Premier Self Storage

April 1, 2006

7 Min Read
Premier Self Storage

Self-storage in Australia is a relatively small but growing industry, underpinned by the increasing trend in the country's capital cities towards smaller households and inner-city apartment living, and ongoing outsourcing and downsizing by businesses to reduce their occupancy costs. To date, self-storage in Australia has been dominated by mom-and-pop operations, with the industry characterized by fragmented ownership and very few major institutional players. Of the 750 or more self-storage facilities presently operating across Australia, large professional operators, such as Miller's and Kennard's Self Storage, account for less than 40 sites.

"The industry and its clients are crying out for an institutional, professional approach to self-storage," says Dallas Dogger, general manager of Premier Self Storage, a rapidly emerging player in the Australian industry. "Customers are looking for storage services that are flexible to their individual needs, in well-presented, secure and professionally run facilities. The vast majority of Australia's self-storage industry, predominantly the mom-and-pop and single operators, just aren't delivering."

That's about to change if Dogger, a founding member and former board member of the Self Storage Association of Australasia (SSAA), has anything to say about it. Dogger is the driving force behind an aggressive site-acquisition and refurbishment program that not only seeks to make Premier Self Storage one of Australia's leading self-storage operators, but also strives to revolutionize the Australian industry along the way.

Dogger says there is yet to be concrete data to show how rapidly the self-storage industry is growing in Australia and New Zealand. "However, it has easily doubled in the past five years, and I suspect that the industry is growing at roughly 10 percent per year," he says, pointing out that while there is a significant potential for self-storage growth in Australia, finding and developing feasible sites is both time-consuming and costly.

"The escalating cost of building prices and land are the biggest factors in the development phase. Other factors to be considered include access, main-road exposure, demographics and competition in the area," says Dogger. "Demographics in particular are very important, as 75 percent of customers are residential, and the remaining 25 percent are commercial operators, such as retailers and tradespeople. Business customers tend to stay four times longer than residential users, who stay on an average of six months."

Premier Expands

Premier Self Storage is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Leyshon Group, one of Queensland's largest and strongest private investment groups with interests in property, self-storage, trading businesses and mining. In May 1998, the group put in place a five-year expansion program for the development of "greenfield" sites and the purchase of existing self-storage facilities across Australia's three major east-coast capital cities: Brisbane in Queensland, Sydney in New South Wales and Melbourne in Victoria.

According to Dogger, 1998 saw Premier Self Storage successfully complete the first year of this ambitious expansion program, culminating with the opening of stage one of a $2.2 million storage center in the Brisbane inner northern suburb of Bowen Hills in November 1998.

Dogger explains that the Bowen Hills storage center is very much a flagship facility, not only for Premier Self Storage, but for the entire industry in Australia, setting the benchmark for others to follow. "The Bowen Hills center, part of an $8 million purpose-built office/warehouse complex developed by the Property Solutions Group, is one of the largest and most advanced facilities of its kinds presently operating in Brisbane," he says.

"At present, stage one consists of 430 individual storage spaces. The center will ultimately consist of approximately 800 spaces dispersed over three levels, including a basement level with complete climate control," says Dogger, who also points out that Premier is only one of a handful of Australian operators to utilize the services of a self-storage design and construction specialist to build and fit out its centers. "Steel Storage Australia, a leading designer and constructor of self-storage facilities, has built all of Premier's centers to date. We've found that only a company that specializes in the construction of self-storage facilities understands the industry's particular requirements to do the job properly."

Commenting further on the recent opening of the Bowen Hill center, Dogger says it is the first self-storage facility in Australia to bring a fully retail approach to the industry, from retail showrooms to a flexible range of access hours that tailors the product to the customer's needs rather than just providing a service. "In the United States, retail showrooms for the sale of boxes and other packing materials to the general public are integral to the industry," says Bowen. "It's a concept that's yet to be fully explored in Australia, and one that Premier will be introducing in all of its centers around the country.

"Bowen Hills is also one of the first storage centers in Australia to use RentPlus software, a Windows 98 and Y2K compliant management program designed specifically for the self-storage industry. The program provides flexible rental and discount plans to suit the customer rather than the self-storage operator." Premier was proud to recently host a private tour of the Bowen Hills facility for the board of directors of the SSAA. According to Dogger, they received a lot of positive feedback.

"Brisbane was the focus for the first year of our strategic plan, which also included the refurbishment and rebranding of an existing 600-space storage center at Indooroopilly Central, located in Brisbane's western suburbs, and the acquisition of the former Australia Post State Parcel Center in the city for a 1,000-space self-storage center, geared primarily towards the lucrative commercial market," says Dogger. "We're also presently investigating other sites on Brisbane's south side and in Queensland's second largest city, Gold Coast."

Premier is presently identifying appropriate sites in New South Wales and has already gathered preliminary submissions for a number of Sydney sites, says Dogger. "During 1999, we'll be investigating a number of existing sites for refurbishment in Sydney's inner southern and mid-western suburbs. By the end of the year, we expect to open an additional Brisbane center and up to two centers in Sydney." As of April 1999, Premier had identified two new sites in the Brisbane area, both being high-profile locations consistent with the group's selection strategy. Both sites will be developed over the remainder of the year. Once these sites are complete, Premier will be the largest self-storage company in Queensland.

Creating Awareness

Premier also separates itself from the competition through its professional approach to marketing and advertising. "Traditionally, the Australian industry hasn't promoted itself well," explains Dogger. "Premier employs advertising and public relations professionals to ensure it has a public profile in keeping with the company's investment. To this end, we've developed a sales device and company mascot, Pete the Premierstorus, designed to capture the public's attention in our press advertising and at shopping-center and trade-show displays. We're taking self-storage to the public, as the industry doesn't do any awareness advertising.

"Attracting new customers should be the priority for all self-storage operators. Premier is leading the way in awareness advertising for the industry with ground-breaking home-show displays. It will take some time to assess the results, however, as self-storage customers don't just turn up at your facility the next day."

Premier's professional approach is also carried through to the facility level, with staff uniforms and strong corporate colors, creating a brand presence. "Premier has worked hard to build what may be considered to be the best facilities in Australia," says Dogger, "and it is a tribute to our hard-working staff that our peers think we're doing a good job."

For more information on The Leyshon Group or any of its investments, contact the company's managing director, Geoff McMahon; commercial manager, Scott Dale; or self-storage manager, Dallas Dogger at (07) 3878 3377; e-mail [email protected].

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