Alain Gingras is going to be a busy man over the next 30 months and beyond.
A long-time veteran of the self-storage industry, Gingras earlier this summer was appointed senior director of operations for the fast-growing StorageMart – and he and others have already gotten the company’s marching orders: Grow the privately owned StorageMart by 50 percent by the end of 2020, from the just over 200 self-storage facilities today in the U.S., Canada and Britain to 300 facilities.
“We have a very, very clear goal,” said Gingras, formerly a senior regional vice president (East Coast – U.S.) for StorageMart, owned by the Burnam family, long-time players in the self-storage industry.
A history in the business
If anyone can handle such rapid expansion, it’s Gingras, who’s spent nearly his entire adult life in the self-storage industry, starting with his helping to found Forteresse Self Storage in Canada in 1993.
“It was the early days of self-storage in Canada and we were learning a lot,” said Gingras, who started out as general manager and later became a partner at the small, two-facility Forteresse Self Storage. “We had a lot to learn. Businesses and (residential) customers had a lot to learn. It was a crash course for everyone. The experience was real helpful.”
The learning curve took a new direction when Forteresse was purchased in 2005 by Apple Self Storage, then an owner of 12 properties in Ontario and Quebec. And then Apple Self Storage was itself purchased in 2007 by InStorage LP. The merger and consolidation craze didn’t end there. In 2009, InStorage was purchased by StorageMart.
Through all the mergers and consolidations, Gingras was in the thick of it, given new responsibilities with each ownership change and presented with ever more facilities to operate and maintain for owners.
StorageMart eyes rapid growth
Now he’s head of operations at StorageMart – and the goal is to keep on growing. Currently, StorageMart owns and runs facilities in 12 states, seven provinces and in the U.K, after it purchased a 16-facility self-storage firm in Britain in 2016.
“We’re looking everywhere,” Gingras said of where StorageMart is looking to expand, mostly via acquisitions.
StorageMart does compete in some major metropolitan market in North America, such as in Chicaco. But it’s best known for its secondary-market strategy and its creation of “hubs” within those markets, such as in the Kansas City and Des Moines areas.
“It helps with synergy, marketing and management,” he said of having multiple facilities in specific markets.
Though it’s in major markets like Chicago, StorageMart prefers not compete with the major publicly traded REITs in huge metropolitan areas, he said. The secondary markets are more ripe for expansion, he said.
Marc Boorstein, a principle at MJ Partners, a self-storage financing and brokerage firm, said StorageMart’s secondary-market strategy is smart, even though he said they’re more than capable of competing with major REITs.
“They’re one of the best run self-storage companies in the entire industry,” said Boorstein, whose company has done work for StorageMart in the past. He called focusing on secondary markets a “great play” and one that’s paid off handsomely for StorageMart.
He also said StorageMart made the right move to expand into Britain, where the self-storage industry is more mature than it is in the rest of Europe.
“It’s a good market, though it has different property and ownership laws,” he said of the U.K.
Gingras said StorageMart is looking to expand in the U.K, as well, though he downplayed the prospects of expanding elsewhere in Europe.