Business storage is likely to be a constantly evolving system that will change as the business grows. Getting it perfectly right from the start probably won’t happen, but by considering a few options and making informed decisions, you can minimise expense and help storage work in your favour.
Only the very smallest stock holding business can get away with home storage in the long term. Renting any kind of storage area will put some strain on the finances, however, so finding a solution that is both scalable and affordable makes good business sense.
- Warehouse storage — often the first type most people think of, but you may not need that much space, especially in the early days. Collaborating with another business owner may make the option more feasible, but consider potential problems such as how you’ll divide the space and who will take responsibility should anything go wrong. Another aspect is cost, since warehousing incurs utility, VAT and business rate expenses.
- Self Storage — still a relatively new concept in business storage, self storage facilities are versatile, secure places to hold business stock. Flexible terms also make it easy to scale up or down if your storage needs fluctuate, and access for delivery vehicles is generally excellent. An added bonus is not having the additional utility expenses associated with more traditional business storage.
At a pinch, you can store stock at home in the very early startup days, but be aware of potential hazards both in terms of health and safety and regarding how it will affect your family life if you fill the house with boxes.
Creative e-Commerce Storage
If you decide to investigate self storage as a business option, there are some advantages you may not have considered. For example, you could rent a slightly larger room than you need in order to incorporate a table from which you can pack and dispatch. Combining operations saves time, and when you’re saving on handling times you could gain a competitive edge through reduced purchase prices.
Short rental terms will work in your favour if you need additional storage space for a short time. Seasonal stocking, especially Christmas sales preparations, can strain existing stock rooms, but the problem vanishes if you can rent additional space for however long you need it.
Once you have your storage room, organise it so you can quickly find items. Most facilities allow you to install free standing shelving units, on which you can store smaller items in labelled boxes or tubs.
Put your most popular items closest to the door, and reserve high up or low down positions for items that are slower to sell. It’s also a good idea to stack boxes or shelves so you have a central walkway, which makes navigating the stock room much easier.
Flexible Home Offices
Unless you want to work from your sofa with a laptop balanced on your legs, you’ll need some kind of office space. At home, this can be a challenge unless you have a spare room you can commandeer.
Failing that, creative zoning in other rooms is the most practical solution for a couple of reasons:
A work zone makes it easier to keep business essentials in one place.
It sends out a stronger message for other family members (especially children) to respect your space, than a laptop on your knee.
So, how to do it?
- Cordon off your corner with turned out bookcases or room dividers. Bookcases set perpendicular to the wall are especially useful because they can house your reference books, stationary or small devices so they serve two purposes at once. Include some light reading or paperbacks if you’re using open bookcases and turn their spines towards the living area of the room. If you’re using a closed bookcase, hang artwork or other decorative features on the back so it’s not an empty, blank wall.
- Corner desks with drawers, or small workstations and trolleys you can wheel into place, are handy and make for more flexible space usage than bulky fixed furnishings.
- A shelf above your desk is useful to keep ‘out of bounds’ items high up and out of the reach of younger family members who like to borrow.
However you decide to store stock, bear in mind that your storage system should empower your main business operation, not become an operation in its own right. If you struggle to find items, spend hours travelling from office to stock to post office, or you’re constantly tripping over boxes at home, your system needs an overhaul. Maybe these tips can help you find a better way.