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A self-storage business provides storage rooms, lockers and space for rent to individuals and small businesses. The United States alone has more than 50,000 storage facilities and about 2.311 billion square feet of rentable space, according to SpareFoot, a company that tracks the self-storage industry. Canada, Australia, UK, China and Southeast Asia also constitute a massive growth market for the self-storage business.

Personal storage originated in England in the 19th century. People embarking on voyages commonly left their valuables in the care of banking institutions. As these vaults became overcrowded, the first warehouse for storing household and personal items was constructed in the 1850s. The modern self-storage facilities, in which tenants have an exclusive access to the storage space, appeared in Texas, United States in the late 1960s.

The tenants secure their self-storage spaces with a lock and key, and the employees of the storage business do not have any access to the space. The storage facility is equipped with security cameras, alarms and access control to safeguard clients’ possessions and provide 24-hour access. The considerations for choosing a storage unit are price, security, location and access hours.

Making Waves

The self-storage business has experienced an exponential growth in the last half century as it is immune to recessions and demographic shifts, unlike the more-fancied malls and luxury commercial spaces. As cities started booming in the 90s and beyond, self-storage has found a new generation of space-starved consumers. The self-storage industry has also thrived on the back of consumerism and laziness. There is an all-pervasive addiction towards hoarding stuff in today’s times. And much like gyms that profit off people who sign up and never actually work out, self-storage facilities capitalize on people’s propensity to enjoy the local self-storage facilities at nominal prices rather than actually sorting through their personal stuff. Furthermore, the renters are captive audiences willing to swallow marginal increases in costs, rather than the hassle of transferring their possessions to a competitor’s warehouse.

Future

What does the future hold in store for the storage facility business? It is feared that demographics will dampen the enthusiasm for storage sector as the baby boomers downsize their housing footprint and younger adults delay marriage, parenthood and homeownership. The modern-day people have become less mobile compared to their fore-fathers, which translates into a reduced need for temporary storage during resettlement and relocation periods. There is also a technological threat on the horizon in the form of autonomous cars. The mobility-on-demand services would lead to a decline in car ownership, and less vehicles would mean more garage space for storage.

The fears may be over-blown, after all. Space constraints, ownership issues and life-style matters are a part of contemporary society, and these are fuelling the need for adequate storage facilities. The self-storage businesses are creating more room space to revolutionize the way people manage their belongings and Venture capital firms are betting on high-tech storage startups that offer on-demand services such as packing, storing, moving, retrieving and delivering things to the doorstep.