In the United States alone, there are close on 50,000 self-storage facilities, providing roughly 185 million square feet of self-storage space. Averaged out, that’s more than half a square metre of space for every single person in the country…
The self-storage industry began in the United States in the 1960s. The first documented self-storage facility was started by a retired oil industry worker in Texas. Russ Williams needed extra space to store his fishing equipment and boats, and decided that others might need space for the same kinds of reasons. So he converted a set of apartments and garages, naming the facility “A1 U-Store-It, U-Lock-It, U-Carry the Key”.
Growth in the self-storage industry remained fairly slow right up to the 1980s – when it started to take off. Today self-storage is hugely popular and the industry is continuing to grow at a rapid rate, here in South Africa and elsewhere around the world.
The massive impact of self-storage
In the United States alone, there are close on 50,000 self-storage facilities, providing roughly 185 million square feet of self-storage space. Averaged out, that’s more than half a square metre of space for every single person in the country. In fact, one in every ten American households currently rents a storage unit.
The huge impact of self-storage in the United States became especially clear in 2010, when the reality TV show Storage Wars became the most-watched program in the history of the A&E television network. The show’s sole focus is on treasure hunters who buy the contents of self-storage units after only a five-minute inspection from the door, in the hopes of stumbling upon valuable finds.
Countries like Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand aren’t far behind the United States when it comes to self-storage space, and South Africa is catching up too.
What’s driving the self-storage phenomenon?
It’s true that people buy more than they did in the past. Also, one of the main markers of modern times is rapid change. We move jobs, houses and even cities and countries more than ever before, and our material needs change accordingly. This contributes to a need to store items, sometimes just for short intervals while we find our feet in a new location or home, and sometimes for longer.
South Africans are increasingly realising the unique advantages of self-storage. For example, a self-storage facility provides a highly secure way to store personal belongings and even vehicles. Given our country’s soaring crime rates, this is an important consideration.
Self-storage units provide affordable, temperature-controlled space that people can access whenever they need to, making them attractive for storing everything from bulky business files to personal items like clothing, books, wine collections and antiques.
Self-storage units are also hugely convenient for businesses that need to keep stock close to their potential customers to ensure rapid order processing and delivery times. With more and more online businesses and customers’ increasingly expecting to get what they want whenever they want it, storage units have become the ideal solution for keeping stock close to all major centres around the country.