When Quick Self Storage opened in November 2019, store manager Drew Dempsey was expecting a gentle but steady increase of customers.
The arrival of coronavirus, and the subsequent lockdown, has had a huge impact on this young business. But Drew has embraced change and developed a much closer relationship with the local community as a result.
The number of self-storage companies in the UK is on the rise. We may see them as a US concept, but we’ve actually had self-storage businesses here since the 1980s. Today there are an estimated 1,500 locations around the country.
Businesses are certainly enjoying the benefits of having flexible self-storage space available.
While a proportion is taken by international and UK wide companies, local and dot com businesses are seeing advantages as well. The latest report from SSA UK shows that an average of 43 percent of space is taken by business customers.
It was entirely expected that Quick Self Storage would soon see an uptake on the 134 units available.
By offering a variety of different sizes, business and domestic customers can each select just the amount of space they need.
“A 25ft sq unit is roughly the size of a single room,” Drew explains. “It’s just right for a sole trader to keep stock, particularly those working from home who don’t want boxes cluttering up their hallways.
We have a number of online traders who retail from home yet keep stock here. We accept deliveries for them, so they can stop by daily to pack parcels and take them off to the courier.”
With business rates rising on inner city properties, it’s no wonder that many retailers keep additional and seasonal stock in storage units, giving them more shop floor to display to customers.
The flexibility of contracts means they can take the unit for just the short time they need it.
Accountants, law firms and industries where paper files must be kept for long periods of time use their units as archiving space, keeping that extra room in the office for people, not paperwork.
It’s not just brick and mortar businesses who benefit. Tradesmen prefer units as a damp-free option for tools and materials and far more secure than a van. Landlords find their units a handy place to store furniture, and home crafters can keep their products safe until they sell.
And then, along came Covid-19. Enquiries slowed down from business customers, and almost completely from personal storage customers.
Drew and his team, however, have not been daunted.
“Just like every other business, we had to look at the way we work, change habits and consider different ways to do things. The local business community in Peterborough very quickly adapted to a more online approach. Networking groups have taken their meetings on to video calls and Facebook groups, and there is a very strong sense of working together.
Social distancing is impacting everyone, but we have to look for positives to come out of it. We’ve had to be far more proactive than we would have been, joined more networking events and been more involved on social media.
As a result, we’ve met a lot more local businesses, and we feel very much more involved in the local community.”
Taking a fresh, more digital approach, is not too unusual a step for Quick Self Storage, who is the only storage company in the UK to have keyless security options.
With a simple app, customers can open their storage unit via their phone, meaning no lost keys and access for any employee they choose. Every unit also has movement sensors and intruder alarms, in addition to standard CCTV.
Drew says, “The residents of Peterborough have been amazing. There has been a tremendous sense of working together, both in business and in the community. We’re proud to be a part of that in every way we can.
“Quick Self Storage is acting as a collection point for a local charity, Peterborough4You, who are taking donations of gifts, and sewing scrubs for carers and residents of care homes. If you have anything you can donate, we’ve got distancing measures in place so you can drop it off safely.”