By John Scheibe
I was looking through the September 2013 issue of "Inside Self-Storage" magazine when an ad caught my eye: an announcement for the first Latin American self-storage tradeshow, Nov. 4-5, in São Paul, Brazil. Sponsored by the Brazilian Self Storage Group, the show promises to be a groundbreaking event, bringing together professionals of the nascent local industry for the first time.
The ad took me back to the mid-1970s. I was 18, living just south of San Francisco and unsure what I wanted to study in college. I decided to return to Brazil, where I'd been spent my boyhood, the son of American parents. I thought I'd stay there six months, enough time to refamiliarize myself with the country in which I'd been raised. I ended up staying six years. When I returned to the United States in the early 1980s, the self-storage industry had taken firm root. It would be several more decades before the industry would blossom in Brazil.
Brazil has the world's sixth largest economy in terms of nominal gross national product. Eight out of every 10 Brazilians live in cities, and the middle class grew by an estimated 50 million people from 1999 to 2009.
Brazil has 115 cities with a population of 225,000 or more. It's largest city, São Paulo, has more than 20 million people in its metropolitan area. With the great majority of Brazilians living in cities, storage space is often at a premium. Brazilian consumers are hungry for the latest gadgets and quickly buying them, as well as appliances, refrigerators, dishwashers and more.
Brazil has roughly 200 million people and less than 100 self-storage facilities nationwide, so there's vast industry opportunity. A recent feasibility study found that self-storage business has the capacity to generate more than $1 billion annually in the country. GuardeAqui Self Storage, which started its operation in São Paulo, recently announced plans to open 50 facilities across Brazil by 2017.
I became acquainted with self-storage through a good friend I’ve known for many years. He’s worked in the industry for most of his life, beginning with some of the first facilities built in the Los Angeles area. He later developed some of the first facilities in England.