Bluebird Self Storage is capitalizing on the growing consumer demand for storage space as it continues building and buying assets to expand its portfolio across Canada.
Reade De Curtins, principal of the Toronto-headquartered company, said Bluebird currently has 28 locations. It plans to grow to 50 locations within 18 to 24 months as the firm builds what he considers Canada’s first nationwide “premium” self-storage concept.
“Within the last year we’ve gone coast-to-coast with locations now in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia,” De Curtins told RENX. “Then, we’ve got a location that’s opening in probably 45 to 60 days in Vancouver.”
The current portfolio includes 2,540,00 gross square feet and 21,440 units. Over its 40-year history, Bluebird has developed over 10 million square feet of self-storage facilities.
“You’ve got a lack of self-storage supply across Canada as a whole and in particular the opportunity we’ve identified is the lack of institutional-quality, class-A self-storage facilities in Canada,” De Curtins explained.
“If you compare Canada to the U.S., in the U.S. you’ve got over nine square feet of self-storage per person in the top-25 most populated markets and here in Canada we’ve got a little over three square feet per person.”
Bluebird focuses on premium self-storage
De Curtins said Bluebird is focusing on that premium market.
“If you dig down to quality class-A product, there’s even greater disparity. . . . There’s not an existing supply of class-A storage to be acquired in Canada.
“Even if an institutional player wants to come along and consolidate and spread a class-A premium brand across Canada, that opportunity does not exist.
“We are developing what we believe to be the first class-A portfolio coast-to-coast.”
De Curtins said the company believes innovation sets it apart in the industry because it provides a consistent customer experience no matter where they are located in Canada.
Bluebird and investment partner Harrison Street have recently acquired two self-storage assets.
One is in Mississauga and is currently under construction. It will be 155,770 gross square feet with 1,074 units. The other is an operating 46,400-square-foot facility in Cochrane, Alta., on five acres of land with room for future expansion.
The company is also opening its new Sheridan store in June in Mississauga, a state-of-the art facility of 169,000 gross square feet with 1,246 climate-controlled units.
“Bluebird strives to be the first national storage company focused on the customer experience. We want each customer to feel secure about their storage decision no matter where in Canada they are located,” said James Bennett, De Curtins’ business partner.
New demographic, new approach
De Curtins said people traditionally have looked to self-storage space as places where they can store possessions if they are in transition in their lives and moving to a different home.
“That’s changed and what we’re experiencing right now is this post-pandemic consumer. We believe that we are seeing a younger demographic these days. We believe younger generations are not prioritizing larger homes and larger mortgages,” said De Curtins.
“Your younger consumer, especially many times in the urban locations where we locate, they’re moving into smaller apartments and condominiums and they need a place to store their stuff, basically.”
People now working from home may have converted spare rooms or areas into offices and therefore need space to store furniture or other items they’ve moved out of those spaces.
“I think there’s some trends right now post-pandemic that are creating an even greater demand for self storage,” added De Curtins.
Bluebird’s ongoing growth
Bluebird is leveraging its owners’ significant experience in the industry to capitalize on those changes.
De Curtins said the ownership team, including Bennett and his father Richard Bennett, have developed more than 100 self-storage locations in North America since 1983 under various strategies and brand names.
“Primarily we had worked in the Southeastern United States, mostly the Carolinas and Florida and Ontario, throughout our history and we’ve had different brand names, different concepts,” he said.
“In 2016, when we rolled out Bluebird Self Storage, that’s when we decided that we’re going to try and get coast-to-coast (with) this premium concept.”
Originally the company’s focus was in the Greater Toronto Area.
“We pretty quickly expanded out West. I moved to Calgary in 2019 and we’ve grown very quickly here. Particularly in Calgary, we’ve got a very strong pipeline right now.
“We’ve got six new locations coming up in Calgary and they’re all very high-profile retail locations.
“We’re really excited about that. The big news for us is our coast-to-coast growth, but there’s still a lot of filling in to do in the middle.
“We’re already working on some sites in the Prairies as well.”