December 6, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
At first blush, it looks like we're becoming a society of pack rats.
There's been an explosion in the number of storage operations in Winnipeg over the last few decades. That includes mini-storage facilities, self-storage complexes and mobile or portable storage operators.
Although the City of Winnipeg doesn't keep track of how many storage operations there are here, the general manager of one of city's oldest and largest mini-storage facilities -- Mini Storage on Higgins Avenue -- estimates the number has ballooned from a mere handful in the early 1980s to more than 70 today.
Even a local moving company -- Rolly's Transfer -- is getting in on the action after opening a new 440-unit, self-storage facility last year in southwest Winnipeg to complement its traditional moving business.
"To us, it was a natural fit," Ren© Bazinet, director of sales and marketing for Rolly's, said in an interview.
The explosive growth here mirrors what's been happening in cities throughout North America, especially in the United States, where the self-storage industry got its start in the late 1950s and really took off in the last 10 to 15 years.
Chad Woloskoski, general manager of Mini Storage on Higgins Avenue, said much of the industry growth here in recent years has been due to an influx of U.S. chains into the Canadian market.
"The Americans realized we didn't have very many storage facilities up here," he said, so they expanded north in a big way.
"I'd say in the last three years alone, there have been 25 facilities open within a five-minute radius of us," he added.
-- Corey Mackenzie, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Manitoba
The increased competition hasn't prevented some existing operators from continuing to expand their operations here. Storageville KP Ltd., which has two storage complexes in the city, is building a new 33,000-square-foot, two-storey, self-storage facility on its Waverley Street compound to complement the existing 40,000-square-foot building.
Company president Fraser Kulba said with all of the new homes being built in southwest Winnipeg, StorageVille is likely going to need the extra space within the next few years.
"And I think if the economy stays strong and interest rates are still manageable, demand (for storage space) will remain strong," he added.
Local operators said demand is coming from both residential and business customers.
"The best way to describe the people who store things is anybody who has had a change in his or her life," Kulba said.
But two local university professors think there's more to it than that.
"I think a big part of this is just consumerism and people wanting to have more things," said Corey Mackenzie, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Manitoba.
"Marketers are also just getting really good at telling us what we should have and what we need to buy in order to be happy. And the implicit message in that is, 'Don't get rid of it because if you do, you will no longer be happy.' "
At the same time, consumers are being told they need to accumulate more things. They're also being told they need to simplify their lives and de-clutter, he said. And renting outside storage space is one way to do that and not give up any of your possessions.
Kelly Main, an associate professor of marketing at the U of M, thinks for some people, accumulating more possessions also partly fulfils a different type of need -- " the need to feel like we belong."
Main explained with people relying more heavily on emails, text messages and social media sites to connect with other people, they can have less personal contact in their lives. And over time, that can lead to a feeling of isolation or of not belonging.
By acquiring more possessions, "we can be part of the consumer culture," she said. "We become part of that larger group."
Main said interest rates have also enabled consumers to buy more things on credit. And some don't seem overly worried about the potential pitfalls of taking on too much debt.
"They think, 'If I want it and it makes me feel good, that's more important than what might happen to me in the future."
For Winnipegger Lee-Ann Bowe and her husband, their recent decision to rent two StorageVille units had nothing to do with wanting to feel good. They're selling their condominium and wanted to stage it properly. That meant de-cluttering and finding somewhere else to store some of their belongings until it's sold.
But Bowe said de-cluttering made them realize they had a lot of things they no longer needed, so now they're in the process of deciding who gets the surplus things they have in storage.
"Sometimes that takes some time and some thought," she added, "and this gives us time to think about what we want to do."
Bill Bilton, a local sales representative for a national pharmaceutical company, is another StorageVille customer who has been has been renting a unit in the Waverley Street compound for the last three years.
Bilton said he needs a secure, climate-controlled place to store his product samples. And if he has a shipment of products coming in, StorageVille staff are there to receive it, rather than him having to wait at home for it to arrive.
"So for people in my situation, it's great."
With more people putting their belongings in storage, you might think non-profit organizations such as Goodwill Industries would be seeing a drop-off in donations of clothing and household goods. Not so, according to Goodwill president and CEO Doug McKechnie.
"We get more stuff now than we've ever got," McKechnie said. "In fact, I've had to rent storage trailers just to keep up with it all..."
He thinks donations are up because people like the fact Goodwill uses the money it makes from the sale of donated goods to create jobs for handicapped workers.
"A year ago, we had 77 employees and now we've got 88," he proudly stated.
While industry officials don't foresee a decline in demand any time soon, some say they wouldn't be surprised to see a reduction in the number of operators.
"There was a time five years ago when the demand outstripped the supply," said Curtis Schroh, general manager of the PODS Moving & Storage franchise in Winnipeg. "Now it's the other way around, and I'm willing to bet there will be some storage companies that close."
Schroh said PODS saw its revenues level off in 2011 and 2012 as more new competitors entered the local market and a price war drove down prices by as much as 25 per cent.
"But this year we took right off again... and we've been able to raise our prices back up to where they were," he added.
Who are the players?
There are three main types of storage operations in the city:
Mini-storage facilities -- These are the more traditional storage facilities, many of them located in the downtown. They're often multi-storey buildings filled with storage lockers of various sizes. Local examples include Mini Storage on Higgins Avenue and Adelaide Mini Storage on Adelaide Street.
Self-storage compounds -- These tend to be the sprawling, single-storey complexes usually found in the suburbs and depicted on the popular Storage Wars television series. They also can include both an indoor facility and an outdoor compound. Local examples include StorageVille KP Ltd., Sentinel Self-Storage and Rolly's Transfer and Self Storage.
Mobile or portable storage operators -- They will deliver one of those big metal containers to your home or business to use as temporary storage space. And when you're done with it, they come and retrieve it. If you're using it to move your belongings to another location, they'll haul it there and pick it up after you've emptied it. Some operators also have a warehouse or storage compound where the metal container you're renting can be stored for longer periods of time. Local examples include PODS Moving & Storage, BigSteelBox and Canadian Pups Storage.
Who uses storage units and what do they store there?
In most cases, its a combination of residential and commercial customers. Residential customers include:
-- Young people who had to give up their apartment and temporarily move back home with their parents and needed someplace to store their furniture and belongings.
-- Empty-nesters and retirees who have downsized and no longer have room for all of their belongings, but can't bring themselves to get rid of the surplus stuff. Especially if it's considered a family heirloom.
-- People who have lost their parents and need somewhere to store their things while their home is being sold and the estate is being settled.
-- Homeowners who have no more room in their garage or basement and need somewhere else to store seasonal items. Or in some cases, they just want to de-clutter their homes.
-- People who are selling their home and want to declutter and stage it to make it more attractive to prospective buyers.
-- Recreational-vehicle (RV) and mobile-home owners who need somewhere to store their big toys when they're not in use.
Business customers include:
-- Sales representatives who need a secure, climate-controlled place to store their product samples.
-- Contractors and builders who need somewhere to store building materials, supplies, and equipment.
-- Homebuilders and home-staging specialists who need somewhere secure to store their display furniture and accessories when they're not in use.
-- Businesses who are renovating and need somewhere to store their belongings until the work is completed.
-- Retailers who need somewhere to store seasonal products -- things like Christmas or Halloween items.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2013 B6
Updated on Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 7:50 AM CDT:
Replaces photo, changes headline
Updated on Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 8:23 AM CDT:
Corrects spelling of complement