In February 2014, our first rental of a residential storage container resulted in a satisfied home owner and potential entry into a new market segment for our business. “Thanks for the container, it’s been great to have!” emailed Kat W. of Prairie Village, KS upon pick-up of the container. The rental and transportation rates for the 16-foot container pleased both the customer and us. It’s either beginners’ luck, or our perceptions of the residential storage market have been misguided.
For years, we (AT&S) felt that dealing with consumers would be too time consuming, too risky and too different from the commercial markets for us to succeed. Sure, we’ve placed containers in consumers’ rural dwellings without much difficulty. Delivering to upper-middle class suburbia is another story. Years ago, delivering ISO containers to urban residences, we cracked drive-ways and damaged lawns with our semi-trucks and delivery containers.
We learned quite a bit about the consumer mobile storage market at the National Portable Storage Association’s (NPSA) conferences the past several years. Networking with other members, especially with those that belonged to the Mobile Self Storage Association (MSSA) gave us insight into the potential expansion into the residential portable storage segment. Providing high quality equipment, satisfactory service at rates with favorable returns is achievable.
The recent introduction of residential storage containers by several different manufactures led us to purchase a couple and give the market a try. These new containers appear to be much sturdier than the Portable On-Demand Storage (PODS) type boxes, and more economical. The units are smooth, free of large shipping company decals and rust and dent free, perfect for the homeowner concerned about offending the neighbors. The containers are also lightweight and easily delivered with smaller vehicles that will not damage driveways and lawns. We purchased a couple after the 2013 NPSA Conference.
When Kat, our customer, called in January called to inquire about placing a container in her driveway during a kitchen remodel, we were ready. Instead of turning down the business as in the past, we hired a local tow company to make the delivery, credit card payment in advance for delivery, first month’s rent and pick-up. Our offering was a more economical method for Kat to store the household goods for a few months than renting a U-haul pick-up truck and a self-storage unit, plus the items would be easily accessible if needed. Kat would be there all day as she was boxing up kitchen items to store. The unit was placed next to her garage and she and her husband loaded the mobile storage container that evening in advance of the contractor due to begin demolition work that week. When Kat’s remodel was complete, we picked up the container without issue. Satisfied customer. Happy rental company.
The mobile self-storage market represents significant growth opportunities for many of us. As Phil Herndon of Container Solutions pointed out in a previous NPSA Dispatch, companies such as PODS and Pack-Rat have paved that way in terms of promoting the service and increasing consumer awareness. The time might be right to take advantage of their marketing. Challenges will arise, of course. Moving or shipping loaded storage units is not something we are ready to tackle, but the diversified revenue into the consumer market may justify further investment of capital and resources. Many members of the NPSA members are already engaged in the residential storage market and are willing to share their experiences with us “industrial” type guys. We will continue to tap their experience and encourage others interested in household goods storage to do the same.
Rick Honan is President of American Trailer & Storage, Inc. (AT&S), based in Kansas City, MO. He can be reached at email@example.com