Archive mensuelle mai 2005

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La vague des fusions dans le self-stockage anglais atteint les côtes françaises

Une pièce en plus, la filiale du groupe Safestore vient d’acquérir les 17 sites français d’Access self-stockage. Elle devient par la même le deuxième opérateur de self-stockage en France avec 20 sites en région parisienne, 3 sur Lyon et un à Nice

Access self-stockage qui était issue de la fusion d’Access, À la clef, Abri-Stock et Alfa self stockage, est composé de bâtiments très variés, reconvertis pour le self stockage, et en majorité en location. Un long travail d’intégration et d’homogénéisation attend maintenant l’équipe dirigeante d’Une pièce en plus.

Ceci n’empêche pas Une pièce en plus de continuer le développement de nouveaux sites, avec deux sites qui devraient ouvrir cette année région parisienne.

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Les Pages Jaunes coûtent chères, doublez leur rentabilité.

Encore aujourd’hui, les pages jaunes restent le mode publicitaire le plus efficace dans l’activité de self stockage Lyon ou votre garde meubles à Bordeaux, reste seulement à bien l’utiliser. Tout d’abord le choix de la rubrique est très important, puis la rédaction de l’annonce elle-même

Actuellement les Pages Jaunes proposent des rubriques telles que garde-meubles, location de boxes… Votre encart va être noyé au milieu d’une multitude de propositions, et la taille de l’encart ne vous classera pas en premier pour autant.

Le choix n’est pas aisé, le manque de connaissance du métier par le public impose de se positionner sur plusieurs rubriques. Notre dernier sondage, montre que la rubrique garde-meubles reste pour l’instant la principale rubrique (47% des suffrages), suivie par stockage (boxes de stockage individuels) et enfin déménagement.

Afin de vous conforter, et d’évoluer dans votre choix de rubrique, répertoriez tous les appels, demandes, afin de connaître la façon dont on vous a connu : Pages Jaunes, signalétique, prospectus, panneaux, presse…. Cet outil indispensable vous permet de quantifier chaque mode publicitaire, et ainsi de l’accentuer en fonction du taux de retour.

La réalisation d’une publicité dans les Pages Jaunes répond à un certain nombre de critères autres que purement esthétiques. Tous les conseils et superbe mise en page que l’on pourra vous proposer ne compenseront pas le non respect de quelques règles essentielles.

[b]Votre Titre [/b]

L’élément le plus important de votre annonce est votre titre. Beaucoup de sites de stockage mettent leur nom commercial en premier sur l’annonce, c’est un mauvais choix. Votre titre est l’accroche de votre annonce. Vouloir satisfaire votre ego avec votre nom en évidence, n’a pas de logique commerciale. Qui va être interpellé par votre nom, au milieu des multiples annonces, pensez-vous réellement que les clients viennent pour votre belle enseigne ?

Non, bien sûr, c’est ce que vous leur offrez qui les intéresse, et surtout ce qui vous différencie des autres. C’est cette particularité, cette offre de vente unique qu’il faut mettre en avant. Par exemple, « l’ouverture 24h/24 et 7jours sur 7 », « l’emplacement en centre-ville », … Le titre est l’élément le plus important d’une annonce de Pages Jaunes. Elle interpellera des prospects dans leurs recherches si vous l’employez efficacement.

La rédaction du titre devra être accrocheuse, comme « le seul site ouvert 24h/24 », « site unique au centre-ville ».

[b]Lister les services et leurs avantages [/b]

La plupart des prospects qui vont lire votre annonce, n’ont jamais loué de box auparavant. Ils ne connaissent pas le fonctionnement, il est important de lister les services et de préciser pour chacun l’avantage, l’intérêt qui en découle.
Voici un exemple : « chaque box a une alarme individuelle », il faudra préciser : « ceci nous permet de savoir quand une personne non autorisée a essayé d’entrer dans le box. » Si le service est « accès 24h/24 », l’avantage est : « ainsi vous pouvez disposer de vos affaires à tout moment, nuit et jour ».

Plan d’accès
Une carte routière petite mais lisible devrait être incluse dans chaque annonce des pages Jaunes. Elle doit fournir les indications principales pour arriver au site. Le but de la carte est de montrer aux gens dans quel secteur le site se trouve. Il est important de préciser l’implantation d’un supermarché ou commerce connu. Cette carte ne doit pas excéder un 6ème de l’annonce.
Si vous utilisez ces conseils à bon escient, vous allez voir presque instantanément vos retombées publicitaires augmentez.

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Financing in the U.K. Self-Storage Market

Fast growth, enormous potential attract investors

By Andrew Jacobs
The U.S. self-storage market is more than 30 years old and comprises more than 37,000 properties, with an average occupancy of 84.6 percent. It has grown rapidly from 1992, when 19,500 properties experienced an average occupancy rate of 84.8 percent. The U.K. market, on the other hand, is in its early stages, with only 400 facilities. U.K. investors and financiers, encouraged by cross-cultural comparisons, are hopeful their immature self-storage market will follow the product growth enjoyed in the United States over the past few decades.

The U.K. storage market has two distinct characteristics: It is highly fragmented and growing extremely fast. Both are attractive to financiers, as consolidation and growth in any industry require money. The rapid expansion and earning potential of self-storage in the United Kingdom is driving consolidation at the top and bottom ends of the market. The bigger companies in the sector are using their tremendous buying power to seize market share and force operational efficiencies via information-technology systems.

A year ago, the four major U.K. self-storage players were quoted on the London Stock Exchange (LSE): Big Yellow, Lok’nStore, Mentmore and Safestore. These companies used their quoted status to raise capital through the equity markets. The strategy allowed them to avoid expensive debt and finance growth early in the establishment of businesses that, at the time, weren’t generating cash, let alone profits.

The consolidation that has taken place in the United Kingdom over the past year is largely due to U.S. financial institutions that see the enormous potential for growth. U.S. private-equity business Bridgepoint bought Safestore in August 2003 and took it private. In 2004, following a bidding war against Guy Hands, another private-equity player, Safestore—again backed by Bridgepoint—bought Mentmore. Mentmore was removed from the LSE and assimilated into the Safestore business. It’s now the largest U.K. self-storage player, with 70 stores across the country.

Debt vs. Equity Financing

Top-end consolidation of the market is sensible because debt is a cheap way of financing growth in a period of sustained low interest rates. The cost of capital has decreased relative to equity finance, which is relatively expensive in a low-interest-rate environment.

In neither the equity nor debt-financed models are businesses run for dividend flow. It isn’t yield that interests either set of investors at this early stage. They are looking at capital growth and gaining a strong market position for future expansion and dividends. At this point, all the U.K. players are driving for scale and site location, key tenets to a successful business going forward.

There are advantages to both financing models. Being quoted on the LSE allows businesses to issue paper to finance growth, and that motivates those involved—including board members, storage managers and sales teams. Lok’nStore aligned the interests of much of its staff with shareholders by issuing options and discounted shares. The move has yielded significant results, creating motivated team members focused on what they need to make good money for themselves and, therefore, shareholders.

Big Players and the LSE

After the sales of Safestore and Mentmore, the only other LSE quoted player is Big Yellow, which has 32 stores and has just been reclassified from the Support Services sector to the Real Estate sector—an interesting move. This has been done to encourage the City to value the business—not on a discounted cash-flow basis, but in terms of its net asset value. Big Yellow accompanied its announcement with news the company will commission an external valuation of its property assets, all in an attempt to get a higher rating.

The U.K. industry expects Safestore to come back to the market and list on the LSE at some point as Bridgepoint looks for an exit. The move will come as the cost of debt increases in the future and the entire industry matures; all the players will generate not only significant cash, but profits to pay generous dividends to shareholders.

This move would be welcomed by Lok’nStore. A problem with having only two quoted self-storage companies listed on the LSE is the relative lack of comparative businesses. The more quoted players there are, the more interest broking houses will show. Also, it increases the following of sell-side analysts and attracts more investors in the sector, which, again, helps communicate the value of the business and drives liquidity. Lok’nStore’s rating would likely improve if there were more listed self-storage companies.

The relatively green U.K. market is growing fast and already generating noteworthy amounts of cash. It is showing every sign that it will follow the United States in terms of growth, profitability and continued consolidation. An interesting and exciting few years lie ahead for the industry and its financiers as U.K. self-storage grows from adolescence to adulthood.

Andrew Jacobs is chief executive of Lok’nStore Group PLC, one of two self-storage companies quoted on the London Stock Exchange. For more information, visit www.loknstore.co.uk.

This article was reprinted with permission from Inside Self-Storage magazine, the premier magazine of self-storage professionals. For more information, visit www.insideselfstorage.com.

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Huge in the US, gaining ground in UK

Self-storage is big business in the US where it has been established for over 40 years and everything we are seeing anecdotally suggests the concept is gaining in popularity here too.

The concept of self-storage is simple enough. It is basically do-it-yourself warehouse storage space for businesses and households on a pay-as-you-go basis. Every customer is provided with a set of keys and access to goods is 7 days a week. The installation of CCTV cameras, fire alarms and remote monitoring systems provides for high level security at all times. Our research indicates that the average price for a 50 sq ft box is £65 per month, dependent on location, so this is a low-ticket item.

In addition demand tends to be price-inelastic because it is based on the growing need for flexibility. Key industry growth drivers include a rising level of consumer familiarity, an active housing market, increasing population mobility and cultural changes that have led to a rise in the divorce rate and single parent families.

In the business category, Lok’nStore says retailers, removal companies, manufacturers and even councils and universities are all using self storage to cope with peak trading periods such as the run up to Christmas, for instance.

Latest industry estimates suggest the US has over 35,000 self-storage centres, or c.4.5 sq ft per head of population. The numbers for the UK are c.400 selfstorage centres providing the equivalent of c. 0.2 sq ft per head of population. Lok’nStore management believe the UK could potentially support at least 1,500 self-storage sites.

Presently, 70% of the available sq ft in the UK is based in the South of England, partly because of high catchments of A-B-C socio-economic groups, but also because of high penetration rates that allow for multiple stores in any one location.

Obtaining external estimates on the growth of the UK self-storage industry is difficult – this is an immature market that has only truly been established since the early 1990’s. Anecdotal evidence from the industry’s 5 biggest players, Shurguard, ACCESS, Safestore/Mentmore, Big Yellow and Lok’nStore (which between them control 45% of the market in terms of developed space) all point to growth of 20% 4 plus over the past five years however, and most industry observers believe this trend is set to continue.

In its latest results to end March 2004, Big Yellow reported sales growth in its mature outlets of 17% while the growth reported by Lok’nStore’s eight stores over 5 years of age in the year to end July was 17.8%. Below the 5 leading players, we believe the selfstorage market in the UK is still very fragmented with a high proportion of small operators running between one and five units.

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Safestore, five months to integrate two large self storage companies

It’s doubtful if a textbook has been published on how to take over another self storage company and integrate it with your own. This meant that Steve Williams and his newly formed integration team had to rely on experience to take them through the process when Safestore completed the acquisition of Mentmore (Spaces) in June last year.

The addition of the Spaces stores means that Safestore is the only national UK self storage company, trading from 70 stores and three business centres across Scotland, Wales and all regions of England. In addition there are seven stores in Paris, trading under the Une Piece en Plus (UPP) brand.
When it became apparent that Mentmore could be up for sale Steve Williams and Dave Davies (head of operations) went on an investigative tour visiting every Spaces store.
“We visited every one to get a view of the business and the people,” said Dave. They built up a comprehensive analysis of the portfolio on a store-by-store basis that was to prove invaluable in the following months.
An integration team of Dave Davies, Stuart Beavers, Avril Jones and Bijal Dohdia was selected because they each had relevant experience and expertise. Steve had started his career as store manager at Payless DIY in 1971 eventually becoming operations director for Payless and thence for Wickes and Pet City/Petsmart before joining Safestore.
At Payless DIY and Pet City he was involved in both acquisitions and re-branding. Dave (operations), Stuart (administration), Avril (human resources) and Bijal (IT) also had extensive on the job experience of mergers, acquisitions and integration. The team concentrated on putting together an acquisition strategy document supported by a detailed critical path and action plan. The document covered every aspect of the business and acquisition, including a full assessment of risks, threats and opportunities. The plan is still reviewed on a very regular basis.
“One of the most important factors was to start working towards ‘one company – one team’ from the off and for all staff to understand the benefits, opportunities and responsibilities associated with being the UK’s number one self storage company,” said Steve.
To this end, “A national managers’ conference was held within a week of the two businesses coming together where we got everyone together and outlined our plans for the integration of the larger business. Two senior managers from France were also there,” recalled Steve.
“We decided not to impose policy on the French operation – it was up to them to accept or ignore our suggestions, but they have accepted 80% of our operational procedures as well as increasing merchandising and larger and more open reception areas,” said Steve.
The major thrust of the integration was around the “way forward” programme, which was a 24 week programme designed to introduce common working practices, the achievement of a minimum store standard and a unified approach to sales and customer service across the whole enlarged business.
Over a four-week period following the merger, every manager and assistant manager attended a training course in sales skills and customer service, and new policies and procedures were introduced via regular managers meetings throughout the programme.
Without doubt, however the biggest challenge was to get all stores to a consistent standard of cleanliness and appearance. The responsibility for this was given to the store managers and their teams who personally undertook a co-ordinated cleaning and painting programme over September, October and November, after which they remain responsible for the ongoing cleaning.
The reason for this, Steve stresses, is to give the store team ownership of, and pride in their store. For the record some 2.5 million sq ft of floor has been painted and over £100,000 paid in bonuses to staff at all levels upon successful completion.
“Alongside the staff’s efforts to paint and clean, we had outstanding work and repairs completed on the newly acquired stores, and we have had over 1,000 urgently required units built since June, said Steve.
All stores will be re-branded Safestore by the end of 2005, with the first store completed at Orpington in Kent in early December 2004.
One of the first, and biggest tasks facing the team was to amalgamate three head offices, two of Mentmore and one of Safestore’s, in to one combined function. This was achieved within seven weeks, and the head office now occupies an impressive modern and spacious open plan office adjacent to the existing Safestore store in Borehamwood.
As head of IT, Bijal took responsibility for integrating the management information and finance data for the two companies. The management information system chosen was Spacemanager for Windows, which was the system operated by Safestore.
This had been running on a centralised server for over 18 months and was proven, efficient, reliable and allowed the production of real-time information in a timely manner.
To run the enlarged company an enhanced trading board headed by Steve and including Dave Davies and Glen Sullivan Bissett, respective divisional directors for North and South, finance director Richard Hodsden, property director.
Neil Moulder, HR director Avril Jones, and marketing director Ian Nash was formed.
The day-to-day operation of the stores is the responsibility of the divisional directors who have seven regional managers and two auditors – who monitor security, health and safety and administration – reporting to them.
“The principle of having auditors works well as they help ensure each store delivers compliance to company policies and a standardised service to all our customers. Each site is graded red, amber or green on a number of criteria, which identifies items which need addressing on a store by store basis,” said Steve.
To date both Spaces and Safestore have performed above budget. “We are the No.1 self storage provider in the UK in terms of customer numbers, square footage, revenue and profit, but in this industry, where we are all basically selling the same product, it is your people that will make the real difference. This is why so much emphasis will be put on training and inspiring our people, alongside our investment in improved services and facilities,” said Steve.
He is on record as saying that competition in the industry will continue to intensify and any business that wants to remain successful must respond and continue to up their game if they want to survive long term.
“Standards will continue to rise and to remain successful you have to keep improving; this business is improving at a rapid pace and you need to keep running to just to stand still. With new stores such as Staples Corner and Charlton we have stores that are equal to any.”
Safestore is targeting to open 30 more stores in the UK and France over the next five years. In addition it may continue on the acquisition trail if any good quality and reasonably priced companies come their way. This could be in the UK or mainland Europe.
“We are not here for the short term,” says Steve, who stated that one of the company’s key visions was “to build a profitable and sustainable business”.
This means that the company will continue to invest in the business and its staff, through both the opening of new stores and the continued enhancement of services and facilities across the existing portfolio.
Safestore have a very detailed property strategy to aid expansion. The next new store is due to open on Pentonville Road in London this April followed by two further stores in Paris during the summer. Several further potential sites are currently under active discussion.
They are also becoming increasingly innovative in attracting details of potential sites, including an offer to all Focus readers and everyone in the industry of £10,000 for the introduction of a site, which the company is not already aware of, and that it subsequently develops.
Details of potential sites should be communicated in the first instance to Neil Moulder, property director at property@safestore.co.uk
The company operates with approximately 60% freehold and 40% leasehold property. “We are not a property company, we are a retail business offering customers a service,” said Steve.
Safestore’s latest store opened at Staples Corner, London on 25 November 2004, adjacent to Big Yellow.
The store is bright throughout. Light is everything with continuous runs of florescent lighting in the passageways. This means that customers feel secure even when they visit the site in the middle of the night, as it is open 24 hours a day.
Security is very visible, with a bank of three monitors in reception and a swipe card entry system. Security is further enhanced by individually alarmed units. The store has 212 Active Supply and Design-built units varying from 10 sq ft to 200 sq ft, on the ground floor, and 210 on the first, with capacity for same-again on the top floor when it is fitted out.
Being on the Staples Corner Business Park its mix is inevitable weighted to business lets. A month after opening, its occupancy was 70% business to 30% domestic. No one is complaining, and the success follows the extensive marketing drive that North London area manager Andy Thomas and store manager Patrick Kennealy have led.
The team keep the store spick and span by carrying out their own cleaning; they also carried out the local marketing supported by the central marketing function. For instance, when the store first opened, they hired three Smart Cars and liveried them in the company colours and toured, in convoy, a five mile radius catchment area to carry out leaflet drops. With the company’s updated website and the marketing drive of the staff, the fill rate has exceeded target. “We’ve started very well,” says Andy.
The store has four staff – manager, assistant manager, and two reception staff. It is open 24/7, but the reception is open 8 to 6 Monday to Saturday, with late opening until 8pm Thursday, on Sundays 10 to 4 and Bank Holidays 8 to 2pm.
“We offer a one stop shop for businesses with offices now being refurbished, van-hire and units – it’s an ideal location for a small or start-up businesses,” says Patrick.
The new store endorses the company’s philosophy that it is a retail business. You can not fail to be impressed by the inviting shiny-floored, air conditioned, glass-walled reception area with over 80ft of well displayed storage items such as cartons, tape, bubble wrap and everything you would need to pack, store or move your goods. In addition Safestore offers it’s customers saver kits of cartons that come in three size options, all meaning a considerable saving over the individual price for the customer. Following the company’s philosophy the staff assemble the saver kit themselves.
“Our lowest price guarantee gives our managers confidence that they cannot be undersold,” said Steve, adding that if any competitors was to offer silly prices in competition to one of its stores Safestore would always go 5% under that.
Safestore simply will not be beaten on price or value.
Much of the integration process is now complete, but the company is continuing to work towards the “one company, one brand, one team” philosophy and building a first class business.
Steve says he is proud of what the team have achieved over the last few years but is now focussed on the future and continuing to improve the business for both customers and employees alike. We simply want Safestore to be the preferred choice of our employees and our customers.

This article first appeared in Focus, the official journal of the Self Storage Association. www.ssauk.com

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