International Trade

What's "in-store" for the UK storage industry this, and next year?

4 min read

20 February 2019

What will the future hold for the UK's storage industry? Considering Brexit and the economic decline of the high-street to contend with, whose goods do storage companies hope to store in the future? The answer? Online retail SMEs who are flourishing in this environment.

We’re living in an era where the UK retail industry is facing a struggle of epic proportions. In particular, high-street retailers are failing to sell well. This, in turn, means they’re facing mounting storage overheads. So does this mean the storage industry is at risk too?

The storage industry isn’t over, it’s evolving

The decline of the high-street has left big retailers with masses of discounted and unsold stock sitting in storage, gathering dust, and costing them money. All this considered, how can any storage business persuade big retailers that they still need their services?

Well, when it comes to our own self-storage brand, Safestore, it’s not the big retailers we’re focussing on. In fact, it’s e-commerce SMEs that we’re watching with interest. Online SME retailers are the ones that benefit most from self-storage services. Why? Let me explain…

Forget high-street giants, retail SMEs are the self-storage industry’s best customers

We don’t see a lot of the traditional bricks and mortar retail shops using our services, and that doesn’t matter to us. Why? Because we’re focusing on supporting online retail SMEs to grow and scale up.

Many of these are e-commerce stores and a growing market of Ebay or Etsy sellers or wholesalers. This is an area that seems to be flourishing and self-storage is ideal for businesses of this size because it’s flexible on size and can be very cost effective.

Different storage requirements between big retailers and SME retailers

Typically, we find that big high street stores will have specific storage and stock facilities within their retail premises so there’s often not a huge amount of requirement for additional stock storage. Larger retailers will have distinct warehousing and logistics facilities for much greater stock management.

Online marketplaces are great accelerators for retail SMEs

One area that is growing rapidly is Ebay and Etsy sellers; often thought of as small stay at home operations, we are starting to see these retail SMEs scale up to significantly sized enterprises and setting up shops on sites like Ebay, Amazon and Etsy to grow and scale their retail offering.

Gain access to limitless customer traffic via online marketplaces

This creates an ideal opportunity for a small retailer, rather than relying on foot traffic or creating demand for yourself, emerging retailers can go to where a huge customer base already is, and benefit from traffic and sales they may not otherwise have access to.

There are still, of course, a handful of retailers who operate exclusively within a “traditional” retail outlet, and it’s certainly nice to see one or two of them thrive and expand their storage requirements, though this is certainly the exception now as opposed to the rule.

How about the Brexit interplay? Focus beyond the EU

Brexit seemingly, as of yet, has had no direct impact on our business.

Within the Safestore facility in Birmingham, a lot of our customer base who import does this outside of the EU. So whilst we will likely feel an impact of changed tariffs in the coming weeks and months, for the average retail business within our customer subset, we remain hopeful that they will continue to grow and thrive, importing and exporting goods for countries that are not within the EU.

Brexit predictions are useless, let’s wait for the outcome

Though, when it comes to Brexit predictions, we, like the rest of the country, and probably the world, remain uncertain about the direct impact Brexit will have on our industry, if any…