An Add On Business That Makes Dollars and Sense
Portable Storage Franchising in Canada
By John Smith
My dad had the same pair of shoes for years. “Why would I throw out a good pair of shoes and buy a new pair when I can get these resoled for ten bucks?” I think he resoled those shoes 20 times. Today, we are encouraged to buy, to accumulate; things are built in such a way that we need to buy again. We have lots of stuff. Most of the time, it isn’t a big issue. But it becomes a big problem really fast when there’s a fire or flood, when we are moving, when we are faced with settling an estate, when we need to renovate. Those few cardboard boxes just don’t cut it any more.
As everyone in the business knows, the storage industry grew from the casual notion of storing a few items for a friend in your barn, to the concept of fixed bricks and mortar storage facilities. Let’s just say the concept took off in the New Millennium and according to the Self Storage Association’s industry fact sheet, there are approximately 59,500 self storage facilities worldwide as of the fourth quarter 2012; there are more than 3,000 in Canada.
The Portable Evolution
Back in 1998, a man named Peter Warhurst in the U.S. wondered about expanding his storage business. He tilted his head and looked at fixed storage in a different way. What about renting portable units of varying sizes that could be delivered to the customer and either left there or brought back to the company facility. He started Portable On Demand Storage (PODS) and became the first mobile storage billionaire. Everyone has used acronyms since then, maybe hoping for that same phenomenal success.
Offering customers—whether commercial, industrial or residential–another option has all the ingredients of a successful franchise venture.
All In The Family
Two of the biggest benefits of a franchise are brand recognition and being part of a family. The risk and guesswork is wiped away; you’re not reinventing the wheel, and a franchisor can get you going right away. They’ve built a successful model that can be duplicated anywhere. In Canada, businesses like PODS, CDN PUPS, Mobile Minis, GoMinis, S.A.F.E. Co., to name a few, have all figured out an arrangement that is attractive to anyone who wants to get into this rapidly expanding industry. As with any relationship, you need to do your homework to determine which family is best suited to you.
It’s All Laid Out
Franchisees pay a fee, enter into a long-term contract, pay a royalty, and follow a set of guidelines and rules of operation, which includes running under the franchisor name and in a defined territory. Most companies offer benefits like training and supports like marketing, call centres and websites.
At The S.A.F.E. Co. (Store-Anything-Fast-Easy), interest in our concept is rapidly increasing, some of our queries are from tire kickers, some are just deciding if the business is right for them. The Canadian market is relatively small and newer than it is in the U.S.—self-storage per capita in Canada is less than half that of the United States—but that provides a great opportunity for rapid growth. A portable storage franchise is attractive for people in the storage industry—and those in just about any other business—who want to hustle, take advantage of a proven model and the extra support the arrangement offers.
A New Marketability
Storage Wars and similar reality shows have increased public awareness about the industry. People have caught on to the idea that this can be a profitable business. People outside the industry are becoming interested in the storage sector; some are connected to mining, disaster restoration, the oil field industry, real estate, recreation and leisure, just to name a few. There are a lot of people who like the idea of the storage industry, but don’t want the expense and upkeep, not to mention the taxes, of a bricks and mortar self-storage building. Even if they did, the cost of land has skyrocketed and availability is always an issue. The Canadian Self Storage Association says that property taxes in Canada comprise a much higher portion of operating expenses than they do in the States. So people are finding stepping into a ready-made portable storage franchise can be a wise business decision.
The mobile storage industry is an exciting growing frontier. It can be very profitable and with a franchise, you can soon recoup your investment without having to start from scratch. As more people catch on and want to ride the franchise wave, the people getting on board will enjoy more brand recognition. Becoming part of a franchise can offer ‘family’ benefits like national advertising and exposure. And with the kind of income a franchise can potentially bring in, you might even want to resole your favorite pair of shoes.
John Smith is the founder of S.A.F.E. Co. (Store-Anything-Fast-Easy) based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He is the exclusive distributor of The S.A.F.E. Co. German-made quick build, flat pack, portable storage container product line in Canada and the U.S.