New self-storage owner Bill Beddoes had one goal in mind when he registered for the 2013 Inside Self-Storage World Expo: become more knowledgeable. After purchasing a facility in Michigan about a year ago, followed shortly by a second acquisition, Beddoes discovered that operating self-storage is vastly different from his previous retail endeavors. Any time youre moving forward in a new business, you need to be prepared, he says.
Owner of My Self Storage facilities in Clarklake and Leoni Township, Mich., Beddoes was among the hundreds of self-storage owners, managers, developers, builders and potential investors who attended last week's ISS Expo in Las Vegas. The four-day event included education, exhibits, networking events and more. Hosted once again at the Paris Hotel & Casino, the event drew attendees from all over the world.
The show started and ended with a bang, says Troy Bix, vice president of Inside Self-Storage (ISS). Investors are ready to jump into this industry, and owners are ready to amp up their operations.
While last years show vibe was all about recovery, this year's attendees and exhibitors report theyre ready to move forwardand theyre eager to learn. Recovery mode is past. Were into opportunity mode, says Steve Hajewski, marketing manager for Trachte Building Systems, which designs, manufactures and erects pre-engineered and customized steel self-storage systems. Customers are now looking to expand and take advantage of pent-up demand due to the lack of construction for the past five years.
Theres also an influx of potential investors who are new to the industry, and a bevy of younger entrepreneurs. The industry is no longer a flash in the pan, says Mel Holsinger, president of Professional Self Storage Management, which provides third-party management services. Self-storage is a real contender for investment dollars. And were also back on the path for new development.
Caesar Wright, president of Mako Steel Inc., which designs, supplies and installs steel buildings for the self-storage industry, agrees. The vibe was really good. I definitely got the feel that people were looking to build again. Over the recent months, our quote activity has been up 30 percent compared to last year. I still feel lending is the strongest challenge developers face, but no question it seems to be loosening up a bit.
Always a draw, this years expo education included more than 40 seminars and four workshops. This year's seminars taught attendees how to do things like capitalize on technology, create a self-storage budget, use social media, plan a new development, manage staff, reduce legal risks, improve collections, expand and existing facility and more.
I found the seminars on Internet advertising and social media to be very useful, says Marianne Cordova, president of The AMS Group LLC, which operates three facilities in California. The message was clear that today is a different world from 2008 in more ways than one. Not only is the economy significantly different, but methods of advertising and connecting with potential and exiting customers have changed dramatically. Additionally customer expectations have changed. We, as an industry, must change also.
The International Track of seminars featured representatives from regions including Asia, Australia, Canada, El Salvador, Panama and the United Arab Emirates. I very much enjoyed hearing the different experiences from Hong Kong, Australia, Canada and Panama. This opened my eyes to the fact that in spite of the overwhelming number of facilities in the U.S., the self-storage business is in full bloom around the world as well, said Kari Honkaniemi, owner of TK Markets, which provides services in international trade in an agency capacity.
Overall, the ISS Expo attracted attendees from 22 countries. Were clearly recognized as the global self-storage information center, Bix says.
ISS Store and Self-Storage TV
Launched at last year's expo, the Inside Self-Storage Store has made great strides, adding dozens of new products for all segments and learners of the business. During the 2013 event, attendees were able to use this online marketplace to pre-order copies of ISS Expo education DVDs and peruse dozens of other products including publications, training courses, videos, industry-performance reports and more.
The online-shopping experience is allowing self-storage operators to access rich educational resources when they need them, essentially tailoring their own training and professional development, says Teri L. Lanza, editorial director for ISS and a co-creator of the ISS Store. Our goal is to empower users to expand their knowledge and improve their business at will. Were thrilled to see owners and managers embrace the store with such zest. It indicates another key shift in the self-storage operational landscape.
This year, ISS debuted yet another great industry resource: Self-Storage TV. Similar to YouTube but specific to the storage business, SSTV features an online stream of videos including how-to's, facility events and promotions, expert insights, and much more. Whether they want to learn, be entertained or both, viewers will find something of interest on the channel. They can even search by topic using a convenient drop-down menu.
Making Deals on the Show Floor
The ISS Exhibit Hall featured 132 companies and included a number of returning vendors such as Chateau Products Inc., Janus International and Sentinel Systems Corp. There were also 15 first-time exhibitors including EcoPact, Eva-dry and Local Search Association.
The hall opened on Wednesday evening with a two-hour cocktail reception, sponsored by Sentinel. Although the evening preview presented a casual atmosphere, vendors were extremely busy and booking business. The customers that came by were more serious than years past, said Julie Plunkett, vice president of Capco Steel Inc., a steel supplier and erector of metal buildings, and RV and boat storage.
Many attendees were ready to spend money on the show floor. We had six people order trucks right at the show. Customers are ready to buy and invest in their storage business, says C.J. Steen, marketing director for On the Move Inc., which offers a turnkey rental-truck program and a tenant-protection program.
Likewise, Mako signed a substantial contract at the event. On Wednesday, we got a contract on a 22,000-square-foot expansion in Colorado, Wright says. I've been exhibiting at tradeshows for more than 20 years, and this is only the third time we were awarded a contract at a tradeshow.
The ISS Expo wasnt all work and no play. It was Vegas, after all! From showgirls to zombies to astronauts, attendees were treated to some interesting sights. Plus, several vendors had giveaways for great prizes.
Attendees flocked to the booth for online-auction website StorageBattles.com to have their picture taken with a classic Las Vegas showgirl in full dress. Robert Madsen, a Self-Storage Talk moderator and president of U-Lock Mini Storage Group in Canada, commanded attention with his space suit, garnering support for his quest to attend the Axe Apollo Space Academy Space Camp in Orlando, Fla. Another vendor dispatched zombies into the crowd to shake things up.
Vendors also distributed a variety of cool swag items including flashlight keychains, blingy lanyards, stress squeeze balls, chocolate truffles, tape measures, bottle openers and much more. SpareFoot, an online self-storage marketplace, gleefully distributed its pin-up-style 2013 calendar titled "Bust a Move-In," featuring its staff in humorous poses inside storage units.
There were also drawings for big prizes including an outdoor grill from Chateau Products, a Puma Scooter from Supply Side USA, and an Apple iPad 3 from Self-Storage Talk.
The Inside Self-Storage World Expo will return to the Paris Hotel & Casino, March 31-April 2, 2014. ISS would like to thank the following sponsors for their support of this year's event: