ISS Blog

The Self-Storage Industry Evolution

Gina Six Kudo is the general manager for Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif. She is one of four recipients of the Inside Self-Storage 2009 Humanitarian Service Award.

For over two decades I’ve been involved in the self-storage industry, and during that time some amazing things have happened. I’ve witnessed an industry fairly heavily biased by old money geared toward almost strictly bottom-line improvement, move toward a more all-inclusive industry full of people from a widely varied set of skills and backgrounds. 

Even going back to the days of the exclusive club there were those who stood out. If you’ve been in the business for any length of time or attended any tradeshows you’ll know the names: Buzz Victor, Daniel T. Webster, William Kenney, Mel Holsinger, Jim Chiswell, RK Kliebenstein, Ken Woolley and so many more who are considered pioneers in our industry.

The reason some of these names pop out is because of their insightfulness into what the industry could become. They showed us how some ingenuity and innovation could propel us all forward as a group, learning and supporting each other.
We’ve grown from less than 20,000 facilities nationwide to more than 53,000, and have expanded to other countries where burgeoning markets are forming. In some of these countries the facility owners are pioneers with no laws or codes on the books for them to work from. Talk about a new and exciting world!

I’ve also witnessed us move from a retired mom-and-pop industry to an evolved, professional one full of knowledgeable people. One of the most exciting things I think I’ve witnessed is the camaraderie among competitors. Not once have I ever heard one owner say to another, "Forget it, I learned the hard way so should you."

Polling on Self-Storage Talk to determine which industries self-storage managers were in prior to the self-storage industry brought forth a plethora of responses and such a wide array of backgrounds. Although each is so different the one thing everyone seems to have in common is the desire to excel at what they do.

Just from the simple fact that all of these people come together to share and learn from each other every day on Self-Storage Talk tells you we’ve gotten away from the everyone-for-himself mode. Even in just this past years’ time, I’ve seen people rise up and offer assistance to others on the forum seeking work or trying to launch a new business. When one succeeds there is a shared sense of accomplishment by all involved in assisting that person to the success level.

Collectively we show a more positive industry perception than any number of other cutthroat industries. Sometimes it is frightening how intimate a group we are, yet how large at the same time. I think it proves that as a unit, if we put our minds to a common goal—whether it's a wholly educated, supportive self-storage industry or any other shared concept—we can accomplish our goal with a united front.

We’ve come a long way from my great-grandmother renting out her old barn to a local mattress company, and I for one am glad to have become part of such a great industry of compassionate people.

Join the discussions on the Self-Storage Talk forum today. Here are a couple of hot threads to get you started:

What Specials Do You Run?

7 Bold Faced Lies You've Heard About Marketing

BOOK: Mastering Real Estate Investment: Examples, Metrics and Case Studies

Mastering Real Estate Investment: Examples, Metrics and Case Studies, a book by Frank Gallinelli, explains 37 key real estate metrics and how they can be used to create a profitable investment strategy. These metrics, or formulas, are designed to help the investor, lender or broker evaluate an investment property's vital signs through critical measurements such as capitalization rate, discounted cash flow, internal rate of return and debt-coverage ratio.In addition to in-depth descriptions of each metric, the book offers comprehensive case studies of four property types: single-family rental, renovation project, apartment building and strip shopping center. The book is available via and other retail channels.
Frank Gallinelli is the founder and president of RealData Inc., a real estate software firm that offers analysis tools to investors and developers. He is the author of What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know about Cash Flow and Insider Secrets to Financing Your Real Estate Investments. He also serves as an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University's Master of Science in real estate development program.

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The New Supply Side USA: Five Questions With Company President and CEO James Hawley

1. Tell us about Supply Side USA and its products.

Supply Side USA is a retail, consumer-products company focused on self-storage and mail-and-ship centers in the United States and Canada. We develop, package and market a full line of moving and storage products such as high-quality locks, boxes, Bubble Wrap-brand protective packaging, tapes and kits. Our PackRite brand is a recognized leader in a cohesive retail merchandising approach, which provides our customers with an upscale, professionally packaged and merchandised retail program for their stores. 
2. What is your role with Supply Side USA?

My role is president and CEO, focusing primarily on customer sales and new-product marketing. I’m very customer-driven and try to spend as much time in the market as possible, asking questions of store owners and managers to uncover new opportunities to help them with their business. Innovation and marketing drive everything in business, and it’s a passion for new ideas that keeps us a step or two ahead. You will not find a more innovative bunch than the folks at Supply Side USA.
3. The company’s name recently changed. What’s behind this, and what is Supply Side USA’s new mission?

The old Supply Side ceased operation due to financial difficulty last year. We found a buyer for the assets who wanted to put money in the company and keep it going. The name change was fortuitous. Supply Side is a registered trademark and came along with the sale of the company. Our website URL has been for years, so we just followed that use in naming the new company. So now, when you Google “Supply Side USA,” we come out No. 1. It just worked out that way, which is awesome.
4. Why should self-storage operators sell retail products?

Self-storage sites are a perfect place to market protective-packaging products because they have a captive customer with a specific need. Storage customers are there for many reasons: extra space, moving, downsizing, divorce, business and many others. Most have not dealt with the need for protective packaging before and, therefore, need to be educated on how to best keep their belongings.

A well-trained storage operator along with a properly merchandised program can add thousands of dollars of sales and profit to a facility each month and increase the value of the property. Because self-storage is primarily real estate-driven, we find operators often need expertise in retail programs. That’s where Supply Side USA comes in.

We offer a complete program of products and merchandising options to suit their needs for a specific market. We identify 10 or more attributes of each site in a program we call “Store of the Community.” These attributes include space available for retail displays, store location, traffic patterns, competitive landscape, demographics, customer base, etc. Then we customize a program based on those findings.

Most competitors try to jam as much product into the stores as possible under the old sales adage that “a happy dealer is a loaded dealer.” We find this practice tends to overstock most stores and return on investment is compromised. By taking into account each store’s unique market, we can tailor a program that sells. This is a whole different approach Supply Side USA has developed for retail planning. We’re also a one-stop-shop for protective packaging, locks and managers’ items, thereby saving operators time and money.
5. What is the future of retail and self-storage? More green products?

Self-storage retail is always developing. We went through years of trying to sell everything someone would need for every task relating to moving and storage. What we found is the basics do best and provide the best ROI. Current programs are simple: streamlined and effective.

We also found sites selling humidity absorbers in the desert, lock de-icers in Florida and other items that made little sense. These issues are taken care of with our Store of the Community approach. Through our website, we can customize a program that allows operators to limit what a manager can order and even provide an electronic signoff. Ultimately, we see in-store scanning and inventory programs to allow more visibility to what’s on hand and what’s moving.

We’re certainly seeing the development of more green products, rental solutions and packaging-recycling programs. Think about how much product ends up in landfills after a move or season of storage. Protective packaging is a huge contributor to the waste stream. Green products are not only better for the planet, they’re big business, and the companies that capitalize on them will do well.

We fully intend to develop green initiatives in all markets we serve.
“Creating Retail Excellence” is our mantra. We’ve come through a rough time this past year, but are now poised to serve those customers who value excellent retail programs, one-stop shopping, great service and innovation. It’s a goal, not a destination, as we constantly work to improve our customers’ businesses.

Related Articles:

Supply Side: Custom Programs Help Storage Retail Profits

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Supnick Signs Six Self-Storage Management Contracts

Supnick Real Estate has signed six new self-storage management contracts under its Profit Optimization Service Platform, which offers short-term, customized management and marketing services to self-storage operators. The added facilities are:

  • ABC Self Storage, a 22,000-square-foot facility in Easton, Pa.
  • ABC Self Storage, a 14,000-square-foot facility in Delaware Water Gap, Pa.
  • ABC Self Storage, a 21,000-square-foot facility in Brodheadsville, Pa.
  • Premier Self Storage, a 60,000-square-foot facility in Lancaster, Pa.
  • E-Z Self Storage, a 100,000-square-foot facility in Lakewood, N.J
  • E-Z Self Storage, a 30,000-square-foot facility in Howell, N.J.

The platform consists of a facility audit, market evaluation and detailed recommendations in areas such as employee selection and training, physical plant, operational efficiencies, improved marketing, and strategic rental rate management. 

Owner Jeff Supnick is a 25-year self-storage veteran and a former development and real estate officer for Public Storage Inc. and Storage USA.

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Getting the Most Out of a Self-Storage Feasibility Study[By Jeffrey Supnick]

X Marks the Storage Spot : The importance of site selection[By Jeffrey Supnick]

SS-20 Building Systems Wins Excellence in Design Award

SS-20 Building Systems Inc. of Bradenton, Fla., recently received an Excellence in Design Award for the self-storage category from American Buildings Co. The honor, which recognizes builders and roofers for their innovation and distinction in design, was awarded to SS-20 for its work on Extra Space Storage in Gurnee, Ill. 
The competition is open to all ABC authorized builders and architectural metal systems roofers. This year, the independent panel of judges selected winners from more than 175 entries in the following categories: agricultural, church/religious center, commercial, government/institutional, manufacturing/industrial, office, recreation, retail, roofing, self-storage, transportation, warehouse/distribution, and green facilities. A winner and honorable mention are named for each group; category winners go on to compete for Building of the Year and Roof of the Year. 
ABC has designed, manufactured and delivered metal buildings and roofing systems for more than 50 years. Headquartered in Eufaula, Ala., the company has more than 750 authorized builders nationwide.

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ISS Buyer's Guide: American Buildings Co.

Webinar on Survival Tips for Self-Storage Managers, July 8

On July 8 at 2 p.m. ET, self-storage veteran Ann Parham will present a free webinar titled, "Economic Survival for Managers,” an online seminar for self-storage managers who want to know how to better operate their facilities in a down economy. Parham will provide an overview of the manager position, including what the owner and customer sees. She will then address the critical issues of facility income, expenses, cash flow and leasing tools. Interested parties should register in advance at 
Parham is the president and CEO of Joshua Management Corp. Based in San Antonio. the company offers self-storage management, employee training, financial reports, accounting, audits, brokerage and marketing services.

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ISS Blog

Get Marketing Strategies at ISS DC Expo

Like most businesses, your advertising and marketing budget is probably nearly non-existent in light of today’s economic environment. But that doesn’t mean you can relax and the customers will continue to walk through your door. Self-storage owners and managers must find new and creative ways to market their products and services. What marketing strategies work best? Referral programs? Fliers or coupons? Craigslist or newsletters?

Marketing takes center stage at this year’s Inside Self-Storage World Expo, Oct. 2-5 in Washington, D.C. This month, the ISS education team is putting together a comprehensive marketing track to guide you through today’s tumultuous economy and on to success.

In addition to the marketing educational track, industry veteran Tom Litton will present a marketing boot camp, a five-hour intensive workshop outlining powerful marketing techniques. Tom is an engaging speaker, very witty and will give you concrete suggestions to boost your marketing strategies.

ISS columnist Derek Naylor will also be speaking at the D.C. expo, and he has an attention-getting topic: 7 Bold Faced Lies You’ve Heard About Marketing (And the Facts Behind the Fiction.) As he pulls together his educational seminar, Derek is seeking input from Self-Storage Talk forum members. Be sure to give him your two-cents.

While you’re on Self-Storage Talk, check out the other marketing threads. TexasCycleGal posted a great thread on community-based marketing ideas.

There’s no doubt the economy is still struggling, but there are signs of hope. New construction is up for the first time in months. Many banks are on the mend. And even the job market is not as bleak.

Recovery is on its way. Until then, get the marketing know-how you need by attending the Inside Self-Storage World Expo.

Maine Governor Signs Bill That Taxes Self-Storage

Despite the efforts of the local and national self-storage associations, Maine Governor John Baldacci signed a new tax-reform bill last week that applies a 5 percent sales tax to self-storage and several of the state’s services. Aiming to collect more tax from visitors and less from residents, the bill lowers the state’s income-tax rate and applies more tax to goods and services. It also increases the meals and lodgings tax from 7 percent to 8.5 percent.
The income-tax reduction takes effect on Jan. 1, reducing the rate from 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent for those earning less than $250,000 per year, and from 6.85 percent versus 6.5 percent for those earning more.
The bill’s supporters estimate the total savings for Maine taxpayers at approximately $55 million per year. Those opposed question whether the bill will truly result in a tax break for most residents.
Source: Bangor Daily News, Baldacci signs tax reform bill into law

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Ross Self Storage Hosts Free Weddings, Flea Market and More

On June 14, Ross Self Storage in Ohio hosted an all-out grand opening that featured free weddings, notary-public services, food, tarot-card readings and a flea market. The family-owned business hired Rev. Joe Wessels, a licensed minister in the state of Ohio to help people tie the not at its Venice Boulevard facility. As an added incentive, all newlyweds who rented a storage unit will get their second month of rent for free. Tenants were allowed to participate in the flea market for free, all others paid only $20 for a space to sell their wares. In addition, the first 100 people through the gates received a free American flag in honor of Flag Day.

Source: WCPO Cincinnati, Get Married For 'Free' This Weekend

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NY Police Arrest Self-Storage Burglary Suspect

Police have arrested a man in connection with a burglary at a self-storage facility in Watertown, N.Y. The state police believe he may be connected with similar break-ins across the area.

Police say Christopher R. Gadway, 31, cut the lock on a storage unit at the Store House Self Storage in May. Among the items stolen, most of which has been recovered during the investigation, was a Maytag washer and dryer.

Police hope to identify the owners of the stolen property soon.

Source:,  Storage Unit Theft Suspect Under Arrest

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