Most of us are familiar with The Four D’s, the long-running mnemonic device that explains the drivers of self-storage demand.
For those unfamiliar, The Four D’s are death, divorce, dislocation…
Wait, what’s the other one exactly?
If you are struggling to come up with the “fourth D” maybe it’s because that answer depends on who you ask.
In 2014, Public Storage CEO Ron Havner described the Four D’s as death, divorce, disaster, and dislocation.
“People moving, people changing their lives in terms of death or divorce. Hurricanes, tornadoes upset people’s lives and require storage facilities,” Havner said at a conference, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
But if you ask CBRE, they might say it isn’t disaster, but density, according to a report on the self-storage industry in Asia. Even still, Wikipedia offers another alternative: downsizing.
So what is it? Four D’s? Six D’s?
The problem with the The Four D’s is that they suggest that self-storage facilities thrive the most when people are getting divorced, dying or fleeing hurricanes.
While self-storage is driven by life events, they don’t all have to be bad ones. Storage also happens when you’re preparing for a move from a city apartment to a bigger home, getting married or taking a job in a new city.
Instead of focusing on the specific “D’s,” we should be looking at the bigger picture: These life events that necessitate storage all fall under the larger umbrella of moving. And the people who really drive storage? Those who are moving.
Most movers (48%) are moving for a housing-related reason, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Thirty-percent move for a family-related reason (having a baby, getting married, etc.) and 19 percent move for job-related reasons.
More than 35 million people moved between 2012 and 2013 (the latest year available). That is about 12 percent of the population moving every year.
Renters move the most, with 24.5 percent of renters having lived somewhere else in the past year, according to the Census. That is one major reason why developers have flocked to dense urban markets to build new storage facilities. Urban dwellers rely on storage to stash their things between moves, accumulate furniture for a new house, or on to hold their stuff while they apartment hunt in a new city.
This connection between moving and storage provides a great opportunity for storage companies to cater to the moving customer, rent trucks and work with local moving companies to exchange leads.
Looking strictly through the lense of the Four D’s is a limited way of thinking about marketing to storage customers, no matter what “fourth D” you choose to go with. There really isn’t an effective way for storage operators to reach out to divorcees and victims of natural disasters. But they can effectively target movers of all kinds, regardless of the particular reason.