Many companies interested in setting up a self-storage facility are already the owners of premises, which they are considering converting. In their case the principles of good site selection may help to confirm whether their site is ideal for the purpose or possibly totally unsuitable.
An ideal self-storage location will have the following qualities:-
That traffic should be able to easily access the facility direct from the road. Being situated on a corner and at traffic lights can be an advantage as this can also provide a benefit in that drivers and passengers stopped at the traffic lights cannot fail but to notice the facility.A facility that is visible from a motorway but in fact lies miles from the nearest motorway exit, will have limited benefit from that visibility.
The road users will, ideally, be local; - a busy commuter route carrying mainly traffic from outside the location's catchment area will also have less benefit. The positioning and prominence of the building itself is important, a building on a very busy road but set back off the road with restricted visibility due to adjoining properties will have reduced benefits.
A building that is extremely prominent but with poor signage, will not attract the same business as a building with large signage carefully designed and located to maximise impact.
Many say that the main catchment area of a facility is within a three-mile radius. This factor varies considerably but it would be reasonable to assume that a minimum of 50% of the customers will be based within a three-mile radius so the population within that radius is a key consideration and then to a lesser degree the population within a 3-6 mile radius.
Large UK operators will look for sites in densely populated conurbations with a minimum of 100,000 people. As penetration of the UK market increases and consumer awareness of self-storage develops then this minimum criteria will also reduce.
Competition can be healthy as it helps to promote the concept and thereby develop the market for all operators. Some choose to locate near to existing operators although most would prefer to find a location that has little or no local competition and ideally in an area with such poor availability of suitable industrial premises that it is unlikely that competitors will arrive in the future.
In the U.K. the vast majority of facilities are converted warehouses, often offering no external access units. The type of buildings converted, varies considerably from old multi-storey mill buildings, low-grade office blocks, lofty buildings of almost any description including dis-used cinemas, fire stations etc. The small number of facilities which have been purpose built have been multi-storey, although some incorporate external units as well.
General appearance of the building is important to the potential customer. A building that externally appears to the consumer's eye to be a new or very modern building will be more appealing to the customer than an older looking building. The modern looking facility can be perceived as providing a better quality product and therefore have a price comparison advantage.
The most important statistic from a financial point of view in finding the building, is the net lettable area i.e. the total area of unit floor space. The established self-storage industry refers to the net lettable or rentable area more than any other calculation and generally speaking many of the overheads are fixed regardless of the size of the facility, the larger the facility the greater the profit margin at maximum occupancy.
A smaller facility will reach a break-even position earlier than a larger facility but a larger facility will obviously provide greater long-term mature revenue. In the UK the optimum rentable area for a facility varies from 25-75,000 sq ft from operator to operator.