UK self-storage sector: demand outstripping supply, new research shows

Strong demand for self-storage space in the UK has resulted in occupancy reaching a record high and outstripping supply, according to new research by Cushman & Wakefield and The Self-Storage Association UK (SSA UK).

The SSA UK, alongside Cushman & Wakefield, has produced its 13th annual industry report, which examines a range of data points and surveys on the growth prospects for the sector in 2019. The UK is a key market for use of self-storage, with 46% of all European space situated in either England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – despite consistent growth in mainland Europe.

The report estimates there are now approximately 1,582 self-storage sites in the UK, offering around 45.6 million square feet of space with an average store size of 28,800 sq ft. The annual sector turnover has now reached £720million. Of the total number of sites, 381 offer predominately container based self-storage.

Some 78 new stores opened in 2018 of which 38 were container-based stores. Around 15% of the new space created in the sector was added through expansion of existing stores, or fitting out previously unused space. With the majority of major cities well served, many of the new openings were smaller sites in regional locations. When combining the increase in occupancy rates and space available, there was an additional 1.3 million square feet of self-storage space used by customers in 2018 which is a 3.9% increase.  

Elsewhere, the report states that occupancy on current lettable space is 77.2% which is an increase of 1.4% on last year. The UK average net rental rate has remained stable at £23.11 per square foot per annum compared to £23.08 for the previous 12 months. Operators in the East Midlands and the North experienced the largest gains in rental rates.

As well as interviewing operators, the report’s findings are also based on in-depth surveys with self-storage customers as well the general public to understand usage trends and general awareness.

Key findings include:

  • 71% of self-storage customers are aged 40-69-years-old. Only 10% are aged 20-34.
  • 35% of customers have kept their unit for three years or more.
  • 75% of customers travel less than 20 minutes to their unit and 60% travel less than 15 minutes.
  • 21% of customers are divorced, separated or widowed.
  • 29% of customers visit their store once a month with 23% visiting once or more a week.
  • 56.9% of people cannot name a self-storage store in the local area
  • Over 50% of people have a limited understanding of the product, having either never heard of it or knowing little about the service that is offered

james.wallace@realassetmedia.com