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U.K. Self-Storage Shows Signs of Resilience, Anticipates Steady Growth in 2012

Here's a closer look at the self-storage market in the United Kingdom, how it compared to other commercial real estate markets, and expectations for the coming year. Plus, details on the performance of the U.K.'s top self-storage operators.

December 25, 2011

4 Min Read
U.K. Self-Storage Shows Signs of Resilience, Anticipates Steady Growth in 2012

By Amy Campbell

Much like its U.S. counterpart, the self-storage market in the United Kingdom experienced a slowdown in construction of new facilities and worked hard to maintain occupancy levels in 2011. Many operators offered concessions to entice new customers. Yet the U.K. industry has shown greater resilience to the economic downturn than other commercial sectors.

A survey in mid-2011 by the Self-Storage Association of the United Kingdom (SSA-UK), in association with Drivers Jonas Deloitte, showed the U.K. self-storage market has weathered the recession intact and is looking forward to a period of steady growth. Respondent confidence has improved since 2010, with many operators expecting to raise rental rates in the coming year. The data also showed an increase in lengths of stay at self-storage locations.

The survey, now in its fifth consecutive year, collects data from SSA-UK members. Drivers Jonas Deloitte, a firm specializing in property consultancy, transaction and advisory services, was commissioned to produce the report based on the responses as well as its own analysis of factors relevant to U.K. self-storage operators. Responses were gathered from 82 separate companies and 440 self-storage facilities.

Drivers Jonas Deloitte estimates there are 800 self-storage facilities in the United Kingdom, with 36 percent owned by the largest operators including Big Yellow Group PLC, Safestore Holdings PLC, Shurgard, Access Self Storage and LoknStore.   

Revenue and Occupancy Remain Steady

Despite the economic challenges, the leading self-storage companies the United Kingdom faired well over the past year. Big Yellow Group, which operators more than 60 facilities, posted a profit during the first half of 2011.  The company reported annual store revenue increased by 7 percent and cash inflows from operating activities (after net finance costs) increased by 14 percent despite concessions. CEO James Gibson said the company is encouraged by the continuing positive performance of this business."

One of the U.K.s largest operators, Safestore Holdings, reported an increase in total occupancy during the third quarter. The companys sales grew 5.4 percent to £24.1 ($39.2 million). Overall occupancy rose 3.8 percent points to 63.2 percent, and the average self-storage rental rate was 2.9 percent higher. The company also opened one new facility in Paris, brining the companys portfolio to 119 self-storage facilities.   

Development Continues

Much like in the United States, construction of new self-storage facilities has slowed considerably. Only 10 percent of U.K. operators are expected to open more than one new store before 2014, according to the SSA-UK report.

Still, some established operators and new investors are breaking ground on new facilities. The Self Storage Company celebrated the grand opening of its first facility in Waltham Abbey in October. The facility is the first of 15 the company plans to open in the United Kingdom.

Big Yellow Group opened two stores in 2011, one in Eltham and another in Stockport. Development is underway for new facilities in New Cross and Chiswick, slated to open in February and May, respectively. Development of the Chiswick facility, which will total 75,000 square feet, is expected to cost £10 million.

Another self-storage company, B.E. Webbe, is also in development mode. The company converted an empty factory in Sutton into a 17,000-square-foot self-storage facility last fall. The £1.2 million conversion included removing the asbestos roof and adding new columns to support a new roof. A mezzanine floor and loading bays were also added. Other changes include new offices, kitchen and toilets. A second phase to add another 17,000 square feet is scheduled for next year.

Safestore  has opened 14 stores in the last three years, with new stores at Crystal Palace, Bolton, Southend, Barking and New Southgate opening in the last 15 months. We remain confident about growth prospects in the market and have recently submitted planning applications on two sitesWandsworth and Birminghamshowing our commitment to growth and providing new facilities that will meet this increasing demand, says David Cox, head of marketing.

Although the industry will unlikely see the rapid development growth it experienced from 2006 to 2008 when 119 facilities opened, gradual increases in occupancy and rental rates are on the horizon.

To read more about the international self-storage market, download the free Inside Self-Storage International digital edition at http://www.insideselfstorage.com/digital-issues.aspx.

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