As a nation of consumers it is surprising how much stuff Americans hold on to. Rather than disposing of things, we shove them in boxes, hide them in closets, basements, and attics, or, if all else fails, rent an offsite storage unit. While most people use a storage unit in the case of a major change such as marriage, death, divorce, or crisis, some people just need a place to stash extra stuff. As the nation has prospered and refused to dispose of things we hold valuable, an entire industry has grown to support it. In fact, the storage industry in the US is one of the fastest growing facets of the economy.
If you measure growth as the number of self-storage units in existence, then take note of the fact that that number increased more than 200% between 1998 and 2012. There are currently over 52,000 facilities that offer self-storage as either a primary or secondary service.
If you measure growth by the number of square feet of storage available in the US, that number is incredible as well. The number at the end of 2014 was over 2.3 billion square feet. That’s BILLION, not million, and doesn’t include new facilities being built or expansion projects completed in 2015. What’s even more telling is that it took over 25 years for self-storage square footage to reach a billion. The second billion only took eight years. That’s a level of accelerated growth most industries would kill for.
If you measure growth with how many people utilize storage, then compare these figures. In 1995 only 6% of US households rented a storage unit. By 2013 that number had increased to 8.96%.
The Size of It
Think about that 2.3 billion figure. That works out to over 7 square feet of storage space for every American. You can fit the entire population of this country in the storage units that existed in December 2015, with more than a little space left over. Put another way, the self-storage space available is the size of three Manhattans, 78 square miles. It also means that there is 21 square feet of storage just waiting for your household (assuming you don’t already have a unit somewhere) — and every other household in the country could theoretically have the same amount.
The occupancy rate of self-storage units was just over 88% at the end of 2014, which explains there are more facilities being planned and existing facilities are looking for ways to expand. The reality is that many families need more than the 21 square feet and that many storage units are being used by businesses and organizations, not just for personal use. When it comes to family use, the military accounts for 6% of rentals. Over 1.5 million US military personnel utilize self-storage, with rates even higher near active bases.
As self-storage companies like StorageWest.com expand, they adapt to the needs of their clients. This is why 20% of storage facilities offer RV and/or boat storage and why more and more companies are hiring staff who speak multiple languages and targeting their media in languages other than English, like the video below.