The self storage industry didn’t exist a mere thirty years ago, but now creates an annual revenue of almost £500 million - no small sum. So why has it become so commonplace?
Changing landscape of self storage
The industry has changed dramatically in the last 15 years. In 2002 the UK had 5 million square feet of self storage capacity and this had increased to 30 million by 2013.
According to the 2014 survey by the Self Storage Association, the average occupancy of self-storage facilities has risen to 71%, up from 68% the previous year. Just over 40% of all providers took part in the survey and 79% of respondents said they expected improved profits this year. Other findings include:
- 54% reported increasing their incentives to new customers
- 60% of customers are private rather than business – up from last year, which could be driven by the housing market recovery
- Interestingly, only 3% of adults in the UK had used self storage in the last 12 months (6% in London), although the figure for adults who had ever used self storage is likely to be much higher.
- The cost of self storage is unknown or underestimated by the majority of the public
Why we need self storage facilities today
According to Danny Darling from Oxford university, we own six times more possessions on average than the previous generation. Reasons for this include the fact that we:
- Have become more transient. It’s now common for us to move several times in our lifetime – and we may move further away – including overseas. In some cases it may not be practical to take all our belongings, particularly if it's not a permanent move.
Children are living at home for longer before moving out, which means they have more baggage to take with them when they leave, and if parents downsize they may not have room for their own belongings, let alone their childrens'. Plus, thanks to the multitude of TV programmes and online advice, we know that a presentable, tidy home is more attractive to buyers, so temporary storage is often a quick way to de-clutter if we're trying to sell our home.
- As a society have become more materialistic. 50 years ago, people were a lot more frugal, often because items were proportionately more expensive than they are now. Today, consumers are bombarded with adverts in every medium, enticing us to buy at bargain prices or to keep up with the latest fashion or gadget on the market. This means that we have more possessions, but our homes haven’t necessarily become larger to accommodate them. Disposable goods such as flat pack furniture are also more common than thirty years ago. Where once faulty electrical items would have been repaired, now it’s often cheaper to just buy a new one. More of us also have hobbies that need large equipment, such as canoeing or skiing. If you don’t need the equipment every week, it sometimes makes sense to store it elsewhere rather than clutter up your home.
- Have more online and microbusinesses. Many of these businesses don’t need a shop front but simply somewhere to keep their goods until they’re sold or to archive documents. Self-storage is also flexible option if you're expanding your business, allowing you to hire more or less space depending on demand or if you simply need space to store your tools. The BBC ran a story at the end of last year about businesses being run from storage units, highlighting the fact that they’re great for seasonal businesses, which won’t need the same amount of space throughout the year.
- Are hoarders. While previous generations may have accumulated belongings too, as we now have more possessions, these take up more space. There are many reasons we may not want to part with items – they may have sentimental value or have been gifts or simply because we think we'll use the item or fit into a piece of clothing in the future. For those who don't have lofts, garages or other space to stow these items, self-storage is a convenient way to keep hold of your belongings while not cluttering up your home.
Considerations when choosing a self storage unit
Caroline Taylor who manages our self storage units in Glasgow has some other tips to help you when choosing where to choose for your belongings.
“Many of our customers don’t know how much space they need. It’s helpful if they have a list of the larger items when enquiring, so we can help advise them, but we suggest everyone comes to look at the units. It really helps you decide how much space you need.“
“We have a number of customers who have stored items with us for over ten years and most rent units for 6 months or more. Often they say they only need space for two or three months, but it ends up being longer, so be realistic and factor this into the overall cost of storing your items.”
While there are a number of things that storage facilities won’t allow, such as explosives or animals, other than the restrictions, pretty much anything goes. She says,
“One of our most quirky enquiries was to store a Dalek. A couple were getting married in Glasgow but didn’t live here, so they just needed somewhere to store it for the week before the wedding. It was an odd request, as most of our customers are domestic, with household items, but we were happy to help.“
- Think about the facilities you need and what the provider offers. Are you looking for 24 hour access or very short term unit hire? Are there any hidden charges or conversely discounts that you could take advantage of?
- The location – do you need somewhere within easy reach of your home or work? This will depend on what you’re using it for and how often you need to visit and move / store more items.
- If you're planning on storing personal property, make sure you really need to keep them. Perhaps a trip to the charity shop or recycling centre may be more appropriate. Or you may be able to sell your items – there are plenty of online sites set up for this very purpose (eBay, Gumtree, Preloved or Freecycle to name just a few).
Don’t forget that the way you store your items can affect the size unit you need. Take a look at our tips to help you use your storage unit effectively.
In addition to our Glasgow self storage units, we offer dedicated facilities in Birmingham, Bradford and London. Plus we offer larger storage units at the majority of our sites nationwide.