The UK Self Storage industry: A brief history
Just three decades ago, there was no self-storage industry in the UK at all. Now the market is bigger than in any of our European neighbours, and has outlived a number of recessions and downturns over the years.
Today, the industry is estimated to be worth nearly £500m.
One of the interesting sociological shifts behind the boom is that, according to Oxford geography professor Daniel Dorling, we all have a whopping six times more belongings than the previous generation.
What’s more, all this stuff – from furniture, tech equipment, ornaments and clothing – must be packed into living space that’s the smallest to be found anywhere in the EU.
Add in people’s natural instinct for hoarding things into the mix and you have the reason why this type of storage has taken off so much in recent years, for those who are moving home, need more office space or just don’t have room in their homes to keep everything they own.
As with many other things, the storage industry got under way the other side of the Atlantic first. The sector got under way in America in the early 1960s, and, today, the scale of the industry on the other side of the pond is nothing short of staggering.
The space is so great, in fact, that if it wanted to, the entire US population could shoehorn itself into the nationally available storage space.
The first chain was founded in the UK in 1979, mostly from warehouse and factories that had fallen into disuse or disrepair.
After the first chain popped up, scores of imitators were to follow.
By the late 1990s, the mainstream business world had caught up, with City backing for some of the firms in the industry, and its full potential being realised.
Some companies are now Stock Exchange listed, and valued at hundreds of millions of pounds.
A concept that may once have been considered slightly unconventional has become mainstream.
Its true that the previously quick rate of expansion is starting to slow down, but self storage sites are now part of our urban landscapes and they are here to stay.