Smart Storage for Online Sellers

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Drew Davies writes for Big Yellow Self Storage – providing business storage for eBay and Amazon sellers and other businesses. Today Drew guest posts on Tamebay to discuss how flexible storage can be an option for online merchants.

Stock storage is a fundamental part of the sales cycle (unless you’re dropshipping or selling virtual products) but its often one of the least considered. When a business grows suddenly – especially one based in a home – the impact of extra merchandise can make itself abundantly clear. You might feel jubilant about getting a great price on a pallet load of product, until the question arises – where do I put it all?

Many eBay and Amazon sellers have kitted out their home for longer-term storage – converting spare bedrooms into stock holding rooms, garages into loading bays and utilising basements and cupboards. There are several things to consider here. First, access. Depending on delivery, it might be necessary to allow a van or truck as close to your storage place as possible, so evaluate stairs and uneven surfaces which might make it more difficult to move heavy boxes. Security is vital too, especially for high end products. And temperature control / damp is another factor. Basements or attics might seem like a perfect place to tuck stock out of the way, but if they’re in any way perishable, mould and insects might make these spaces untenable.

Even if you do store stock in your home, at some point you’ll probably run out of space. It may only be for a one-off delivery or your sales might be slowly growing, requiring much more product. Deciding to use external storage can seem like a big step and feel daunting, but it need not be.

To make the transition, a good understanding of your requirements is important. As well as the basic logistics (weight, size of space, length of storage time), also think about distance to the storage location, access (can an articulated lorry make it to the loading area if it needed too?) and security. Security is key – most warehouses will come with alarms, but its also good to consider what will happen if one is goes off at 2am (i.e. who responds to see if its a fault with the alarm, a mouse tripping a sensor or an actual intruder?).

Of course, one of the main considerations, in terms of storage, is cost. With warehouses you’ll need to consider the necessary evils of business rates, service charges, utilities and VAT (you will get VAT back eventually, but its an initial outlay) – plus upfront deposits. This outlay can make it unappealing, especially for start-ups wanting less overheads. One solution might be to look at space sharing with other smaller companies, finding partners that will contribute to hiring a room in a warehouse, a floor or the whole building. Consider how you would segment the space to make sure stock isn’t mixed up, and think of the security ramifications if you’re sharing an open space. The logistics, both financially and contractually, should be tied up to make sure you cover all bases before sharing a space.

Another idea is to rent some extra storage space from a company’s premises. This might be a good solution for a reoccurring short term storage issue. You may be able to use existing trolleys or pallet trucks too – but consider access availability and if your activities will cause disruption or be compromised.

Another important aspect to consider – after security, cost and location – is how you will use your storage space as a distribution hub. Some facilities might be perfect for storing boxes, but don’t allow space for unpacking, breaking up and turning stock around. You obviously don’t want to pay for space you don’t use, but the addition of a desk and a chair can make it a much better and more efficient environment to work in. Proximity to a post office is another time saving consideration. Can you receive mobile phone signal in your storage space? If you can, it means you can use a prepaid dongle for Internet access too. If not, it may be difficult for customers and delivery drivers to call you at that crucial moment.

Self storage, often seen as the bastion of household storage – for stowing away old record collections or that dusty sofa – is becoming increasingly popular with small businesses and start ups (in July last year, the Self Storage Association, reported a 5 per cent annual shift away from domestic towards business customers). The draw is flexibility – store what you want for just the time you need, with the all-inclusive cost attractive too. There are ways to make self storage work especially hard for you – if you’ve savvy with your deliveries and sales you can upsize and downsize rooms without penalty (do check T&C’s first), shut down a storage room completely between orders and expand quickly for that unexpected delivery. Another tip is to have separate rooms for different products or to help segment by special offer. The cleverer you are with your space, the lower your storage overheads and the better your profit. There are other perks too. Many storage facilities will have forklifts (and, importantly, trained forklift drivers) for bigger deliveries. Some managers will sign for deliveries if you’re not there (discuss this first of course). And storage rooms can often be used as a distribution hub – you can package up goods for delivery, treating it as your own personal stock room (if there is any other type of work you think you’d need to undertake regularly from the storage room, speak with the store manager for prior approval).

One thing to be aware of with self storage is your out-of-hours access requirement. If you’re a night owl, or have late night or early morning deliveries, you might want to look into 24-hour access (regular access hours on weekdays and weekends are usually standard).

If you’re interested in self storage check out the Check out the Big Yellow Self Storage website and business section for more information and testimonials.

2 Responses

  1. Storage rental up until the 2012 budget was VAT free. Now VAT is being imposed on this and other ebay essentials such as hot takeaway pies:-

    Rodney Walker, chief executive of the Self Storage Association, said: “This has come as a complete surprise to the industry. We’ve started to consult with our members to understand how it will affect us.”

  2. I have been using spacemaker for two years, it work out very well. In perk time ie Christmas, we have to storage about two 40’HQ containers of stock, in low season 25%. Only rent space when needed, 7 days notices to vacate unit. Receiption will even accept delivery and text you.


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