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Self-Storage Industry Keeps On Keeping


For an industry that emerged from nowhere with no inherent allure, no collective marketing savvy, and no tangible product to take home, the rental self-storage industry has piled up impressive numbers.

Fifty-thousand storage facilities now dot the American landscape, most of them austere, nearly windowless buildings wedged into commercial strips and industrial zones. That means the industry boasts more domestic locations than McDonald’s, Subway and Jack In The Box combined.

With each storage yard containing, on average, perhaps 500 individual rental compartments, there are literally millions of garage-like vaults in which to store golf clubs, skis and old clothing, says R. Christian Sonne, a self-storage specialist at Cushman & Wakefield Western, Inc., an Irvine financial services firm. The combined square footage of those units is three times the size of Manhattan, by one calculation. Every man, woman and child in the United States could stand inside those spaces all at once, industry officials like to say. And still do jumping jacks.

Storage has always battled a perception problem: that it is illogical to pay to keep something you already own, and perhaps even pay more in rent than the merchandise is worth. But, what no one fully appreciated was how useful temporary storage would become in a highly transient society.

“This is an event-driven business,” says Lance Watkins, founder and CEO of Storage Outlet, a chain with 15 locations, including sites in Fullerton, Huntington Beach and Westminster. Those important events often involve what he calls the “three Ds”: divorce, debt problems and death.”

Read more about the state of storage and see what Lance Watkins, consulting partner at Progressive Realty Partners, has to say,

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