Self-storage has become a huge industry over the last decade. In countries around the world, giant metal buildings began springing up, painted in bright colours like yellow and orange, all with similar sounding names.
The industry is actually a little older, having started out in the United States during the 1960s, but it wouldn’t be until the 1980s that the industry would take hold in the UK.
In just a few decades, there are now more than 1,500 self-storage facilities across Great Britain and Northern Ireland. With at least that amount again across continental Europe.
Despite the already large size of the industry, the profitability of the self-storage model is expected to drive further growth. This has also made it an attractive opportunity for investors, who are using innovative designs to maximise returns from the space.
Evidence of this growth can be seen in the fact that 2.4 million square feet of additional self-storage space was added to the UK’s capacity in 2017 alone. Only 2% of Brits currently use self-storage services though, so there is a significant scope for growth.
Demand for self-storage is coming from multiple areas, with both short and long term customers looking to rent space. Here are some of those growth areas.
In a bid to stand out in the increasingly busy self-storage market, companies are beginning to augment their product offering to help them stand out from their competitors. Gone are the days when self-storage businesses were just big sheds, split into small chunks for people to store items they didn’t have room for.
Many, like Store First, offer facilities like hot desks, meeting rooms, parcel handling, free WiFi, kitchens, showers and a gym. These facilities are typically available to anyone who rents space from them, regardless of the size of their unit. This has attracted a lot of small business owners and sole traders who are looking for cheap, flexible office space to hold meetings with clients or escape their home office.
There are many people who enjoy collecting items, whether it be stamps, bank notes, or model cars. For many this is just a hobby, using it as a way to learn about a topic, or to escape from the real world. For others, collectable items may be an investment.
Recently, people have been collecting limited versions of branded sports shoes, with some supposedly worth as much as £20,000. Another big area for collectors is movie memorabilia. Big budget blockbuster films often get a lot of licensed products made to help promote the movie and further monetise the brand.
An example of this is the movie Ted, with plush Ted bears, posters, t-shirts and even a themed slots game, where Ted randomly activates modifiers that alter the outcome of the game.
Collectors need someone to store their investments, and self storage provides an economical and practical option for this.
In the UK, moving house was traditionally a stressful occasion that happened on a single day. When you were involved in a “chain” of property transactions, you would receive the keys to your new home at the same time the person buying your old home would get their new keys.
This meant everything had to be packed up and moved in the space of a couple of hours, created a stressful experience for all involved.
Self-storage facilities have helped to ease this burden. Customers can rent storage space for a short period of time, sometimes just a handful of weeks, allowing them to move their possessions out of their old home temporarily so that less logistical planning is needed before swapping keys.
Students at university are unique. They are even given special status for registering to vote, as they can be registered in both their student accommodation and their permanent home. This is because students spend half the year living near their university, but often move away for the summer.
Moving away often means moving out, so students need somewhere to store a lot of possessions for a few months. Self-storage is a practical solution to this problem, as otherwise, it could mean moving several van loads of furniture, clothing and electronics hundreds of miles. Self-storage means that students can keep their belongings close to their university in a secure facility to prevent theft or damage over the summer.
The UK has become the stand out leader in self-storage across Europe, accounting for almost half of the entire continent’s self-storage capacity. Despite this, it appears the sector will continue to grow in the coming years as more types of customers begin to realise the benefits of using self-storage services.