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The Self-Storage Target Market: Identifying Your Most Profitable Customers and Facility Trade Area

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The Importance of Demographic Factors

In reviewing market studies, it’s not unusual to find that within a given three- or five-mile radius around a store, some locations perform better than others. After factoring in considerations of the relative quality of the competing stores and their managers, the proximity and competitive intensity between some of the stores in the submarket, rental rates and other similar factors, we are often left to conclude that certain socio-economic factors play an important role in people’s relative willingness or propensity to rent self-storage.

The most obvious example of this might be a difference between a lower-income area around an older industrial city, and the suburban upper-income area located as much as 10 miles away on the opposite side of a five-mile radius around your site. You might even find that factors such as income relate to the size of the rental space a tenant might choose, with lower-income tenants renting smaller spaces and more affluent tenants renting larger ones. This is an important factor to consider in target marketing if you have an abundance of either large or small units.

Get Data

Once you’ve geographically defined your trade area, there are several ways to obtain demographic information that you can overlay onto your map. Demographic data is available directly from the U.S. Census Bureau and can be accessed for free at There are some limitations with this data, for example, it’s difficult to map corresponding data to the dimensions of your defined trade area. If, however, there are several ZIP codes within your defined area, the Census data can be shown in ZIP-code format, which also becomes easy to use in mailings.

There are also various paid sites such as Nielsen Claritas, CACI Inc. or Easy Analytic Software Inc. that can supply demographic data to be mapped to whatever you’ve determined your target trade area to be. Mapped variables can include concentration of businesses, percentage of renters, housing type or income amongst many of the variables you may wish to consider.

There are several national companies such as InfoUSA, Equifax, Accenture and others who can provide you with mailing lists of residential and business addresses in your target trade area. These lists can be broken down and refined by specific demographic criteria such as credit score, income, or a series of other demographic criteria for residential addresses or business type, number of employees or similar factors for businesses.

Most important, this same data can be broken geographically into specific areas within your defined market. The mailing list can then be generated down to the level of a given street, mail-carrier route or ZIP code. In this way, you can focus your advertising dollars specifically on those areas you’ve determined will produce the best results for you and the marketing needs of your store.

Jeffrey Supnick is president of Supnick Real Estate Co., a full-service firm devoted exclusively to self-storage brokerage, consulting and property-management services. A 25- year veteran of the self-storage industry, Supnick formerly served as a real estate officer for Public Storage Inc. and Storage USA. During his career, he has been responsible for the development of more than 30 self-storage sites. For more information, call 856.722.1414; e-mail; visit

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