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02 Aug 2023

Military Storage Units | The U.S. Military and Self Storage Industry


Greta Tasedan

Union Realtime

Military Storage Units | A Guide to Storing for Military Personnel

When you perform a Google search for terms related to “self storage” and “military” you will likely be presented with a long list of articles featuring the keywords “lockers,” “discount,” and “low cost.” Did you know that on average, military families move every 2.5 years? It’s also important to know that there are “...more military dependents than there are military personnel,” according to an article entitled Demographic and Military Service Characteristics of Military Families, published by the National Library of Medicine. Title 37, Section 401, of the U.S. Code says that military dependents can be;

With each member of the military moving every 2.5 years, and all their dependents going with them, it’s easy to see how the U.S. Military could be the cornerstone to the self storage industry. Add to that the high percentage of renters among military families,and the fact that moves are one of the top uses for self storage facilities, and you have a recipe for big business.

Military Storage & It’s Close Ties to the Self Storage Industry

There have been storage businesses since the Zhou Dynasty in ancient China, but the self storage industry in the USA started in the 1850’s with Martin Bekins and The Berkins Moving and Storage Companies, who set up storage facilities in Iowa, Nebraska, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Russ Williams picked up the self storage business banner in 1964, when he opened A1 U-Store-It U-Lock-It U-Carry-the-Key in Odessa, Texas. This facility was primarily used by oil companies to store supplies when not drilling.

Today’s self storage industry is still dominated by the military, with 4-6% of all storage units rented to military personnel, and occupancy of storage facilities near U.S. military bases typically up to 90%. Self storage once relied heavily on military customers, with most facilities being built near military bases in hopes of getting some of those sweet sweet multi-year deployment rentals. Military customers are the best customers because they move often between bases, are deployed domestically and overseas, and often need to store vehicles while deployed, and equipment when home from deployment. Some (many) self storage facilities go full-military-storage, offering nothing but military storage.

Military Storage Needs & Requirements

Military members store all the same things that civilian families store, with a few big exceptions. First, because military families are often renters, they typically don’t move with many large appliances like washers, dryers or refrigerators - but they have other, more specific size needs. For example, storing vehicles requires at least a 10x20 or 10x30 storage unit. No appropriately sized units at your facility means no business. Climate control is also critical for military movers, as they are often away for months or years at a time and won’t be able to return to your facility and move into an available climate controlled unit when one becomes available. In short, no climate control means no business when it comes to the military. Let’s delve deeper into 10 ways you can ensure your self storage facility is military-friendly!

military-discounts to Make Your Facility Military Storage-Friendly

  1. Offer vehicle storage - many active duty military customers will need to store their vehicle while they are deployed. Consider going the extra mile and offering car servicing for military service members who are returning from deployment. Using technology to schedule things like this will make the process faster and easier, and will delight your customers, military or not.
  2. Offer convenient billing/payment options - service members are often deployed for months or years at a time, with very little time back on US soil. This means they will need flexible and convenient billing and payment options that they can access from overseas.
  3. Offer military discounts - most self storage facilities offer military storage discounts ranging from the first 3 months free to free movers or moving trucks. Discounts are a great way to show military families that you value their long-term business.
  4. Offer the use of a moving truck or movers - the best part of this feature is that military families often have a moving budget, meaning there is no need to offer free moving services - but don’t assume! Be sure to ask your military customer what budget they are working with, and try to make it work for you!
  5. Consider drive-in units to make unloading faster & easier - members of the military are often deployed with little notice, meaning their move-in will need to be as fast and easy as possible, meaning drive-up storage would be a huge selling point.
  6. Invest in storage facility security - members of the military are trained to watch for danger and react. You can be sure that service members visiting your facility will put great weight on your security system. Investing in a great security system is a fantastic way to get more military business and show your customers that you are committed to holding it down while they are away.
  7. Offer flexibility in fees - service members might need to break a lease with little notice, or might prefer a month-to-month option. It’s good to give military customers options when it comes to their rental contract.
  8. Install hooks & shelving in units - storage units for military are often needed to store their gear when off deployment, meaning they will have hundreds of smaller items to store. Make this easier for them by installing hooks and shelving in certain units, ready to make storage of everything from flight suits to rucksacks easier and faster.
  9. Offer “No Rent Increase While Deployed” offers - this signals to military members that 1. Their service is appreciated and 2. That you care about their well-being.
  10. Offer easy transfer - when members of the military are deployed, they often don’t return to the same base from which they deployed. This means many members of the military will want to store their things near their NEW posting, not their old one. Finding a way to facilitate easy transfer of their things to their new posting before they return from deployment could be a huge selling point for your business.

Understanding the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

The SCRA or Servicemembers Civil Relief Act was put into place to protect military members who are deployed and away from their home country. This distance makes it difficult to pay bills or remove stored items while overseas. The SCRA says that facilities may not auction off the property of an deployed service member or an active-duty storage unit.

It’s important to keep track of which units are owned by service members who are on active duty or deployed overseas, to avoid the massive fines that come down on storage facility owners who auction off items owned by service people. Check out this article about how a storage company was ordered to pay $60,000 to an Airman when they sold his property while he was deployed. Inside Self Storage says that a few top SCRA things to know about include;

U.S. Military Storage Units | Final Thoughts

If you are considering getting into the lucrative self storage business, looking for sites close to military bases is a good idea! Make sure you do your research on market saturation in these areas, as this is far from a new or novel idea. For more information on the demographics in your potential area, check out Radius+, where we pull together all the data you need to make an informed self storage facility choice.

For more information on streamlining the management process of your storage facility, visit the ManageSpace Community, where we are using your experience in self storage to help you see your space differently through the lens of technology.

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