April and May start “The Season”
By Tron Jordheim
As Seen in the April Issue of The Mini Storage Messenger. www.minico.com
Self storage is less of a seasonal business than it used to be. Over the last several years people have been using self storage more for extra space than they used to. However, our business is still seasonal. April and May start the busy season no matter which market you are in. This is the start of house selling season. This is when college students are getting ready to take off for the summer or graduate. This is the time when people are doing outside projects and home remodeling. And it is when many people choose to move to new homes or new cities.
It is important to pay attention to your phone and walk-in traffic during these two months, because you will learn a lot about what sort of a season you will have by the patterns you see in April and May. We’ll talk more about what to expect and how to interpret this patterns in this article.
There are several traffic volume influencing events you need to be aware of. Spring break will end for many schools on the 3rd of April. Others will be a week earlier or later. The first Monday of April is always busy. So assume the buildup to the first Monday on the weekend of April 1 and 2 will be very busy as students and their families finish projects on this weekend. Monday the 3rd will then be very busy as spring break activity always increases demand and the end of spring break will mean many projects have left-over stuff that will need to go into storage.
Daylight savings time kicks in on the 2nd. This extra hour always makes people get outside and get projects going. This will also increase the activity on Monday the 3rd as people will be wanting to arrange storage for the weekend of the 8th and 9th to take advantage of the first weekend of longer light.
Easter and Passover observances coincide beginning on April 12th. This means three things will happen. Many people will want to get things done before the holidays creating a lot of extra traffic throughout the whole week of April 3rd through the weekend of the 8th and 9th.
Other people will take advantage of some time off over the weekend of the 15th and 16th and will try to get things done on the weekend. This means that demand will spike again on Monday the 10th and Tuesday the 11th. You will see some softening on Wednesday and then more activity on Friday and Saturday. Many people use Easter Sunday as a family gathering day. But many people will be trying to get things done on that day, too. Traffic will not be heavy, but there will be a good proportion of rental demand on Easter Sunday. If you can stay open during the middle of the day on Easter, you will write several rentals.
The third group of people will wait until after Easter to get things done, so Monday the 17th will be very busy and the whole last week of April will be slamming. The last week in April is typically when the flood gates of demand start to open anyway. But with some pent up demand coming from the Easter/Passover holidays, the last week of April should be very, very busy.
The last day of April falls on a Sunday, which will contribute lots of demand to the weekend of April 28 through 30, as well.
April has many demand generating events working together, making it doubtful that anyone should have a weak performing month even if broader economic forces are not working completely to our advantage.
May will start out with a bang. The first Monday of May is also the first day of May. This means two demand generating events happen on the same day. Expect traffic to stay very heavy through the 9th of May, when you will catch a little bit of a break for only a few days.
Many colleges and universities are graduating and ending classes on May 12 or 19. Most students will want to start their leases in the month of May, so expect student traffic to be overwhelming in the student markets starting the last week of April and running hard up until the last week of May. By the last week of May, most students have finished their summer arrangements and are heading off to the four corners.
Some of you may want to start promoting student rentals in April and signing leases in April to make the May stampede a little easier to deal with.
The week of May 15-21 will seem somewhat sane as many people will have already taken care of their May and June storage needs. This is just the quiet before the storm. Starting May 22nd, you should see markedly increasing demand that will stay steady throughout the entire week. You may get very little time to come up for air until the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.
Memorial Day weekend usually works like this. Friday is very busy as people are trying to get things done so they can play on the weekend. Saturday is very busy as people who had to work on Friday are trying to get their projects tied up so they can play on Sunday. Sunday is usually quiet as many are trying to play and rest. Monday starts slow and then gets very busy in the middle of the day as people who are trying to get things done on their day off are trying to get done early. Then by about 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon traffic will go dead. People are traveling back home, trying to get to the picnic before it gets too late or heading to the fireworks display.
If you can staff your store over the weekend, you will rent a lot of units. I would staff heavy on Saturday, close earlier than normal on Sunday and be open in the middle of the day on Monday to write leases.
Then watch out, because the day after Memorial Day, demand will go nuts. All the people who did not get their projects finished or who chose to not do any projects on the weekend will be calling and coming in on May 30 and 31. Be prepared for a 20-30% increase in demand on the 30th and 31st as compared to the period of the 15th through 28th.
Several factors can influence these projections. Is your advertising in order and placed and timed correctly? Are your competitors trying to make money or just gain occupancy? If they are doing price cutting and “giving it away”, it may hurt your entire market. If they are playing to be in a mid priced to higher priced slot in the market, then you will all do well…unless your market is significantly over-built.
Will the increase in home heating and gasoline prices over the winter have hurt consumers enough to dramatically change their storage behaviors?
Will a softening in the housing market cause less or more people to sell or buy?
Will looming corporate lay-offs mean a slower economy or just more people getting new jobs or moving to other areas of the country?
Will the pending retirement of the first wave of baby boomers mean more things are going into storage? The first wave is turning 60 and thinking about paring down, retiring, moving up, giving away possessions or getting more possessions.
If you live in the colder part of North America, you will see that April gets off to a bit of a slower start than the rest of the country. This is a normal effect of the longer winters in your area.
If you live in the areas that are experiencing heavy growth, like Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc, multiply everything I wrote by another 10%.
Pay attention to demand traffic each day to see how your particular patterns are working. Consult the sample demand wave and see where you fall. You may notice indicators that tell you your demand is going
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