The day after returning from this year's Inside Self-Storage World Expo, self-storage manager J.B. Sills was already reaping the benefit of lessons learned at the show. While discussing property features with the first customer he waited on at A Plus Storage in Spring Hill, Tenn., he tossed in a phrase he'd picked up at the event, "the no-late-fee guarantee," intended to encourage tenants to sign up for auto pay.
“At that point in our presentation, the ‘I only pay with cash’ customer standing in front of me quickly changed into our greatest fan and a punctual auto-charge customer,” Sills says. Attendees don't always enjoy immediate payback on a conference investment. But as voracious as this year's participants were for information and education, it isn't surprising to hear success stories like this one.
The 2014 Expo, March 30 to April 2, drew thousands of industry professionals from around the globe to the Paris Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas, where they enjoyed four days of seminars, workshops, social events, and product and service exhibits. Not only was attendance at an all-time high, experiencing 18 percent year-over-year growth, 65 percent of participants were first-time attendees.
Sills, who’s been a self-storage manager for just two years, is one of the newly initiated. As the winner of the Self-Storage Talk online community's “Loving Las Vegas” essay contest, sponsored by Chateau Products Inc., he was treated to roundtrip airfare, three nights at the hotel, and a standard education package.
“One thing I looked forward to was being surrounded by people who are just as passionate about this industry as I am, from store management to ownership,” Sills says. “My goals were to absorb the knowledge of each speaker whose session I attended and take the time to meet people in this business. It’s such a pleasure to have had that experience.”
The educational component of the show included nine tracks covering self-storage ownership, management, marketing, investment, finance, construction, development, liability and more. There were also five add-on workshops and an exhibit hall where more than 125 suppliers demonstrated their wares.
“This is was hands down one of our best shows in recent years,” says Troy Bix, vice president of Inside Self-Storage. “The industry is drawing new investors, and development is heating up. Plus, owners and managers are improving revenue through smarter business strategies.
“The ISS Expo continues to be the place for education and information, not just on a national level, but an international level,” Bix says. This year’s event attracted attendees from 25 other countries, including investors, developers and operators from Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, England, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, Sweden, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
More education, more information, more opportunities ... Self-storage professionals want it all. But what they mostly desire is additional profit. That's why revenue management was such a key focus of this year's conference, including education seminars that addressed the issue from the unique perspective of facility owners and managers, as well as an in-depth opening session on systematic and dynamic pricing for storage operations.
Speaker Warren Lieberman, president of Veritec Solutions, challenged the industry’s dependency on discounting to bring in new customers, telling the audience to think about their pricing in a more methodical way. Using examples from real industry websites, Lieberman showed how a small change in a rental rate or pricing on a retail item can dramatically affect a facility’s revenue stream. “If you put the effort into it, you can capture increases in profitability,” he said. He also stressed the importance of viewing self-storage pricing as a “journey,” encouraging operators to think about small steps they can take toward their long-term goals.
With the economy in recovery and lending dollars once again flowing for self-storage projects, the industry is seeing a resurgence in construction and development activity; so it's no surprise that this year's expo enjoyed strong representation from investors and owners interested in buying, building and expanding. Overall, talk of new builds, remodeling and adding “the next phase” to existing facilities was much more prevalent at the show than in recent years.