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Amy Campbell

Amy Campbell
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acampbell@vpico.com

The Latest Reality Television Star: Self-Storage Units

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By Amy Belasen

When A&E debuted “Storage Wars” December 1, it was hard to imagine the treasure the creators had stumbled upon. With two million viewers tuning into the series premiere (Nielsen Fast Nationals, posted on the The Futon Critic), “Storage Wars” became A&E’s top-rated real life series of 2010, thrusting the self-storage industry into the limelight.

The show, which A&E calls a “modern-day treasure hunt on the self-storage battleground,” hinges on a standard policy. If a tenant abandons a storage unit by non-payment, the unit will be repossessed and the contents auctioned.

Wondering how this might affect your business?

Until recently, the instinct of self-storage owners was to downplay auctions. Publicizing delinquent customers and selling their belongings by auction aren’t exactly proud moments. But keeping auctions hush-hush meant limited buyers. Enter A&E’s new spin on self-storage auctions. Instead of focusing on the maligned tenant, the show puts the spotlight on the auction, letting the details of non-payment fall into the background.

Rules are laid out for anyone who has never witnessed an auction—transactions are cash only and all sales are final. Then the auctioneer reveals the fine print—the crux of the show—buyers will have five minutes to look at the covered contents of the storage unit. Units may be filled with treasure or trash; it’s up to the buyer to bid based on a gut-feeling.

Despite some real fear that a show might negatively impact the self-storage industry, we’re not seeing much fallout. Awareness of the industry and storage-unit auctions has only increased as a result of the show. In fact, some of our self-storage clients have shared that the show’s popularity is helping them attract a broader group of buyers to auctions, bringing them closer to minimizing losses from unpaid units.

Unfortunately, the show fails to mention one important fact. By law, self-storage owners are required to return any profit made from auction (after losses) to the delinquent tenant.

“Storage Wars” is a television show based on the reality self-storage operators face on a regular basis: clients abandoning their units. Garnering two million viewers, “Storage Wars” has successfully found an angle to position the industry as TV’s hottest reality star. So far, that kind of exposure hasn’t been bad for business.

Share your thoughts on Storage Wars by posting a comment below or join the discussion at Self-Storage Talk.

Amy Belasen, marketing coordinator, assists with execution of the social and communications strategy for G5, a provider of self-storage local marketing solutions that help properties get found online, generate more qualified leads, convert more leads into new tenants, track marketing performance including offline, and optimize to the marketing sources with the best return on investment.

Eager for more information on auctions? Seminars at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas, March 14-16, will show you how to abide by your state laws and generate more revenue. Dan Dotson, the auctioneer of A&E “Storage Wars,” will show you how to capitalize on the show’s popularity. Register at www.insideselfstorageworldexpo.com

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