Storing up a business opportunity

Are you a removal firm with some land to spare and looking to make it work for you? Self-storage facilities are popping up across the country, and, as Lauren Gladding, Self-Storage and Sales Marketing Manager at Mr Box explains below, setting your own up is as simple as A, B, C.

Removal firms are well placed to tap into the self-storage trend. While you may have previous experience of using such facilities for clients who need somewhere to store furniture during a house move, there are plenty of other industries that could also benefit.

As Lauren says: “Any company that has tools, stock or files to archive is a potential customer, as are delivery services such as Yodel.

“Or you can make your location work for you; services that travel to clients, such as Autoglass, need their products stored somewhere with easy access, either in a central location or on the outskirts of villages, towns or cities.”

Once you’ve decided on your target market – and it may well be a mix of the above – what do you need to get started? Land, yes, but surely you need some technical knowhow, a knowledge of building regs, a full team of staff on the ground?

Not at all, says Lauren. “Pretty much all you need to get started is containers, some space to put them on – and plenty of enthusiasm.

Mr Box offers a quick and competent service for self-storage facilities, but there are a number of factors you as the landowner will need to ensure before you start.

Firstly, you’ll need to check with your local council whether planning permission is needed, as the regulations vary around the country. You could also consider installing a power and water supply, as this can help differentiate you from your rivals and expand the services you can offer.

Lastly, if you’re planning on becoming a member of the Self-Storage Association it has a list of requirements like, CCTV, perimeter fencing, Fire & Security alarms that you’ll need to ensure your site meets.

The next step is to decide where to place your containers, and how many you want. The good news is that the containers will leave no lasting impact on your land if you want to move or remove them, although it’s worth remembering that they need to be placed on a level, hardcore surface or they may warp, this is relatively simple to achieve using items such as railway sleepers, bricks, MDF or concrete slabs.

As for numbers, that depends on how much space you have. “You can use one or 100 containers; all of our self-store customers’ sites are different,” says Lauren.

“For example, we have a farmer with six containers in the corner of his field and a customer who started 20 years ago and now has 600 containers.

“It all needs to fit around what is suitable for the operator; some have full-time jobs or have added this as an extra service to another business they run, while others only deal with self-storage.”

Your next step is to consider whether your site will be staffed. Unmanned facilities, where customers can access the facility with a key or a code, have the benefit of considerably reducing your overheads. However, it reduces the contact you have with clients and the chance to build those all-important relationships, and an unmanned site could potentially be more vulnerable to break-ins.

Speaking of security, you’ll need to ensure your facility is safe. Mr Box containers are made of Corten steel, and all new units have a lockbox which shrouds the padlock to protect it from interference from bolt-croppers, angle grinders, chisels, or any other method of forced entry.

Once all the above is in place, you’re ready to go, and the team at Mr Box pride themselves on making the whole process simple from start to finish.

Lauren explains: “The bottom line is, at Mr Box, we care about our customers and want their business to be a success.

“That’s why we do everything in our power to make the process simple from start to finish. Our service isn’t just about supplying the containers, we use our years of experience to help customers with every stage of the process.

“We offer CAD drawing services to design the layout of a site, we help clients with the terms and conditions they need for their customers, and we also offer free advertising with a listing on our Mr Store website.”

Once you’ve made the decision to go ahead, your site can be up and running in as little as three days – one of the key benefits of using storage containers over a purpose-built facility.

Lauren says: “If your site is prepared, a container is ready to use immediately once it is delivered, and our lead time is usually three to five working days.

“Self-storage is a business that can fit around our clients’ circumstances. Sites can be set up in a matter of days; how much prior research and planning done is very much dependent on the client and their expectations of the site.”

As Britons accumulate increasing amounts of stuff, while business rates rise and space becomes a valuable commodity, self-storage sites are a real business opportunity, particularly for removal firms.

The most successful examples are those with a clear target demographic and the ability to offer something different, but those starting out can still make a viable business with a little research and a lot of enthusiasm.

As Lauren says: “Self-storage is a very low-maintenance, high-return business and can be done on a very small or large scale.

“If anyone has some spare land on their home, farm, business, yard that is not earning anything, I would definitely suggest looking into creating a container self-storage facility.”