By Rachel Adams
While self-storage has become a staple in the American culture, internationally, operators face consumers who are still developing a sense of what the product is and how it can provide solutions to everyday living or short-term lifestyle shifts. In addition, many countries are experiencing struggling economies, which can keep consumers who are already cutting costs at bay. Despite the challenges, international operators are finding ways to inform consumers and keep their businesses thriving.
Ireland is one such country, where operators are challenged with many consumers who are unaware of the concept of the industry and its benefits. “The self-storage market in Ireland suffers very badly from a lack of product awareness," says Aidan O'Brien, director and owner of Storage World, an Ireland-based self-storage provider. “People just don’t have sufficient understanding of what self-storage is—not like the U.S. or Australia, for example. This is changing, but very slowly."
An important factor in running a successful facility, especially in a struggling economy, is the location of a facility. “Location is absolutely critical, especially in a difficult or depressed market," O'Brien says. "Opening a facility where there are numerous other operators is not our thing."
Storage World currently operates two facilities, one in Limerick and another in Dublin. The Limerick facility opened in 2002 and includes 20,000 square feet. The Dublin location, with 29,000 square feet, opened in 2010. Both offer tenants packing equipment and security locks. In addition, each facility includes office rentals with short-term leases.
Location is so crucial to the success of a facility, O'Brien spent three years searching for the Dublin location. "Key location, with no competition and sufficient local population, coupled with barriers to entry, or lack of suitable sites, ensured Dublin’s success," he says.
Despite a down economy, self-storage is prevailing in Ireland, where operators use effective advertising, company branding and facility appearance to engage consumers and increase occupancies. “Excellent building branding coupled with good website search engine optimization and effectively-managed Google AdWord campaigns are how we attract business," O'Brien says.
These approaches, along with proactive promotions and excellent signage, have ensured success for Storage World's facilities. In fact, O'Brien expects the Dublin facility to be at capacity within three years, which is what he calls "a very strong performance considering the appalling state of the economy."
Other Ireland facilities are also using strong marketing and online services to stimulate consumer awareness and increase business. Baron's Self Storage in Galway has created a YouTube video to educate consumers on the fundamentals of self-storage and promote the company and its services, including commercial and domestic storage.
Most facilities in Ireland offer storage solutions for domestic and commercial needs. Among other services, Baron's Self Storage accepts deliveries for commercial tenants and also offers complimentary use of a forklift operated by a qualified facility employee.
The reasons consumers seek storage solutions in Ireland vary. O'Brien says domestic tenants use storage during renovations, house sales and emigration. Commercial tenants consist mainly of promotional and marketing companies, file storage and numerous small, local businesses, he says.
Regardless the country, there’s always a need among consumers for more space, and self-storage is there to provide it. With operators working hard to educate consumers and provide top-notch services, self-storage in Ireland will continue to grow and succeed despite a challenged economy and young market.