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New Stor-Age Facility Developed in Tokai, South Africa

SA Self Storage Investments (SASSI) is developing a new Stor-Age Self Storage facility in Tokai, South Africa. The project is a joint venture between SASSI, Faircape Group, Acucap Properties Ltd. and Nedbank Corporate Property Finance. Faircape is handling the construction. The facility will be the most advanced of its kind in the country, according to SASSI Director Steven Horton.
 
Designed by Peerutin Architects, the building will be built on a 5,000-square-meter site with more than 400 units. The first multi-story, purpose-built self-storage facility in South Africa, it will feature a concrete frame with brick infill and covered with sheet metal in pillar-box red, Stor-Age’s corporate color. It will include a large retail store to sell packing and moving supplies, and provide a business center where customers can scan, fax and e-mail documents. Stor-Age Tokai is scheduled to open its in October.
 
SASSI invests in and develops self-storage throughout South Africa. It currently has five facilities under construction or in the planning phases, as well as two operational sites in Edgemead and City Vault. All of the company’s facilities are managed by its partner, Stor-Age Self Storage, a self-storage management company.
 
Source: Realestateweb.co.za, Sophisticated self storage development goes ahead at Tokai

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Electronic Sign Denied to Grand Rapids Self-Storage Business

The Board of Zoning Appeals in Grand Rapids, Mich., has ruled against a local self-storage business that wants to put up an electronic sign to post digital messages for passersby. Facility operator JES Management requested a variance to install the sign, saying it was necessary to increase awareness of the business among potential customers. Members of the zoning board disagreed, saying it would open the door for other businesses that want variances to the city's sign ordinance, which bans electronic signs in industrial districts.
 
Source: The Grand Rapids Press, Grand Rapids zoning board rules against digital sign for self-storage business

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Here Comes the Sun

As the world continue to look for new energy sources, solar power is becoming a hot commodity. And with ample rooftops, self-storage is a natural fit.

Sovran Self Storage recently announced it’s considering jumping into the solar biz. The company, which owns or manages more than 25 million square feet of storage units in 24 states, is weighing the merits of solar power. The company operates under Uncle Bob's Self Storage. Sovran’s chief executive officer, Kenneth Myszka, talked up the topic last week at Sovran’s annual shareholders meeting.

There are already dozens of self-storage facilities already generating electricity with solar power. Bellam Self Storage & Boxes in Marin County, Calif., 126 Self Storage in Ashland, Mass., and Acorn Mini Storage in Brentwood, Calif., are generating electricity through solar panels located on the top of the facilities. In some states, you can even sell excess energy back to the power company.

While adding solar power can be a costly upfront investment, there are federal and state tax rebates and grants available to cut the costs. Grants covered about half of the cost for solar projects at Planet Self Storage and Storage Plus. Solar can also be added to RV and boat carports.

Look for more on how self-storage facilities can take advantage of solar energy in the July issue of ISS. If you’ve added solar to your facility—or considering it—share your story by posting a comment below.

We're also putting together a panel of experts to discuss the topic at the Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Washington, D.C., Oct. 5-8. More information on the seminar specifics will be available in the coming weeks. Get the agenda-at a glance and register today.
 

Marquis Self Storage Reports Three Burglaries in April

In April, police responded to three separate reports of burglary at Marquis Self Storage in Forney, Texas. On April 13, they discovered a unit had been broken into, with an air compressor, band saw and audio speakers missing. The next day, they returned to find various tools and two televisions had been stolen from the site. On April 22, the facility reported another $4,600 in stolen property.
 
The Forney Police Department recently released its April crime statistics, including 27 reported burglaries. This is up from March, during which 21 burglaries were reported, and February, when only seven were reported.
 
Source: The Forney Post, Forney Police Release April Crime Statistics

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Fire Blazes Through New Alexandria Self-Storage Facility

A large fire at a self-storage facility in New Alexandria, Pa., today caused officials to close part of Route 22, creating extensive traffic backups. Firefighters battled a blaze consuming a row of approximately 40 self-storage units. Several fire departments responded, and no injuries were reported.
 
A tenant of the storage facility told WTAE Channel 4 Action News that he saw his unit going up in flames. He was able to salvage his motorcycle but lost his other belongings.
 
Source: ThePittsburghChannel.com, Self-Storage Fire Closes Part Of Route 22

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Lackland Self Storage CEO Featured on 'The Growth Strategist'

This morning, Michael Lackland, president and CEO of Lackland Self Storage, was a featured guest on “The Growth Strategist,” an Internet radio program presented by the VoiceAmerica Business Channel. Lackland discussed the impact of the recession on real estate valuation and the self-storage industry as part of the show’s series titled “The Changing Role of Real Estate.” 
 
Hosted by Aldonna Ambler, “The Growth Strategist” is a weekly, hour-long program during which listeners ask questions via phone or e-mail. It focuses on various business industries, locations and strategies. Each show begins by offering four to five success tips relating to the “growth strategy of the week.” The free show is available on demand at www.business.voiceamerica.com.

“My show speaks directly to CEOs of fast-growth mid-market companies ($20 million to $200 million) about growth strategies, moving past plateaus, what to do next while achieving accelerated growth with sustained profitability,” says Ambler. “I invite guests from diverse industries, backgrounds, geography and philosophies to share how, when and why they are where they are today, and how many speed bumps they hit on their journey.”
 
Lackland Self Storage, launched in 1977, is a family-owned business with 23 facilities in New Jersey and two in Pennsylvania.
 
Ambler is an award-winning entrepreneur, speaker, author and intermediary who helps mid-market companies obtain growth financing. She was recently named the lead instructor for IBM’s Owners and Presidents Program, serving IBM’s global network of business partners.
 
VoiceAmerica Business is one of three channels on the VoiceAmerica Network, developed by Modavox Inc.

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Using Social Media in Self-Storage: Does It Measure Up to the Hype?

Lately, there’s a mountain of hype surrounding social media, services like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Digg and MySpace. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you’ve no doubt heard of them and probably even used one or more. Do they live up to the buzz? How do they affect self-storage operators, and can you use them to benefit your business?

It all started with MySpace, a way for people to connect and share thoughts on just about anything via blogs, videos or text updates. MySpace has been particularly popular with the younger generations who use it as an outlet for emotional rants and to show who they like and don’t like, adding or removing people as “friends.” From a business-building perspective, MySpace gained huge credibility when comedian Dane Cook created a cult-like following, selling out concerts and products almost instantly through his network of online connections.

Then along came YouTube, a free online portal for users to upload all sorts of video. In the beginning, users were mostly young, artsy types that had creative energy and time to spend. The self-proclaimed geeks who founded the site had no idea what they started. The first video was uploaded in April 2005, and by October 2006, they sold to Google for an astonishing $1.65 billion. If it wasn’t already evident, the transaction proved to the business world that this social-media thing might have real power. 

As of this writing, Facebook and Twitter are all the rage. Facebook is like MySpace but with a cleaner, more wholesome image. Twitter is a way for people to tell their “followers” what they’re up to or where they’re at by “tweeting” short text messages of less than 140 characters.
 
Making Money From the Madness

When Google purchased YouTube, what it was really buying was access to prospective customers. Realizing that traffic is king, the company followed the model that made it the success it is today. Google knows that if you can find a captive audience, such as person who sits in front of a computer all day, you can sell him something (or try to anyway).

All these social sites have a captive audience for businesses to target. They make their money by selling advertising to business owners like you and me. But the real question is can you, as a self-storage manager or owner, make money by participating in this madness?

There are three basic opportunities for you to participate in the social-media world:

  • Buy advertising on one of the platforms.
  • Create a following of “friends” and hope they buy from you or refer their friends to you.
  • Network with customers, prospects and other local businesses.

Whether a self-storage operation can make money by using social media is yet to be seen. There are plenty of operators jumping on the bandwagon, and the feedback is mixed. Time will tell. But here’s a fundamental consideration: Nobody logs on to any social-media website actively looking for self-storage. Any business that does result from your participation will be a side effect.

For example, John Smith might not log in to his Facebook account looking for a place to store his belongings, but while he’s checking on his friends, one of them might have left an update on his profile saying, “Uggghh i’m moving stuff 2 storage today...crappy day...but at least the storage company is cool.” Or maybe, while John is viewing pictures of his friend’s wedding on Facebook, he might see a targeted pay-per-click ad for a storage company in his area and click on it.

In both instances, finding storage was not the intent of the user, but it happened. This is neither good nor bad. It is what it is. You just need to consider your cost-per-lead and cost-per-tenant acquisition like you do with every other marketing campaign.
 
Worth the Investment?

Caution: Pay close attention to the time it takes to manage your social networking. It’s easy to let your employees participate because it’s “free.” In reality, while building networks and friends is free from a monetary standpoint, it can be very costly from a time perspective.

If you want my candid advice, don’t waste your time and energy on social media at this point. I’m sure this statement will be unpopular because the current enthusiasm over these tools is almost out of logical control. But there are too many other methods of acquiring tenants that are proven, easy and inexpensive for you to dive into this game headfirst and full steam ahead.

The use of social media is valid for many businesses but still questionable for the vast majority of self-storage. This could, and probably will, change in the near future. But for now, I recommend watching things unfold from the sidelines. I’m not saying social media is empty hype, but the practical application and return on investment for storage operators is uncertain.

That said, there are two things I recommend you do, based on what I’ve seen work in this industry: put a facility commercial or video on YouTube, and test the Facebook pay-per-click system. Launching a video on YouTube will help you in a couple of ways. First, you can add the video to your own website for customers. Second, if you link the video properly, it will help you from a search-engine-optimization standpoint.

When users create a profile on Facebook, they enter all sorts of information about where they live, work, went to school, etc. This allows you to target market based on demographics. Users can also join local groups, which you can target with a Google-like, pay-per-click campaign.
 
The Public Relations Angle

One last thing to keep in mind: The same power that creates instant positive buzz among social-media friends can also create instant negative PR for your company. Nothing separates an upset customer and his social network. There have already been instances in which a self-storage operation was caused a ton of heartache and an untold amount of negativity in its market because of bad social-media exposure. Social media makes it so much easier for people to tell the world what they think about your business.

I, for one, will continue keeping my eyes firmly on developments in social media. I have no doubt that opportunity for self-storage operators will emerge from the chaos. In the meantime, remember: Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

Derek M. Naylor is president of Storage Marketing Solutions, a full-service, results-oriented marketing and advertising agency dedicated to the self-storage industry. For a free subscription to his e-newsletter, call 800.941.4805; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.storagemarketingsolutions.com.

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More Self-Storage on YouTube ... and on the Discount Bandwagon

U-Store-It recently launched its all-new ad campaign that contains its first-ever TV advertising as well as radio spots to back them up. The big self-storage players are stepping up their marketing programs this summer, offering concessions to keep business alive. And there's no doubt there will be trickle-down effect as small, independent self-storage businesses scramble to compete.

U-Store-It's campaign is for "Lowest Price Guaranteed." Anyone who can find lower rent on a unit of comparable size within three miles of a U-Store-It facility will get a rate that beats the competitor by 10 percent of the difference. So if Facility A is charging $40 and U-Store-It is charging $45, the customer pays $39.50 at U-Store-It.

Tell me ... Are there U-Store-It facilities within three miles of you? Are your rates lower? Not anymore, they're not.

But I don't blame the company for its enterprising approach, which includes a social-media component. Not only is U-Store-It airing its commercial in 23 major markets nationwide, it's put the spot on YouTube for the planet's viewing pleasure. So far, it's only had 326 views—one of which is mine—but it's still smart strategy to get your promotional materials seen via as many social sites as possible.

Out of curiosity, I searched YouTube for other self-storage videos, and I was pleasantly surprised to see just how many of you out there have been enterprising enough to create a clip. Many are promotional videos produced by legitimate self-storage operations, but others are spoofs and social commentaries on our business.

For example, Self Storage: The Pilot Trailer is "the story of two brothers who have to find a way to work together at their family owned self-storage facility." It opens with the narrator saying, "Ok, listen, I'm just gonna tell you this straight up: You got too much s**t. Seriously." It's only five minutes long; if you want a good laugh, check it out. See what one of the brothers is doing in an unrented unit!

Storage companies using YouTube to promote their businesses include SafeGard Self Storage, Bay Area Self Storage, South Lamar Self Storage & Wine Cellar, Atlantis Discount Self Storage and many others. You don't have to be U-Store-It or other large operator to create a competitive, multi-media marketing campaign. It just takes some ingenuity and a bit of tech savvy. I'm sure you all have someone among your family, friends or community who can help bring you into the digital age if you don't personally feel up to the task.

This summer, things are going to get hot, and I don't mean the temperature. The fires of competition are getting higher in many markets. Are tactics that smack of desperation going to hurt this business in the long run, or will it make us all seem more "user-friendly" to the public? Let me know your thoughts. And if you want to join a more interactive conversation, jump into this thread at Self-Storage Talk: Intimidated by new U-Store-It campaign?

Creating the Illusion of Self-Storage Security

All of us in the wonderful world of self-storage management have had to deal with one kind of security issue or another, such as a person cutting a hole in the fence to break into a unit, or the professional burglar who rents a unit intent on robbing others. Then there’s the ex-spouse who empties the unit, or vandals who break into an RV through the window.

As a facility manager, how can you convince prospects that you are a safe storage alternative to their home or business? It starts with some simple daily steps.
 
The Walk-Through

It’s imperative to walk your property several times per day to see if anything is out of whack. Always visit new customers while they are moving in, just to say “Hi” and to take a peek at what they’re storing. While walking the facility, look for problems that need immediate attention ... and take care of them.

Make sure your security cameras, video recorder, gates, etc., are all working properly. How is the lighting at your store? Are the aisles well-lit at night? Are cameras working properly, and are the images they record clear? Are the gate-access points working correctly, and do you know when each and every customer is on site?

Do you check your unit hasps after a customer has moved out? Do they close in the way they should? While you’re checking the hasps, take a look at the interior of the unit. Are there any signs on the walls that need to be changed? Can a person from the next-door unit get into that unit?
 
The Power of Locks and Cameras

These steps can minimize potential theft, but are they enough? I just saw a video in which a guy opened a deadbolt lock with a simple device and a quick hit with a hammer. This is disconcerting. How many of you have locks that can be opened the same way? What can you do to prevent this from happening at your site?

Why not invite your local law-enforcement agency to train at your facility? Post signs around the facility letting customers know that officers train on the premises. To reinforce the idea, donate a unit to them and, in return, ask them to drive by the facility a couple times per day during and after business hours.

Another idea is to sponsor a half-day seminar for your customers to discuss the issue of security. Most police departments have a public-service officer who would be willing to lead a discussion on how you and your tenants can help make your facility safe. Publicize the event, make it a community-awareness issue, and you may get some help from the local media or rent units to new customers.

You should also post large and colorful signs around the facility touting your cameras and video surveillance. Also, encourage each customer to purchase insurance against theft and other losses. Compare your storage facility to a tenant’s garage. Would he insure his own personal garage and the contents if he was storing stuff at home? 
 
Taking the Right Measures

Nothing a storage operator does can guarantee that customers’ goods will be safe at all times from all possible theft. Make sure your tenants have a good lock on their units and purchase insurance. Also, be diligent in your walk around the facility several times daily to ensure everything is as it should be, and try teaming up with law enforcement to minimize the risk of theft.  

A little effort can go a long way. Remember, if you do something right, your tenants may tell 10 other people; if you do something wrong, they will tell 100. It’s easier to prevent break-ins than to deal with them after the fact.
 
Mel Holsinger is the president of Professional Self Storage Management LLC. Based in Tucson, Ariz., the company manages more than 40 facilities in Arizona, Colorado and Texas. Holsinger has been in the self-storage industry for more than 25 years. He is a frequent speaker at industry tradeshows, a contributing writer for Inside Self-Storage magazine, and a faculty member of the Self-Storage Training Institute. To reach him, call 520.319.2164; e-mail [email protected]
  
    
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Self-Storage Operators Motivated to Wheel and Deal With Customers

With consumers suffering from layoffs and foreclosures, self-storage operators in St. Louis and nationwide are doing whatever they can to keep units full and paid, including being flexible and making concessions, according to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Even the recession-resistant self-storage industry is feeling the pinch of the tightened economy, and operators realize negotiations are sometimes necessary. Some are offering price breaks and promotions, and being more forgiving when it comes to delinquent customers.
 
Randy Weissman, a 20-year industry veteran and president of Storage Banc, which operates eight self-storage sites in the St. Louis metro area, said this is as difficult a time as he’s ever seen for self-storage.
 
Storage Inn Inc., with 10 facilities in Missouri, is making lots of with customers, according to Howard Price, executive vice president. Public Storage, the nation's largest self-storage company, is advertising significant price breaks.
 
Part of the reason self-storage companies are eager to work with customers is because the process of auctioning tenants’ goods is tedious and full of risk, sometimes for minimal payoff. Lien sales are down at Storage Banc and Storage Inn, thanks to the companies’ efforts. Wanting to avoid bad press when selling customer goods is another motivating factor, Weissman said.
 
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Self-storage industry pulls out the stops to staunch delinquencies, draw new customers

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