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Is storage a 'waste of space'?

Amy Campbell

September 26, 2008

3 Min Read
Is storage a 'waste of space'?

Now that's an interesting question. With tens of thousands of self-storage facilities nationwide and thousands more popping up in other parts of the world, what does the average consumer really think about our business? To some, storage is a savior, a solution, a safe harbor for a life in transition. To others, it represents little more than an eyesore, a "waste of space."

Case in point: Two weeks ago, a gentleman submitted a letter of public opinion to the Thousand Oaks Acorn, which serves the area of Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, North Ranch and West Lake, Calif. A new storage facility is about to be built near the T.O. post office, and he doesn't feel it's the best use of the parcel. He says:

Go figure: In these times of rising unemployment and dwindling city revenues, City of Thousand Oaks officials see fit to allow development of a self-storage facility that employs a whopping total of two people and which generates not one penny of sales tax for our city.

Is this the best use of what little developable land this city has left? Do we really need another storage facility in a city that already has 10?

I urge our city officials to stop and recognize that what limited developable land is left in the city should be utilized to provide local jobs and generate sales tax revenue, not to provide more storage sheds for a society of materialistic packrats.

The author touches on a couple interesting concepts. First, let's talk about market penetration. T.O. is a city of approximately 126,000, according to a summary on Wikipedia. It has 10 storage facilities, per the author. Is that market oversaturated? How does it compare to your local per-capita storage figures? The question of "too much storage" is relative, and a competitive market is not always a bad thing. It all boils down to demand. Even if you see a facility on every corner, it's occupancy that counts. (For some insights on market saturation, see this article on Overbuilding written by real estate expert Michael McCune.)

The other key issue is, obviously, public perception of the storage product. I would guess this letter-writer doesn't use and hasn't yet had a need for storage. He might feel differently otherwise. Yes, storage is a small-staff operation that doesn't provide many jobs. In most states, it does not generate sales tax (for which I'm sure many of you are grateful). But it does provide a very valuable service, not just for "materialistic packrats" but for people experiencing any number of significant life changes: a move, a new business, a divorce, a death in the family, a new baby, etc.

Just be aware, whether you're creating marketing materials to reach a target customer base or submitting plans for a new storage project, that there are folks out there who do feel storage is "a waste of space." Some of them are not afraid to voice this opinion publicly. So be at the ready to make your case and convince them of your more noble purpose. At least, you should have one.

If you have a story to share about a time you won over a prospect, city council or a planning/zoning board, please post it to the blog. I'm sure we could all use a little weekend inspiration.

About the Author(s)

Amy Campbell

Editor, Inside Self Storage

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