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Decades ago, it was rare to see self-storage facilities outside the United States. Now the industry is blossoming in regions worldwide and being embraced by investors and consumers alike. It's marvelous to watch the business spread into previously untouched markets, opening doors and changing lives. Learn more about where the industry is thriving, the impediments being faced, and what's on the horizon.

Teri Lanza

October 18, 2012

3 Min Read
Getting Your Arms Around the World of Self-Storage

There was a time not so long ago when to see self-storage facilities in countries other than the United States was rare. When you did see them, they were certainly unique in their markets and had little if any competition. We would write stories about these projects in Inside Self-Storage (ISS) as if they were anomalies. Non-U.S. customers had limited knowledge of the product, and developers and operators struggled to overcome barricades of culture and communication.

When ISS first forayed into the international market in June 2002, we began with a meet-and-greet reception attended by property investors and developers as well as existing self-storage builders and operators in the United Kingdom. It was a simple but elegant affair held at the U.S. Embassy at Grosvenor Square in London. The industry was already reasonably established in England, and the lack of language barrier made the location a natural choice for groundwork networking.

Our goal was to facilitate investment opportunities for interested parties and share our industry knowledge base with budding new operators. We were received with curiosity if not robust enthusiasm by more than 100 guests. The feedback and resulting inquiries were so encouraging that we followed up with a complete conference and tradeshow in London in November of that year. In June 2003, we returned to Europe for the Inside Self-Storage Expo International in Amsterdam.

Ten years later, we've seen a conflagration of international development. Though self-storage has grown steadily in Canada and Europe for more than two decades, we're now seeing it blossom worldwide in regions like Brazil, Hong Kong, Russia, Singapore, South Africa and The United Arab Emirates. The thirst for industry information and support is also on there in these markets, and it's being supplied not only by ISS but by dedicated international self-storage associations and even vendors:

ISS strives to stay well-versed in global self-storage, sharing information about new players, new builds, ongoing challenges, observations and predictions with our readers and customers. Part of that effort results in the annual publication of Inside Self-Storage International, the most recent edition of which was released just last week and is available for free download. Check it out for expert content on trends, association activity, real estate and more in nine key regions of the world.

I also invite you to investigate our "Self-Storage International Summit," a video recorded live at the 2012 Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas earlier this year. Available on demand through the ISS Store, this one hour and 19 minute overview provides a diverse perspective of the global self-storage market, with insights from panelists representing Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Latin America and the United Kingdom. The speakers discuss their challenges and strategies in building and operating self-storage in their respective regions, observing parallels and differences between markets.

ISS is also in the process of planning events for its 2013 Expo in Las Vegas, which will include a track of education seminars devoted exclusively to international issues. Watch the website for details as they unfurl. Show registration will begin later this fall.

Self-storage as an industry has expanded its horizons and you should, too. Even if you have no interest in developing or operating a business outside the U.S., you can always benefit from observing the practices, foibles and victories of others in your field. It's fascinating to see how customers are using "trunk rooms" in Japan or how operators in Chile are dealing with legal conundrums. If you operate a non-U.S. facility, please share your unique insights or pointers here on the blog. And remember you can always access free articles and news on our International topics page.

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