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Teri Lanza

Teri Lanza
Editorial Director
tlanza@vpico.com

New Contender: Storage By Mail

By Teri Lanza Comments
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Clarification: After this blog post went live on April 8, I received a gracious e-mail from Dan Hughes, co-founder of Storage By Mail. He explained that his service initially launched in 2005, before Storage By the Box. It was later expanded and relaunched, which has created a bit of confusion.

"We actually opened for business in 2005 when I was running the company as what can best be described as a hobby project," Dan wrote. "I tinkered with the business model, built relationships with the USPS, figured out operational logistics, and served a small number of customers from throughout the USA. Eventually I realized I was onto something big and I set about relaunching the company. It was our relaunch that I usually cite in the press as our official launch date."

My apologies to Dan and Storage By Mail for the error.  

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There was a time when self-storage operators debated heatedly over the issue of mobile storage. Did it pose a threat to their businesses? Was it cutting into their market share? Should self-storage businesses add the service? Would it help them increase revenue and expand their customer base, or was it too complicated a business model to incorporate without needless headache and expense?

These days, it seems mobile storage and self-storage live, if not happily, then with civility, side by side in the same markets. But now enters a new storage contender to the ring, one that also promises customer convenience and efficiency and doesn’t require the user to rent a moving truck or load and unload boxes: storage done through the mail.

The product emerged last year when Phil Murphy launched Storage By The Box, a ship-and-store, by-the-box storage option that allows customers to ship and retrieve boxes through a secure online portal. Users pack and photograph their belongings, note the contents of each box, and schedule a pickup through the website. The company provides free boxes, packing materials and FedEx shipping.

Phil and his father, Jack, visited the ISS booth during the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas, March 2010, just after the service had been launched. They showed me an online demonstration, and I had to admit the product’s appeal. It seemed seamless and easy. But I thought it would be a one-off launch, not anything to rival self-storage. Even still, the service has now been featured through an impressive list of media outlets including ABC News and the Chicago Sun-Times. This past winter, Phil was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year as part of The Business Ledger's Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards.

Now there’s a new competitor on the scene, Storagebymail.com, based in Jersey City, N.J. According to an article on MYFOXNY.com, the aim of the business is to “take the ‘self’ out of self-storage.” Co-founded by Daniel Hughes, who claims he found inspiration in the Netflix DVD-delivery service, Storage By Mail operates on the same premise as Murphy’s venture, with users shipping boxes to a large warehouse.

Hughes struck a deal with a New York distribution center to send and receive boxes via the U.S. Postal Service. His most popular plan costs $49 per month and allows the renter to store 10 boxes. Users can ship any size box accepted by USPS. Plans include free shipping in both directions, up to $25 per box. And Storage By Mail boasts its own budding list of media coverage, having been highlighted in Inc. Magazine in addition to Fox news.

Certainly Storage By Mail is competition for Storage By the Box, but does either service represent competition for self-storage? Might more of these by-the-box storage outlets be on the horizon? Would you yourself use a ship and store option? Let me know your take by commenting on the blog.

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