Self storage has been around for a long time in the United States. Not so for Britain. In fact, it only recently has really taken off and started growing as an industry. In 2002, Britain had only 5m square feet of storage space. By 2013, that amount grew to 30m square feet or 6 times the amount than what was available 10 years ago.
Growth over the past 10 years in the self storage industry in Britain was steady regardless of the downturn of the economy, despite the weak bank lending situation, despite a sluggish housing market, and despite a surprise tax that was imposed by the Treasury in 2012.
In Britain, there were fewer people renting self storage units. That was because fewer people were moving abroad, fewer buying new homes, and (interestingly enough) fewer divorces. These events normally trigger the need for storage.
StartUp Britain has some interesting business statistics. The number of new businesses created in 2011 was 440,600. In 2012, 484, 224 jobs were created. In 2013, there were 526,446. (StartUp Britain is a private initiative supported by the UK Government that helps budding entrepreneurs.) Micro and small businesses account for 95% of all UK companies and employ more than 7 million people.
In 2012, 42% of Britain’s self storage customers were small business owners. That is 36% up from 2010. Many of these small businesses like to use self storage units instead of renting a warehouse for their space needs. They also like that they do not have to sign long leases.
The majority of these small businesses work from their homes. And many of them do not have space to expand as their business grows. That is why they turn to self storage facilities.
As in the United States, these small business owners range from tradesmen (who store tools in their unit) to musicians (who use the space as a studio) to people in the import-export business.
Jimmy Gibson, who works for Big Yellow, thinks that as the economy picks up growth in the self storage industry in Britain will grow quickly. However self storage businesses will have a difficult time finding a place for their facilities.
Storage companies prefer to have their facilities near main roads or near densely populated residential areas. They will compete with house builders for these locations and the self storage industry might come away the loser. House builders tend to be more willing to pay those steep prices for land.
For right now, the future looks bright and promising for self storage businesses in Britain.
“The final Frontier.” The Economist; 1 February 2014.
“Almost 1,400 businesses created in Taunton last year – StartUp Britain Claims.” Somerset County Gazette; 30 January 2014.