June 1, 2001

7 Min Read

Paris, France

By R.K. Kliebenstein

Irecently returned from the annual conference and tradeshow of the Self StorageAssociation of the United Kingdom and Europe, held in Brussels, Belgium. Whileon the east side of the "big pond," I met with clients in France tolearn more about the self-storage market in Paris. I'd like to thank IsabelleWhite of Shurgard and Peter Measures for their significant contributions to thismarket profile. Without their input, this article could not have been written.

In a word, wow! For anyone who has been there, Paris certainly bringsopportunity to mind when it comes to self-storage. Peter Measures, a consultantturning developer, helped me put into focus the elements that best define theself-storage market in Paris and France in general:


  • There are approximately 50 self-storage sites open or under development in France to accommodate a total population of 58 million.

  • In Paris, approxiately 35 sites are currently open or in development to serve the city's population of 11 million.

  • Many cities of 200,000 population and some of 600,000 population have no self-storage sites.

  • While it is true that French people are less mobile than their American counterparts, this is changing. (For example, on the radio this morning it was reported that in the 3rd arrondissement [district] of Paris, 70 percent of the voters have moved during the last decade.)

In any event, if the potential for self- storage is even only one-third thecapacity of that in the United States, there is room for 440 sites in the Parisarea (Chart 1). How is that for opportunity?



Number of Facilities

Population per Facility

United States




United Kingdom








Other Western Europe




The Players

The French Self Storage Association currently has four members and was ableto share the information in Chart 2:

Number of Stores

















Une Piece en Plus
















Isabelle White was able to share how Shurgard is faring in Paris. "Shurgardis currently the largest self-storage operator and developer in France, with 16stores (mostly in and around Paris) that represent approximately 80,000 squaremeters of net-rentable space. Shurgard began operating in France in 1997. Sincethen, we have developed a fully integrated development and operating team. Basedupon our experience and success to date, we have gained a lot of confidence inthe French market and plan to continue to aggressively grow our presencehere."

Access, which is one of the market leaders in the United Kingdom and Europe,is owned by Security Capital of Chicago, through which it is reported to haveties to Storage USA. Access has five sites in Paris, and seven in suburbs closeto the city (Nanterre, La Defense, Gennevilliers, St. Denis, Montreuil,Charenton and Gentilly). The company is planning more sites in France this yearand as many as eight in 2002 (not all of which may be in Paris). Some of thesesites are leasehold interests, which is a common European occurrence--especiallyin central Paris.

Une Piece en Plus was developed by private French property developers, andthe group was taken over in September 2000 by Mentmore Abbey, a self-storageoperator from the United Kingdom. In the last three years, the company hascreated four sites in or very near Paris, two of which are approaching maturity.Two other sites, slightly farther from the city, are under development. It isexpected that after the recent purchase by Mentmore Abbey, there will shortly bemore stores underway.

Homebox is the last of the players and, in Paris, is similar in size to UnePiece en Plus. Homebox has been in the self-storage business for less than fiveyears. It tested the market in Paris with three sites on leased premises and hassince built a chain of some 10 sites. The Rousselet family has essentiallyfinanced the growth with equity. I understand they are soliciting a U.S.financier to roll out nearly 50 sites in a Europe-wide expansion. At the presenttime, the company's sites are all in France.

An American Perspective

While in France, I visited all the players except Access. What I saw was atypical self-storage product mix. The Shurgard property looked like any otherShurgard-built store in the United States. It was a large conversion buildingwith halls and walls from a U.S. supplier. The store was not significantlydifferent from its major competitor, Homebox, located just across theexpressway.

The Homebox office was more difficult to find as they were located in abuilding with many other offices. The route to enter the property was rathercircuitous and, once inside, it would have been difficult to tell it was aself-storage property had the loading door not been open.

Une Piece en Plus was located in what looked to be a converted parkinggarage, more in the heart of central Paris (the old part). The store was more ofa first- generation facility, typical of an older U.S. conversion. Signage wasdifficult to find at best, and I am assuming its success was based on theneighborhood knowledge of where it was.

All three stores' managers were very cordial, and all spoke as much Englishas I speak French, so I was glad to have a couple "locals" along withme. Growth in this market seems to be constrained by a lack of access tocapital. At the time of this writing, I am attempting to find U.S. capital(equity and/or debt) for a French operator. It has been interesting to speakwith U.S. capital sources about Paris, and their reluctance to even discusscapital infusion into Europe. I am working hard to better educate some U.S.sources as to the tremendous opportunity that exists in Europe, but most arenervous about the long lease-up time (it takes approximately 48 to 60 months toreach stabilized occupancy), and the fact that site selection does not rely oncompetitive markers (there are so few) as much as the availability of sites.

The ratios of business customers to residential users is just about oppositethan that of a typical U.S. storage facility, with as many as 70 percentcommercial users. I am glad to be home, and want to leave you with just onethought: The opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an industry is immensein Paris, but it would be a difficult (if not impossible) task without aParisian partner.

R.K. Kliebenstein owns and operates Coast-To-Coast Storage, which is inthe process of evaluating a European partnership in an endeavor to open anaffiliate office in the United Kingdom. Coast-To-Coast Storage has clients fromMexico, France and other European countries who are seeking U.S. capitalpartners. For more information, call 561.367.9241.

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