A Brief History of Self Storage

Dec 31, 2014 | | Say something


Back when the Earth was young, mankind had fewer possessions, and if he did have somewhere to offload extra items, he’d probably find a resourceful solution. There are citations across the web that there was a practice resembling modern self storage in ancient China for crop storage, with units hired out to separate farmers. Consumerism was slow to rise in subsequent millennia – if you could buy, you could always afford to store somewhere – but we are now in a generation that can afford to buy, or can loan to buy, and we sit in houses filled with books, toys, and half-operational partly used electronic gadgets which were last year’s rage.

Even self storage in the twentieth century took a while to achieve recognition, but once it did there was little to stop it. From its humble origins in late ’50s America, the need for a personalised offsite storage solution was always there but somewhat muted. However the current adult generation has embraced the concept, with a strong attachment to all they have accumulated in life, and feeling that you never know when a discarded item might become useful again. Plus, if there is the opportunity to rent a small bit of storage space to solve practical problems, then may as well make the most of it if it’s there. And need it be said that we are living in smaller houses than ever before.

Whilst big brightly coloured block units on traffic islands, industrial estates and major roads manage to advertise themselves very nicely to those passing by, finding storage was never that easy. In fact in the early days of self storage in Europe, you would be looking for a spare piece of garage space in the local area to rent, rather than scouting directories of storage units near you. It was a fairly underground operation for a service that we really take for granted these days! The owners of surplus garages were making a very tidy profit too.

In Great Britain, it is surprising to think that self storage did not really get off the ground until the very end of the 70s. For a very densely populated island one would think the Brits have been the first to need extra space and would have trailed the self storage movement ahead full throttle, but in fact the earliest businesses saw what was going on in America and gave a go at replicating the service on their shores using whatever abandoned warehouses and factories they could easily pull apart and rebuild. Even then self storage remained for over 20 years a niche market, until property developers got on the scene and saw the potential in taking the concept nationwide, and managed to secure sufficient investments to do so.

Nowadays as the market rose considerably in the last 10-15 years, anybody wanting to jump on the business opportunity might have left it too late. Canny property owners are not selling off their business premises so cheap these days, especially now the lucrative cash to be made off self storage in large cities is well known.

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