By Amy Campbell
Self-storage assistant manger Wanda Terry has only been on the job for a handful of months. Although absorbing information while working at American Self-Serv Storage in Greeley, Colo., has been insightful, attending the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas this week enabled her to glean new ideas she says shell put into practice at her facility. I learned so much, said Terry, who, along with her husband, Robin, attended the education program, then spent several hours speaking with exhibitors.
The biggest industry show of the year drew hundreds of self-storage owners, operators, investors, builders and vendors from around the countryand dozens from around the world. The three-day event included education, exhibits, workshops and more. Hosted once again at the Paris Hotel and Casino, the event drew a number of first-time attendees and exhibitors.
While many storage professionals relayed theyre still dealing with challenging markets, there was a renewed sense of energy and optimism at this years ISS Expo.
As we move into 2012, the industry has some momentum and positive energy, said Troy Bix, group publisher of Inside Self-Storage. The attendees and the vendors have great attitudes about the industry and, this year, were really starting to move toward growth, operational efficiencies and profitability.
Opening Session Makes Its Mark
The positive vibe began in the opening session, A View From the Top, which featured a panel of representatives from some of the biggest companies in the industry, including three of the four self-storage real estate investment trusts (REIT). The panel fielded questions about how the industry is faring, acquisitions, online marketing and more.
Led by industry veteran Jim Chiswell of Chiswell & Associates, the industry professionals included Cris Burnam of StorageMart, Jack Rogers of Sovran Self Storage Inc., Carol Shipley of CubeSmart, Daniel Elefante of Platinum Storage Group, and Jim Stevens of Extra Space Storage. The panel agreed the self-storage industry is finally seeing an increase in new rentals and increased rental rates. The industry is poised for a lot of growth, consolidation, and great things are coming, said Rogers, vice president of business development for Sovran Self Storage, a self-storage REIT.
One reason for this is the stabilization of self-storage in most markets. After years of heavy building, the recession and lack of access to readily available money led to fewer new facilities built in the last three years. Were feeling the affect of the stabilization of the industry, said Elefante, an owner/operator and CEO of Platinum Storage Group.
And while concessions have also plagued the industry over the past few years, the panel reports discounting is slowly being phased out as a way to attract new customers. Operators are regaining pricing power, said Stevens, senior vice president of acquisitions and business development for Extra Space Storage. Street rates will continue to rise in the foreseeable future.
Rather than slashing rental rates, operators are turning their attentionand marketing budgetsto effective and targeted Web marketing. Those who arent could be missing out on market share, Shipley said. If youre just realizing the Internet is king, youre behind the pack already, said Shipley, vice president of third-party management for CubeSmart, a self-storage REIT.
First-time ISS Expo attendees, William and Karen Warburton, owners of Affordable Mini Storage in Bourbonnais, Ill., said while they have a website, theyre need to do more online marketing. We can see where technology is the new marketing tool, Karen Warburton said.
New Classes, Workshops Inspire Attendees
This years expo also featured an abundance of new seminar topics, speakers and an owners workshop. New seminars included an International Summit. The panel members from around the world, including Asia, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Mexico, discussed development in their counties, and operator and legal challenges.
Another new educational experience this year was the Ancillary Symposium. Led by Bob Copper, president of Self Storage 101 and an ISS Expo speaker, panel members discussed the pros and cons of add-on profit centers and services including moving supplies, boat/RV storage, rental trucks, cell towers and more. All of the seminars were very informative, Karen Warburton said.
Terry found the legal information enlightening. Surveillance can be a sticky legal term. Im going to make sure were watching our terminology and be more self-protective, she said.
During exhibit halls hours Thursday and Friday, vendors kept busy fielding questions and offering demonstrations of their products and services. The quality of attendees at this years show was amazing, said Teresa Sedmak, president of Everbrite Inc., which manufactures protective coating for self-storage unit doors. It was really one of the best shows in years. There was a positive energy.
Members of the ISS team were busy during exhibit hours discussing the new Inside Self-Storage Store. Launched this week, the store is the worlds first on-demand, online market for industry insight and education. The hub enables self-storage owners, operators, developers and investors to obtain cutting-edge information and educational resources, including guidebooks, digital magazines, educational videos and webinars, manager training courses, and exclusive offers on self-storage services from several leading business partners.
The ISS Store also includes valuable industry reports from the Self-Storage Industry Group of Cushman & Wakefield, a leading real estate and consulting firm. Drawing on 20 years of historical and current industry, Cushman & Wakefield will offer a variety of market and property-specific data available that will be available in the ISS Store.
The reports available through the store generated a lot of interest from attendees. Owners and new developers were excited to learn they could obtain market data from as little as a three-mile radius around a specific property site up to current and historical data on a national level, said Tony Jones, ISS online content editor, who was part of the team that designed and launched the store. Our partnership with Cushman & Wakefield enables ISS to deliver the type of market intelligence to the industry that previously has been proprietary to Wall Street analysts and major institutional investors.
The industrys largest online community once again made its presence known at the industrys biggest event of the year. On day one of education, Self-Storage Talk Community Manager John Carlisle assisted Self-Storage Q&A facilitators Jim Chiswell and Mel Holsinger by fielding questions from the forumwhere thousands of members from all over the world are always chatting about self-storage. Attendees sitting in the seminar room in Las Vegas eagerly provided answers while watching the forum discussion thread scroll on a large screen. Similarly, SST posters responded to questions being asked in the live Q&A, making the session even more interactive than its been in the past.
On the exhibit hall floor, the SST booth was buzzing as new members signed up and longtime members stopped by to chat and catch up with one another. All members placed pins on a world map to designate where theyre from, illustrating that SST is represented everywhere from New England to New Zealand. People from all roles of self-storage, from assistant managers to developers and executives from large operations, can join the community for free by visiting www.selfstoragetalk.com and clicking register.
The Inside Self-Storage World Expo will return to the Paris Hotel & Casino, April 3-5, 2013. Show information, including exhibitors, education and networking opportunities, will be available in the coming months at www.insideselfstorageworldexpo.com.