By Amy Campbell
Self-storage assistant manger Wanda Terry has only been on the job for a handful of months. Although absorbing information while working at American Self-Serv Storage in Greeley, Colo., has been insightful, attending the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas this week enabled her to glean new ideas she says she’ll put into practice at her facility. “I learned so much,” said Terry, who, along with her husband, Robin, attended the education program, then spent several hours speaking with exhibitors.
The biggest industry show of the year drew hundreds of self-storage owners, operators, investors, builders and vendors from around the country—and dozens from around the world. The three-day event included education, exhibits, workshops and more. Hosted once again at the Paris Hotel and Casino, the event drew a number of first-time attendees and exhibitors.
While many storage professionals relayed they’re still dealing with challenging markets, there was a renewed sense of energy and optimism at this year’s ISS Expo.
“As we move into 2012, the industry has some momentum and positive energy,” said Troy Bix, group publisher of Inside Self-Storage. “The attendees and the vendors have great attitudes about the industry and, this year, we’re really starting to move toward growth, operational efficiencies and profitability.”
Opening Session Makes Its Mark
The positive vibe began in the opening session, “A View From the Top,” which featured a panel of representatives from some of the biggest companies in the industry, including three of the four self-storage real estate investment trusts (REIT). The panel fielded questions about how the industry is faring, acquisitions, online marketing and more.
Led by industry veteran Jim Chiswell of Chiswell & Associates, the industry professionals included Cris Burnam of StorageMart, Jack Rogers of Sovran Self Storage Inc., Carol Shipley of CubeSmart, Daniel Elefante of Platinum Storage Group, and Jim Stevens of Extra Space Storage. The panel agreed the self-storage industry is finally seeing an increase in new rentals and increased rental rates. “The industry is poised for a lot of growth, consolidation, and great things are coming,” said Rogers, vice president of business development for Sovran Self Storage, a self-storage REIT.
One reason for this is the stabilization of self-storage in most markets. After years of heavy building, the recession and lack of access to readily available money led to fewer new facilities built in the last three years. “We’re feeling the affect of the stabilization of the industry,” said Elefante, an owner/operator and CEO of Platinum Storage Group.
And while concessions have also plagued the industry over the past few years, the panel reports discounting is slowly being phased out as a way to attract new customers. Operators are regaining pricing power, said Stevens, senior vice president of acquisitions and business development for Extra Space Storage. “Street rates will continue to rise in the foreseeable future.”
Rather than slashing rental rates, operators are turning their attention—and marketing budgets—to effective and targeted Web marketing. Those who aren’t could be missing out on market share, Shipley said. “If you’re just realizing the Internet is king, you’re behind the pack already,” said Shipley, vice president of third-party management for CubeSmart, a self-storage REIT.
First-time ISS Expo attendees, William and Karen Warburton, owners of Affordable Mini Storage in Bourbonnais, Ill., said while they have a website, they’re need to do more online marketing. “We can see where technology is the new marketing tool,” Karen Warburton said.