Small Business Brief


How Self-Storage Turned into a $38 Billion Dollar Industry

Why the Self-Storage Industry Is Worth $38 Billion

Have you always been curious about the storage business? With the self-storage industry booming, now’s the best time to cash in. But what explains this surge?

One in 11 Americans pays an average monthly fee of $91.14 for a storage unit.

The self-storage industry has grown from a simple idea to an incredible $38 billion dollar industry. To put that figure in perspective the Hollywood box office gross in 2017 was just over $11 billion dollars.

Why the sudden surge in popularity, though?

In this article, we will explore the humble beginning of the self-storage industry, explore reasons for its popularity, and consider the future of this booming industry.

From Humble Beginnings to Surging Figures

While self-storage is commonly associated with America, the Self Storage Association credits 19th century England with the inception of self-storage units.

Believe it or not, it began with banks. Clients on extended leave began leaving their most treasured valuables with British banks. As more and more clients left goods with the banks, vaults quickly began stuffed to the brim.

In the 1850s, the first warehouse solely for personal possessions was built by the banks to empty their vaults.

While that may have been the first initial step towards self-storage, it wasn’t until the 1960s where self-storage as we know it today truly began. In Corpus Christi, Texas, the first self-storage facility was built and quickly took the area by storm.

It wasn’t long until self-storage facilities were being built in every corner of the country and crossed borders into Canada, Europe, and even Australia.

The opportunity to stow personal and household items at a moment’s notice was too good to pass up. Self-storage was a lifesaver, particularly for life’s big moments such as moving to a new city or state, in the event of death or illness, or to downsize as you grow older.

Today, there are more than 50,000 self-storage facilities in the United States, with more popping up every year and, as we mentioned above, it has become a profitable and successful industry.

Downsizing Without Dumping

What draws so many of us to these self-storage facilities? What is the allure of these modestly sized and priced little rooms that have us shelling out thousands of dollars every year?

There are a number of reasons why self-storage is the go-to place for personal possessions. Perhaps you’re moving house and need to downsize, or you’ve come across unexpected personal items.

Regardless of the reason, self-storage is a booming industry because it gives customers the option to downsize their home without completely dumping their treasured items.

Downsizing, ironically, is the heart of this enormous industry.

In recent year, society has seen a resurgence idea of minimizing and moving to smaller, modest homes and apartments. Baby boomers, in particular, are moving from their grandiose homes, downsizing and placing more items in storage in order to move into smaller, more functional homes.

The Rise of the Self-Storage Industry

Self-storage facilities have popped up all over the country and the industry will continue to thrive. As generations accumulated personal possessions, our homes became overcrowded.

As we downsize there are often no options left but self-storage. It’s convenient, accessible, and affordable.

Self-storage facilities are everywhere but you are probably most familiar with the industry giants. The leaders in the United States self-storage industry are:

  • Public Storage: $2.51 billion
  • Extra Space Storage: $1.1 billion
  • CubeSmart: $558.94 million
  • Life Storage: $529.75 million
  • U-Haul: $286.89 million
  • National Storage Affiliates Trust: $268.13 million

With so many options, how are self-storage facilities standing out and how will the industry continue to grow? There are quite a few reasons and factors that attribute to the industry’s current and future success.


No one can deny that self-storage facilities are highly convenient. Many can be booked quickly online or by phone within moments.

This convenience allows customers the gift of choice, helping hands, and an ease to their worries. Having a sudden influx of stuff is stressful. Finding a place to store it, at least, doesn’t have to be.

Tantalizing Discounts

You only need to take a trip into a city or along a stretch of highway to see that self-storage facilities are not only popular, they’re literally everywhere, especially large cities like New York and Philadelphia.

To stay relevant, self-storage facilities must differentiate themselves in some way. Most self-storage facilities do this through tantalizing discounts.

Self-storage facilities like Hollywood Self Storage offer multiple discounts for new customers, military discounts, or online specials. When you click most self-storage websites, you’ll be greeted with an image slider accompanied with the latest deal.

Self-storage is a year-round industry but they also have busy seasons around the holidays and in summer when students are returning to school or moving.

Is the Self-Storage Industry Sustainable?

In short, yes! Despite the minimalist trend that many Americans are adopting, instead of completely parting with their belongings, more and more people are turning to self-storage.

There will always be a time where you have too much stuff. Whether you’re moving to a smaller home or apartment, or need to help your parents downsize, odds are that you will need to use a self-storage unit one day.

Thankfully, you’ll be able to find one quite easily. If you haven’t noticed, they’re everywhere.

In such a competitive industry, self-storage facilities have to make their mark with good branding, great customer service, and of course, a clean and secure facility.

The rise of the self-storage industry also equates to a renewed push in creative branding. Many facilities are turning towards humor to draw clientele while others are looking into franchises.

Regardless of how self-storage facilities make their millions, one thing is for certain: they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. As long as Americans have too much stuff, we can count on the self-storage industry to thrive.

After all, in the words of the late and great George Carlin, “That’s the whole meaning of lift, isn’t it? Trying to find a place for your stuff.”

What’s Next?

Inspired and looking for the next big industry?

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