Today’s post is a guest post by Drew Davies
Drew Davies writes for Big Yellow Self Storage in the UK – providing business storage for eBay and Amazon sellers and other businesses. Check out their business section or their blog for more information.
Storage Tips for Online Sellers – Home or Offsite Storage?
Unless you use drop shipping or sell virtual products, storage is always going to be a key consideration, especially when you first start your online business. The question of what’s best to do with your stock isn’t an easy one to answer and depends on many factors. Most eBay sellers, for example, will initially use a spare room to keep merchandise, or the garage or attic – but it can be difficult to scale up once you get bigger. Is it better to think ahead and investigate offsite storage solutions (such as warehousing, industrial units or self storage) or invest in making the best of the space you have?
There are several things to consider. The first, of course, is cost. Although it might be cheaper in the conventional sense to use ‘free’ space at home, it might limit your potential earnings if it means that you can only buy a finite amount of product to sell – false economy if you miss out on bigger orders, which could increase your profits in the long term. Access is also an issue – attics and basements might seem like ideal unused space for storage, but keeping stock in these harder to reach places can make the sales process more challenging – especially in terms of deliveries. One solution can be to better harness the ground floor space you have. Installing shelving units in your garage – either purpose build or DIY – can free up space: just make sure you consider the size and the weight of the things you’re storing. Smaller items can be placed within baskets and then onto shelves to reduce the room they take up. And finally, there’s security. If you’re an operation with more expensive products (such as electronics) you’ll want to invest in alarms and store items in secure rooms with adequate locks.
There are times though, when home storage might no longer be suitable: if you have overspill, a bigger than expected order, or if you’re growing the business. You might consider partnering up with another business and looking into sharing a warehouse space or industrial unit to keep overheads down. This solution has drawbacks – security becomes an issue if people outside your operation have access to your stock, and defining the space to avoid no mix-ups is paramount – but it can be a less costly step away from storing your merchandise at home. With warehouses you’ll need to consider the necessary evils of business rates, service charges and utilities – plus upfront deposits.
Self storage, often seen as the bastion of household storage – 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 in the space required (from 10-500 sq ft), 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.