By Julián Valdés
Historically, various examples of self-storage facilities have existed in Uruguay, many of which functioned in a more old-fashioned manner. Most were old, unoccupied buildings that were recycled, but without any planned circulation or well-thought design. There were no vehicle entrances or stairs to reach units; most were dirty and provided no extra services.
Uruguay residents who’ve visited the United States were able to find a self-storage facility just about anywhere and yet, until recently, no one had tried to apply that style of storage here. I’m convinced the reality TV show “Storage Wars” kicked off a new era for the self-storage industry here. Seeing abandoned units auctioned off was a good way to demonstrate the self-storage concept.
Three years ago, there were only a couple of facilities in Uruguay following this American vision of self-storage. Today, there are now roughly a dozen properties. They’re not fully occupied, but the industry is growing. There’s no culture or tradition involved in renting a temporal storage facility here, so storage operators are educating their audience on the benefits of the service.
Catering to Business Customers
In Uruguay, retail-oriented facilities are the most common, as most rentals are typically for business purposes. This type of storage typically rents units to the medium to high socio-economic segment.
Our facility, Minidepositos Zonaeste, opened two years ago in the Parque Industrial Zonaeste (Zonaeste Industrial Park), in Canelones, Uruguay. The development was spurred by requests from the park’s existing tenants who desired storage solutions for their documents, marketing materials and surplus products.
The storage building, which includes 30 drive-up units, was purchased from a U.S. supplier and erected here in Uruguay. It’s in a strategic location near the national airport, so it’s a natural choice for companies in the area. Smaller businesses are our target market, and we enjoy a large commercial customer base. We market our services via print and online media as well as through industry fairs.
Demand for self-storage is growing, so we have plans to expand. Originally, we had planned to build a second, identical building. However, due to demand, we’re now redesigning our concept to accommodate a bigger structure. It’s scheduled to be built in the second half of 2016.
Reality shows us a good share of the Uruguay market doesn't know or understand the self-storage service, nor the benefits it can carry. Marketing and patience are necessary. Also, self-storage is out of reach for a large percentage of consumers, so it remains a niche service in this country.
Julián Valdés is the commercial manager for Parque Industrial Zonaeste (Zonaeste Industrial Park), which designed, built and operates Minidepositos Zonaeste. For more information, e-mail [email protected]; visit www.zonaeste.com.uy.