Erica Shatzer, editor of Mini-Storage Messenger, Self-Storage Now!, and Self-Storage Canada

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Ten years ago, knowing next to nothing about the self-storage industry, I joined MiniCo Publishing as a circulation coordinator. With a bachelor’s degree in journalism, I was hopeful of the chance to one day move up the ranks and become an editor—an aspiration that became a reality only four short months after being hired. Even now, I can recall the overwhelming excitement I had that day when MiniCo Publisher Poppy Behrens told me that she was promoting me to junior editor. Needless to say, I was thrilled at the opportunity. Over time I was promoted to associate editor and then to editor. And it’s been a wonderful journey!

As I reflect upon the past 10 years, I’m dumbfounded—but not quite speechless—by how much the self-storage industry has changed and grown. From the appearances of facilities to the countless advancements in management software and security systems, the storage sector has undoubtedly matured and become more sophisticated to say the least.

Moreover, each year, especially when writing “Facility of the Year” articles, I am amazed at how those within the industry manage to repeatedly raise the bar. With all the high-tech security features and increasingly stunning design elements, I’m eager to write about one of this year’s surely spectacular facility winners.

Similar to the industry itself, MiniCo Publishing’s offerings have expanded exponentially over the course of the decade, and I feel beyond blessed to have been a part of that growth. When I started in 2007 there were less than a dozen publications, including the monthly Mini-Storage Messenger magazine, our flagship publication; the annual Self-Storage Almanac; the quarterly Self-Storage Now! magazine; the annual Development Handbook; the annual Expense Guidebook; The Buyer’s Guide, which is referred to as the Yellow Pages for the self-storage industry; and the quarterly RV & Boat Storage Today!—none of which were available in a digital format.

Since then we have published several books written by industry experts, added Self-Storage Canada to our list of regular publications, assembled various specialty publications such as Technology Tools and the RV & Boat Development Handbook, hosted numerous webinars, started a blog, created apps, and began offering digital versions of most of our offerings. Although I didn’t have a part in every single item, I couldn’t be prouder of the company’s continuous efforts to stay at the forefront of technology in order to offer our readers the best experiences possible.

A Group Effort

Nevertheless, MiniCo Insurance and MiniCo Publishing wouldn’t be able to provide top-notch products and services without your input. We, as an industry, cannot continue to grow without sharing our knowledge, experience, and suggestions. For instance, MiniCo Publishing and the writers who contribute to our publications depend on the expertise and wisdom of the industry’s professionals to provide our readers with up-to-date and useful content.

Therefore, on behalf of our writing staff, I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to all of the self-storage professionals—from brokers and vendors to executives and attorneys—who selflessly give of their time and talents to help us produce quality articles, especially those who participate on a regular basis and write articles for our publications. Not only do these folks have a wealth of knowledge to share, but they have an eagerness to inform as well. They are flexible, reliable, and courteous. Regardless of whether they can assist us, they promptly reply to our inquiries and even suggest additional resources. And, personally, I’d like to express my gratitude to everyone who has helped teach me the ins and outs of the storage business. I truly appreciate your guidance!  

Be Diligent!

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some of the most outstanding self-storage managers in the U.S. and Canada as well as many of the industry’s most prominent professionals—all of whom have openly shared their storage insights. Although there have been shifts in inclinations and ideas, the resounding consensus from the storage experts I’ve interviewed is that the industry needs to share knowledge, perhaps more so now than ever. In particular, they’ve been urging developers to report planned projects to keep the sector abreast of new supply in an effort to avoid flooding markets with too many self-storage facilities.

Likewise, those within the industry should continue to educate themselves by utilizing as many resources as possible. Information is imperative for growth. It also enables owners, operators, and developers to make better informed decisions about all aspects of their storage endeavors—from conception to completion and beyond.

This due diligence is especially important toward the end of a build cycle when there is a susceptibility for saturation. While the overall growth of the self-storage industry is certainly a blessing, there are many novice storage developers who could tip the supply scales that are experiencing a shaky balance within some market areas.

Unfortunately, self-storage is no longer an “if you build it they will come” business. Without thorough research, or “homework” as it’s often called, the field of dreams could quickly become a barren wasteland.

Therefore, before you build, be sure to complete exhaustive research of the market area. Pay particularly close attention to its supply and demand ratio as well as its demographics. In addition to obtaining a market analysis and feasibility study, take the time to shop all the competitors within a three- to five-mile radius, talk to local storage professionals, and evaluate the scene. It’s also beneficial to attend local chamber of commerce meetings and state association events to get a good read on the health of the market. Remember: The goal is to gather as much data about the area as you can to determine the best course of action. While paying for research before you even purchase the land may seem uneconomical, it’s money well spent to prevent a futile facility.

Knowing—and understanding—the market is critical. The research you conduct and the materials you read can provide an in-depth look at the area’s potential for growth as well as your likely tenant base. This knowledge will enable you to choose the right unit mix, building materials, security features, amenities, marketing tools, and more.  

Two trusted resources utilized by self-storage developers are MiniCo’s Development Handbook and the annual Self-Storage Almanac,  which provide the most up-to-date and reliable information available. And, because we are always seeking to improve the quality of our products, this year’s Almanac will offer more in-depth market-specific data thanks to our partnership with Union Realtime.

Although the 2017 Self-Storage Almanac isn’t available until the end of December, those hungry for detailed data about the top MSAs can check out the Mini-Storage Messenger’s new monthly column “Data Intelligence.” Reporting on the high-level metrics and overall health of specific markets, “Data Intelligence” includes facts about demographics and street rates as well as top operators within the market, occupancy levels, and various statistics.

Meeting Needs

When it comes to making decisions for your self-storage project, don’t forget to do your homework! Whatever information you are seeking or questions you need answered, it’s likely that you can find publications with solutions on our website, www.ministoragemessenger.com, the Education Destination for Self-Storage.

Erica Shatzer is the editor of Mini-Storage Messenger, Self-Storage Now!, and Self-Storage Canada.

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