France is home to 112 storage facilities serving the country’s population of 62 million. The stores are owned by 31 different companies, though 58 percent of the market is controlled by only three corporations: Access, HomeBox and Shurgard. The market is geographically concentrated, with 54 percent of facilities in the Paris area.
The average self-storage customer in France isn’t much different from that of the rest of Europe. Private individuals account for 80 percent of tenants, and business clients comprise the remaining 20 percent. Most tenants are male—60 percent—although the female market is growing. Eighty percent of customers live within 5 miles of their store.
France lags behind the United Kingdom in terms of self-storage development. The U.K. market was born five years earlier, so its public has a better awareness of the service. Studies show that in French cities where storage facilities operate, only 5 percent of the population understands the product. Despite money spent on marketing each year, awareness grows slowly. So far, this is the biggest challenge the French self-storage industry faces.
From 2000 to 2002, the French market greatly expanded, primarily due to development by U.S./U.K. companies. But in 2003 and 2004, most of these large corporations stopped development and growth slackened. This year, for the first time in the country’s short self-storage history, French-owned companies have led the pack on self-storage openings. Among the new generation of French corporations, Box Avenue and Annexx stand out with ambitious development plans.
Philippe Peyrot is president of Annexx SAS, a French self-storage company, and founder of Self-stockage.info, an online publication about self-storage in Europe. For more information, visit www.annexx.com and www.self-stockage.info.