The excitement at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo, April 6-9 at the Paris Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas, was palpable, and one thing is certain: The self-storage industry is on fire! From real estate sales to a rise in facility revenue, owners, managers, investors and developers are reaping the rewards of industry growth.
“We have not seen show attendee numbers like this in many years, but the real gem of the show was the amount of new attendees that had never been to a self-storage event as well as the international attendance,” says Troy Bix, vice president of Inside Self-Storage.
The show tallied a 13 percent increase in attendance over last year, drawing nearly 3,000 storage professionals from 49 states, eight Canadian provinces and 22 countries. The education platform was also bigger, with 45 seminars, six workshops and more than two dozen roundtable discussions.
The sold-out expo hall included more than 150 booths and 160 companies offering the latest products and services in the. It also boasted more than 20 first-time exhibitors representing an array of services, including online-auction platforms, security and membership programs.
“Attending the expo really opened my eyes to the breadth of the industry,” says first-time attendee Todd Riordan, owner of Happy Happy Self Storage in Columbus, Ind. “It’s very efficient to be able to talk to multiple vendors in a short amount of time. I also enjoyed meeting people who are offering services and products I never thought of or heard of previously.”
Much of the talk at the ISS Expo centered on industry growth. Operators report they’re experiencing higher occupancies, cutting concessions and raising rental rates as the demand for storage is increasing in their markets. Also, new investors are making their first foray into storage via acquisitions and development. Many longtime storage companies, including the real estate investment trusts, are in growth mode as well.
During the expo’s opening session, Chris Sonne, executive managing director of the Self Storage Industry Group of Cushman & Wakefield, shared that there will be 300 new self-storage facilities built this year, 600 in 2016, and 900 in 2017. Last year was a record for the investment market, and indicators show customer demand for storage is still on the rise. Facility operating performance will continue to improve in occupancy rates and revenue this year and next, Sonne, added.
The investment opportunities are what drove Alan Mruvka to launch StorageBlue, which operates four facilities in New Jersey. Founder of E! Entertainment Television and a long-time real estate investor and developer, Mruvka plans to grow his new brand by at least 10 properties this year and possibly 20 more next year.
“It’s still a wide-open field. There’s a lot of room for growth,” says Mruvka, who previously helped build the American Self Storage brand to 15 locations comprising more than 3 million square feet in the New York City metro area. “There’s more energy and enthusiasm for the industry now.”
A Competitive Edge
Of course, there’s one detriment to industry growth: increased competition for existing operators. The show’s education program included a wealth of seminars to help operators prep themselves and their properties for continued success. Topics were wide-reaching, and the rooms were packed as industry professionals soaked up information.
“The managers I took with me had a great time and learned so much. They are pumped and ready to go for our busy season,” says Stephanie Tharpe, vice president of operations and marketing for A+ Management Group LLC, based in Tennessee. Tharpe presented a session on manager compensation—a controversial yet alluring subject—as part of the expo’s Staffing Track. It was in her session that ISS first announced its newly launched manager-compensation survey, the results of which will be published this fall. (Facility managers can participate anonymously at www.insideselfstorage.com/survey.)
After attending the education program, Riordan walked away with a long a list of changes he plans to implement at his one-year-old business. “I am very thankful to have attended the expo at this stage of our business, as we are in the rent-up process. We already have the ‘easy tenants.’ The strategies I learned will help us get the rest of the units filled up,” he says.