Big Yellow Trading Report
15th July 2020
As previously reported, during the lockdown we saw reduced activity levels in the business across our domestic and business customer base. As the lockdown eased from mid-May, we have seen increased activity from both businesses and individuals.
In the month of June, total move-in and move-out activity was around 15% down on the prior year. Business move-ins in June were up 28% compared to the prior year, domestic move-ins down 10% and student move-ins down 37%. Student activity was distorted by a spike in emergency move-ins in March as the lockdown was announced, whilst others were allowed to leave their belongings in their accommodation over the summer term.
The 75 Big Yellow stores increased in occupancy over the quarter by 138,000 sq ft resulting in a closing occupancy of 83.6% (2019: 84.0%).
The increase in business demand following the gradual reopening of the economy is being driven by online retailers, B2B traders looking for flexible mini-warehousing for e-fulfilment, the shortening of supply chains, and businesses looking to rationalise their other fixed costs of accommodation. The average space occupied by the businesses who moved in over the quarter was 200 sq ft, which is up from 175 sq ft historically.
Domestic demand was impacted by the "stay at home message" and the freezing of the housing market. The phased relaxation of lockdown from mid-May and reopening of the housing market has led to an improvement in all aspects of short stay and longer stay domestic demand, which is continuing into the current quarter.
The Group's average achieved net rent per sq ft increased by 3.7% compared to the same quarter last year, with closing net rent up 2.0% compared to 30 June 2019. Net rent increased by 1.4% between 31 March 2020 and 9 June 2020, the date of the Group's full year results announcement. In the last three weeks of June, the level of move-ins increased compared to earlier in the quarter, resulting in more opening offers being given to new customers. This led to a reduction in net rent in June, with closing net rent down 0.8% from 31 March 2020. Price increases to existing customers, which were suspended from 23 March, have now been restarted and will begin to take effect from the end of July.
The Group's like-for-like revenue increased by 1.9% compared to the same quarter last year, driven by the increase in the average rate achieved, partly offset by the lower average occupancy in the period, and also a reduction in packing material sales during the lockdown period.
As of 14 July, 98.2% of our first quarter revenue has been collected, compared to 98.3% in the prior year.
The like-for-like occupancy (excluding Liverpool Aintree, acquired July 2019) of the Armadillo portfolio at 30 June 2020 was 78.7% (30 June 2019: 80.4%). Revenue from the 25 store Armadillo portfolio for the quarter to 30 June 2020 increased by 6% to £4.2 million compared to the same quarter last year. Like-for-like revenue, excluding Grimsby, Daventry and Liverpool Aintree (acquired April 2019, May 2019 and July 2019 respectively) increased by 1.5% compared to the same quarter last year.
The Group's new 77,000 sq ft store in Camberwell, London opened on 13 July, and we will update on its early trading at the half year.
Construction at our 57,000 sq ft store in Bracknell and our 71,000 sq ft store in Battersea, London was delayed by the Covid-19 lockdown. We are back on site at both locations, and anticipate the stores opening in September 2020 and November 2020 respectively.
Construction has commenced on our 55,000 sq ft store in Uxbridge, West London, with a view to the store opening in Summer 2021. Demolition is expected to start shortly on our new 58,000 sq ft store in Hove, with a view to the store opening in Spring 2022.
We have recently obtained planning on our 73,000 sq ft store in Hayes, London, and we anticipate the store opening in Spring 2022.
We are continuing planning discussions on our other development sites and will provide further updates in due course. Further details on the Group's developments can be found at https://corporate.bigyellow.co.uk/property-construction/construction.
We announced on 13 July that we have exchanged contracts to acquire a site at 60-70 The Highway, Wapping, London adjacent to our existing store for £18.6 million. We will be seeking planning permission for a mixed-use scheme across both sites to comprise approximately 125,000 sq ft of self storage and ancillary space together with approximately 150 residential units. The intention will be to build a new-build self storage centre on the newly acquired land. When this is complete consideration will be given to the future of the existing property.
James Gibson, Chief Executive Officer, commented:
"Immediately following the lockdown in March, we saw an impact on demand through a significant reduction in our activity levels and an initial loss in net occupancy, although year-on-year revenue continued to grow, driven by rental growth. The business proved to be relatively resilient, although not immune to the resultant seismic economic shock caused by the lockdown.
As these measures were gradually relaxed from mid-May, we saw an improvement in demand across all segments, with the second half of the quarter seeing prospects up by 10% on last year, leading to improved occupancy performance. Overall for the quarter we have achieved more growth in occupied space than last year and our like-for-like occupancy as of 14 July is now 84.1%, compared to 83.6% at the same time last year. Our cash collection has been relatively secure, with many of our customers paying by direct debit, and is now broadly in line with last year.
Although it is early in the second quarter, we are continuing to see an improvement in year-on-year occupancy growth. Significant economic uncertainty remains, and it should be noted that we have limited visibility in this business, with customers tending to reserve only a few weeks before moving in. However, we remain confident of the longer-term growth prospects for the business; the principal drivers being occupancy-led revenue growth from the existing portfolio and targeted expansion in our core area of London and its commuter towns."