In a similar split experienced by management's existing storage facilities, Westbury Storage is expecting to rent 70% of its available units to non-commercial renters and the remaining 30% to the commercial sector of the market. A total of 300 self-storage units of various sizes will be created and offered for rent by Westbury Storage in a central location in downtown Westbury. The present supply of these units is insufficient to meet the demand as evidenced by a survey of all self-storage facilities within easy reach of Westbury residents. The price realized by these existing units is more than double the national average.
Self-storage units are needed by residential customers for storage of personal items as well as by commercial customers for storage of stock. It is envisaged that 70% of the planned self-storage units will be taken up by the residential segment of the market and the remaining 30% will be directed toward the commercial segment. This split is expected based on the existing customers of management's present self-storage facilities in Plainview. The commercial segment are small businesses, many of which are run out of people's homes such as an interior designer who needs space to store hundreds of expensive sample fabric books, or a retail shop with inadequate on premises storage.
The market research shows that the annual market potential for the commercial self-storage service in the Westbury area is about 10,000 customers. As stated above, these are mostly small businesses. The residential segment potential is substantially higher at 150,000 customers per year and is based on the Self Storage Association's assumption that 40% to 55% of population has used self-storage facilities. This estimate includes individuals who need storage facilities due to moving arrangements or to store excess household property. Both of the market segments are expected to grow at a 5% annual rate. The table and chart below outline the market potential for the both customer segments.
Since the demand for local self-storage services substantially exceeds the local supply, Westbury Storage will simultaneously market its services to the two major customer segments--residential customers and small business customers. The company will not pursue large business segment due to the limited service scope it can provide to such customers at the existing facilities.
The market analysis shows that local self-storage rates are substantially higher than the national averages. Westbury Storage will position itself to the both customer segments as a conveniently located and affordable quality self-storage facility. Both customer segments will be effectively reached via the local Yellow Pages ads and through the referrals of Stote Movers owned by one of the Westbury Storage's co-owners.
Customer needs in the self-storage industry have certain similarity across different market segments. The underlying need is for a reliable, safe, dry and accessible self-storage facility. Due to the overwhelming demand, customers are less price sensitive and consider convenient location as the major buying decision criterion.
Residential customers use self-storage facilities to temporarily store their property while moving to a new location. This need originates in the mobility of the American population and the affordability of rental accommodations. Such customers usually rent 25 to 100 square feet depending on the size of their household and they rent on a weekly or monthly basis. The other cluster of residential customers rents self-storage facilities for longer periods to keep their oversize property like boats or other equipment that either does not fit in their garages or is not used on a constant basis.
Small business customer segment requires self-storage facilities to temporarily store their stock or merchandise. These customers may use the storage facilities more often than residential customers and they benefit from convenient loading areas, extended operating hours and better equiped storage units of bigger size.
According to an article in the November 15th issue of Inside Self-storage the national industry average rental income generated by self-storage units is $6.00 per square foot per year, or $.50/sq. ft. per month. In the market to be served by Westbury Storage the average storage rate (see section on Competitive Comparison) is more than double this amount. Washington Storage in Westbury is a typical example. They charge $50/month for an 8X6 ft unit which works out to $12.50 per sq. ft. per year. A 9X9 unit on the second floor also rents for this same amount only because there is no elevator. All of their units are fully rented! All units within the area were surveyed. The average rate is $1.20/sq. ft. per month ($14.40 per year) and the mean was closer to $1.40/sq. ft. per month ($16.80 per year). The story concerning availability was uniform. Either the facility was full or only had one or two available units to chose from. E-Z Mini Storage in S. Centreport said, "There's some turn-over at the end of every month. Leave your name and we will call you when one becomes vacant." Extra Space Storage in Springfield said, "We need one week advanced notice." North Shore Self-Storage said, "We have nothing available on the ground floor." U-Haul reported, "We have one small unit available, otherwise we are all full."
The self-storage industry really only started in the late 1960's when a few far-sighted people recognized the growing need for residential and commercial storage. The industry has doubled in size each decade. Returns on investment have been very impressive--often twice that of other forms of real estate investment. The reasons for this have been the mobile society, the tendency to live in rental apartments, and the general increase in the accumulation of property, especially leisure articles such as skis, wind-surfers, exercise equipment, etc.
The industry lends itself relatively easily to financial modelling. The magazine article mentioned earlier explains the economics of an average self-storage project which is of similar size to the proposed Westbury Storage project. The total building square footage in the model is 41,000 (Westbury Storage is approximately 45,000 after deducting the office space portion of 9,600 sq. ft.). The model shows total gross income based on $6.00/sq. ft. or $240,000 annually. (Westbury Storage's gross revenues will be more than double that.) Total project costs for the model come to over $1,150,000 versus $1,054,500 for Westbury Storage. The loan amounts are virtually the same as well as the interest rates used (8.5%). Normal operating costs generally come to about $2.00 per sq. ft. Westbury Storage's operating costs are projected at nearly twice this amount due to generous provisions for maintenance and payroll. However, the model's net operating income is slightly less than $4/sq. ft. versus Westbury Storage's $11.40/sq. ft.
It could be argued that the higher than national average rates enjoyed by local self-storage facilities may not continue indefinitely, but there is no indication of any downward pressure at this time. It should also be pointed out that during an economic down-turn the self-storage industry does not suffer to the extent that other industries suffer.
Should the supply of self-storage units begin to outstrip demand, Westbury Storage should be well positioned to deal with the competition due to its ability to offer heated units (nearly all competing units are unheated) and its ability to supply electric outlets to individual units (for hobby/workshop purposes).
Although there are a few nation-wide players in the self-storage market, the industry is still fairly dispersed in which many small companies take part. (See the section on Competitive Analysis for a complete listing.)
Convenience is probably the single most import factor in the decision of where to rent a self-storage unit. For example, Hicksville and Huntington have no self-storage facilities. Residents choose to rent one in a nearby town probably based on proximity to the route taken by the renter to and from work. If no units are available nearby, then renters will travel further afield. Units on the ground floor are favored, especially if no elevator is available.
See the section on Competitive Comparison for names of competitors. In the present market situation, competition plays a very weak role.