seems like they always tend to pull through, meet halfway, and continue the task. After all, problems aside, it’s all about the customer.
The Final Transformation
The best part about home renovations is the final result. People are always amazed by the transformations and effort that was put into the renovation. It gives people confidence that they too have the ability to renovate and upgrade their home or business to something more modern or appealing.
Gives Some Knowledge
Watching some of these shows gives people a little more insight on what they can do to improve their own property. Most people are planning to sell their home or business and want to increase the value, but they’re not sure where to start.
Why You Should Renovate
If you have an outdated facility with dangerous or old equipment, this creates some serious safety hazards and liability that you don’t want to get sued for.
It might not always be the case, but if the inspector says it’s a necessity to make some upgrades, you either have one or two options: upgrade or risk losing your business.
Offer things that other facilities may not be offering; stay ahead.
Other facilities may have the same idea when it comes to renovating, so be the first to make a change. The longer you wait, the higher risk you have for losing tenants to your competitors.
Lastly, this is a great way to generate more money and, as mentioned above, additional safety features are a bonus that you will be able to write off at tax time!
Troy Bix is the President of R3 (Restore, Rebuild, Replace) at Janus International. Bix has spent the past 35 years educating independent operators in the self-storage industry.