Storage Wars was a fascinating programme in BBC2's Business Boomers strand on the growth of the self storage industry in the UK.
This programme started off with a rather strange man who had filled his home with Star Wars and other SciFi memorabilia to the point that he had to put the lot into storage. It was costing him thousands of pounds to store his habit... and keep his wife! She was heard muttering furiously about not being able to afford a holiday because of the hundreds they spent every month on housing his hoard.
By the end of the programme, he had been persuaded to get rid of some of his hoard and was moving some of the remainder out of storage into a couple of big sheds he had had constructed in his back garden. He had cut his storage bill but he still needed to finance it because he could not bear to get rid of these statues and models.
These days we have six times more 'stuff' than our parents. And we are terrified of getting rid of it - just in case we might need it in the future. So, out of sight is out of mind.
Self storage only came into being 30 years ago, but Brits now spend nearly half a billion pounds a year renting empty space but how did this staple of British life come into being? From America of course. They got the self storage habit way before we did with all the stuff they had to have to make them feel worthy.
In 1964 in Odessa, Texas, Munn and Williams opened the first A1 U Store It, You Lock It, You Take Away The Key facility for visiting oil workers to keep their tools. However, it was the local housewives who showed up with sofas and toasters. And so it began.
A British businessmen visiting Los Angeles saw one of the new self storage warehouses and realised that this was something that could be successful here in the UK.
So he set about finding unused warehouses on industrial estates that could be converted into storage units of varying sizes.
And there were a lot of them. It was easy to get planning permission changed from industrial to storage and cheap to convert the big spaces into smaller units. And there were lots of people who wanted to make use of the service.
But it was not an industry that was perceived as a sexy, money making product so finding financial backers was very hard.
However, a few years later, it became a booming market with lots of profits to be made. But the stats showed that 40% of the customer base were women. And women did not want to go to the back end of some deserted industrial estate.
How Big Yellow used SEO to become the behemoth of self storage
The Big Yellow Storage people hit the ground running with plenty of cash behind them and they started constructing purpose built, eye catching units that were twice as big as those offered by their competitors. And they built them on main roads where mums on the school run and women on their way to work would see them.
[Tweet "Self Storage used SEO to capitalise on their high visibility in the real world"]
So they started to become familiar with the brand. Then, when they realised that they needed storage, they would go onto the internet and see Big Yellow at the top of the paid listings and in several places in the organics. Because they recognised the name, that's where they would click. And this is what SEO is all about - seen everywhere online to reinforce the message being put out by your real world marketing.
Small businesses operating out of self storage units
But it wasn't just mums after storage. Many of the units around Britain are actually workplaces.
In 2012, 20 shops closed in our town centres every day. With the boom of the internet, many of today's businesses operate out of a self storage outlet.
They can increase the size of their space when it is needed and reduce it again at quiet times. It is ideal and 42% of all self storage space is taken by businesses and it's increasing by 10% every year.
[Tweet "42% of self storage space is occupied by small businesses"]
The programme showed a martial arts gym using two or three of the units converted into one.
The storage warehouses themselves are cheap to construct and require very few staff to run them. Add to that very little heat or light requirements and there is a lot of profit to be made.
However, every so often, someone doesn't pay their bill and the storage provider has to go in and clear out their bits and pieces.
There may be something of value to offset against the outstanding bill but they very rarely make their money back.
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