Death, Disaster, or Black Friday: What’s Behind the Increase in Self-Storage Facilities in the U.S.?

Drive down any highway or boulevard in the United States, and you’re bound to see at least one of them sprawled across a large lot of land. No, not billboards or used car dealerships: they’re self-storage facilities, and more Americans are using them than ever before.

Current estimates state that at least one in 10 U.S. households has at least one self-storage facility — up from one in 17 back in 1995. Now experts say that this trend is likely to continue, as Americans buy more but have fewer places to store what they aren’t ready to part with.

The Self-Storage Association reports that, as of last year, the U.S. had around 48,500 such storage facilities with a combined 2.3 billion square feet of space available to lease.

By their estimates, the Self-Storage Association says that that’s enough room to warehouse the entire U.S. population.

Not only are these storage facilities becoming more prevalent, but they’re also growing more sophisticated as the demand for them increases.

Metro Storage LLC, which has over 90 locations in 11 states, is currently working to convert an old electronics store in Springfield, NJ, into 85,000 square feet of rentable space with 900 climate-controlled storage units.

The company will also raise the roof of one section of the building, to add a second story and a “two-floor mezzanine,” according to a Dec. 16 press release. The facility will also include security, two sets of elevators, four drive-in loading bays and a large business office.

Yet maybe the current sprawl of these mini-warehouses is understandable at a time when Black Friday has taken over Thanksgiving and retail analysts fret over Cyber Monday sales figures. The more consumers purchase (whether or not those items can fit into their ever-growing McMansions), the more they have a need to store the old to make room for the new.

But Ronald Havner, chief executive of self-storage company Public Storage (PSA), says that the “Four D’s” of death, divorce, disaster and dislocation — not excessive consumerism — are larger contributors to the need for self-storage.

“People moving, people changing their lives in terms of death or divorce. Hurricanes, tornadoes upset people’s lives and require storage facilities,” Havner said when speaking at a conference over the summer.

And his assessment could be right: storage sales dip at the end of the year, even after the holidays, and pick up in the summer during the busy season for U.S. moving companies.


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