Despite the fact that it generates an estimated $39 billion, the self-storage industry is rarely discussed. That's likely because it's not terribly glamorous and it rarely carries with it the humanistic intrigue of the hospitality and restaurant industries that affect so many people during this global pandemic. But there are an estimated 60,000 storage facilities in the United States. Collectively, they take up 1.7 billion square feet at an average cost of $87.88 per square foot.

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The largest of the self-storage companies is Public Storage ($PSA), which in 2019 generated $2.68 billion in revenue. New data shows that the company — and industry — could be headed for trouble: unused storage space is growing and prices are declining. This is an early sign that the self-storage industry will have a tough time weathering an economic downturn if it continues through the summer when people do a lot of moving and, as a result, storing. In areas like Houston, Texas, where self storage is a historically thriving business, prices are down an average of 45%. In Minnesota, prices have dropped by more than 50% for some storage spaces.

Inventory up, price down across the United States

At the beginning of March 2020, the average unit at Public Storage went for $114.80 per month. As of this week, that average is down to $96.31.

The price drop appears to be a reflection of swelling inventory. At this time last year, Public Storage listed 20,600 available units. As of this week, that number has more than doubled to 47,100. During the same time period, the average price dropped from $126.80 to the aforementioned $96.31.

Prices down across all states

The price drop is evident in all US states, some more than others. But even in New York, a typically healthy moving — and storage — market,  From 2019 Apr 20 - 2020 Apr 20, prices are down 28% year-over-year while inventory has swelled by more than 58%.

Minnesota saw the largest drop in year-over-year prices at 39% on top of a 140% increase in available storage space.

The drop in price affected all types of storage spaces, as well, in a sign that even larger, corporate-friendly storage is seeing a clear lull in demand.

Houston, Texas saw largest decline in price

Houston, Texas, home of the most fast-food restaurants and a typically healthy market for self-storage with plentiful space, saw the largest change over the past year when it comes to prices and availability.

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Small storage space prices are down nearly 46%, medium by 42.5%, and large by nearly 31%.

As of this week, the average monthly price for a small storage space in Houston is just $23.81. Last year at this time that same locker would have cost $45.21. The drop in prices will certainly hurt local storage businesses in Texas, which was already the least-expensive area in the country for the industry.

The table below shows the states listed by number of listings as of April 20. As you can see, prices are down in every state with one exception: Alabama.

State 2019-04-20-listings 2019-04-20-avg-price 2020-04-20-listings 2020-04-20-avg-price Chg% in Listings Chg% in Avg Price
MN 482 125.400415 1155 76.6285714 139.63% -38.89%
GA 971 112.830072 3016 75.6322944 210.61% -32.97%
WI 102 94.0980392 161 63.2546584 57.84% -32.78%
KY 128 82.4296875 143 57.7902098 11.72% -29.89%
NY 628 177.880573 993 127.453172 58.12% -28.35%
CO 572 102.895105 1993 73.7471149 248.43% -28.33%
TN 248 96.4596774 403 69.3176179 62.50% -28.14%
SC 463 96.1015119 880 69.2068182 90.06% -27.99%
TX 3302 94.4173228 7470 70.8829987 126.23% -24.93%
IN 263 86.8288973 423 66.6052009 60.84% -23.29%
NJ 399 139.528822 650 108.54 62.91% -22.21%
WA 882 150.871882 1688 118.952014 91.38% -21.16%
NC 689 94.5907112 1100 74.6327273 59.65% -21.10%
IL 1235 101.066397 2756 80.0250363 123.16% -20.82%
FL 2745 114.71949 7386 91.3243975 169.07% -20.39%
NV 103 124.834951 183 100.546448 77.67% -19.46%
MI 271 110.701107 878 89.6605923 223.99% -19.01%
VA 780 129.666667 2169 105.674504 178.08% -18.50%
DE 19 134.631579 47 111.234043 147.37% -17.38%
MD 526 123.908745 1237 102.429264 135.17% -17.33%
MA 207 151.845411 322 125.52795 55.56% -17.33%
CA 3633 176.592623 6589 149.160722 81.37% -15.53%
LA 103 123.135922 212 105.353774 105.83% -14.44%
MO 315 99.384127 616 86.7451299 95.56% -12.72%
PA 194 129.948454 283 113.674912 45.88% -12.52%
RI 10 134.1 14 117.857143 40.00% -12.11%
AZ 245 122.946939 1331 108.187077 443.27% -12.01%
HI 100 218.31 136 192.661765 36.00% -11.75%
KS 116 91.3448276 349 81.6189112 200.86% -10.65%
OR 268 122.190299 806 109.686104 200.75% -10.23%
NH 47 114.425532 42 104.142857 -10.64% -8.99%
NE 41 92.804878 49 85.1632653 19.51% -8.23%
OH 330 90.8060606 628 84.3710191 90.30% -7.09%
CT 124 106.733871 126 99.8253968 1.61% -6.47%
OK 146 64.2123288 157 63.4522293 7.53% -1.18%
UT 50 103.16 102 102.578431 104.00% -0.56%
AL 108 97.7037037 163 104.932515 50.93% 7.40%

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: