Self Storage: The Facts

Self Storage units

How old do you think the Self Storage industry is? Here in the UK it’s certainly seen a lot of growth over the past 10 years. Facilities have been popping up on just about business park and empty warehouses across districts and boroughs all over the country. Bright colours, box and padlock-shaped logos and striking building frontages are all signalling self-storage space for rent.

It might surprise you to know that the Self Storage industry began as long ago as the 1960s, but probably less surprising is that it was in the USA that it first began. But what are the real facts about self storage in the UK in 2016, how fast has it grown, who uses it? Well let us help you with that…

Self Storage in the UK

Here in the UK the first small steps began in the late 80’s – and even when ABC Selfstore setup our first branch in Camden in 1992 – it wasn’t a huge industry. In fact, we were one of London’s first multi-site operators as we expanded into our Wandsworth and Southwark sites later in the decade.

We’re a member of the Self Storage Association UK. An industry trade association setup to bring together Self Storage Operators, establish Industry Standards, provide a common voice when the Industry needs to be heard and provide Industry specific research. Rather handily, the SSA produce an Annual Industry Survey and if you’re interested in the direction self-storage is taking it’s worth a read. You can download the whole report from here, but we’ve picked out some of the juiciest highlights here:

Pubic Awareness

Like lots of services, Self Storage is something that most people only learn about when they need it. Oddly, some people even muddle on through clutter and mess, unaware that services like ours exist. As part of their annual survey the SSA ask a sample of the public if they have heard of the self storage industry – and then how much knowledge they have about it. Whilst awareness is high – now at 90% – only 30% say they have a good understanding of the service and how it works. 66% said they could not name a single self storage brand – which is perhaps unsurprising given that those that could (33%) equate to roughly the same number who have a good understanding of the product.

But here in London that story is quite different (as you might expect) with a much healthier 59% saying they have a good understanding of self storage.

Square Footage

Over the past year supply for self storage space has increased by 5% and there is now over 37.5 Million square feet of space on offer for self storage in the UK. Interestingly 2015 was a year of much more rapid expansion than the previous four years, a consequence of the post-recession economy.

Typical Customers and Occupancy

Self storage continues to attract a wide range of customers, using the service for all sorts of different need. From the domestic market of people looking for more household space, to businesses requiring additional or cost-effective storage for stock and charities or community groups who need room for campaign materials or sports equipment.

When it comes to looking at Business – Domestic users of the service, we find roughly a 40/60 split respectively.

Occupancy – the amount of storage space that is actually being rented out by an operator – stands at 73% nationally. Here in London, where demand is greater, occupancy is considerably higher at 81%.

Trends and demand

As it is with virtually every property based service, demand is by far the biggest factor driving prices. The SSA Survey showed that Rental rates in London – for example – are more than double those in the North or East Midlands.

Despite the 5% growth in available space, occupancy rates by percentage are also increasing. So the overall trend in between 2015 & 2016 points to an expansion of capacity, which will keep pace with a steady increase in occupancy.

Here in London expansion is more difficult, mainly because the availability of suitable property to adapt or build, and very strict planning regime. It partly explains the the higher occupancy rates in London facilities.

If you are interested in knowing more detail about the state and trends of the self storage industry nip on over to the the Self Storage Association website.


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