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Rennie Schafer: Meet the SSA’s new CEO

Oct 08, 2013
The Mover Magazine was eager to catch up with one of its key speakers from the upcoming Mover Conference 2013 in October. The Self Storage Association’s (SSA) new UK CEO – Rennie Schafer - took time out of his busy schedule to talk about the future, industry changes and what benefits the organisation can bring to its members.


 



With 15 years of association management, including nine years as the CEO for the SSA in Australasia, Rennie and his family moved to the UK for new life challenges. As the self storage industry is about eight years younger in the UK than in Australia, he’s risen to the task of increasing awareness of the Association within the industry and with the public.

 

The SSA, much like the BAR, brings communication and information sharing to its 400 plus membership as well as building a good working community in the self storage world. Rennie pointed out that membership has given confidence to members that there is somebody out there to keep them abreast of big changes in legislation and UK law (i.e. the introduction of VAT in 2012 to storage fees).  This facility certainly helps smaller companies who don’t always have the resources to keep up to date with the latest regulations.  Courses and focussed industry sessions on self promotion, marketing and operations are also run by the SSA.

 

Rennie sees one of the major challenges for the industry is to educate the public about the self storage industry itself. This is because the culture of self storage in the UK and the rest of Europe is still relatively young compared to the USA and Australasia.  The public are still getting to know what self storage is and what the facilities can bring to make their lives easier. For instance, people that may be temporarily downsizing or a firm that has storage issues may not yet realise that self storage is a very useful and cost-effective service.  In today’s climate of online shopping, self storage units with 24-hour access can allow for a simple and cheap place to keep stock and run a small business from. It’s a part of the SSA’s remit to educate and promote the industry’s values to its members so they can engage with their public at large. “A culture change is required,” said Rennie. “The public need to be educated about the product, before the brands.”

 

Rennie went on to discuss the SSA’s membership Standard that endorsed self storage companies who meet entry level criteria. Companies that apply to the SSA receive a copy of the Standard and a site visit to make sure that both their operations and facilities comply.

 

The SSA is still working on its public profile but Rennie said that it’s also up to individual self storage companies to promote themselves through their own marketing and advertising. “We want to be an inclusive association that welcomes as many companies across the full strata of self storage,” Rennie added, “We want everybody from container storage operators to the industry giants. For the future, the SSA hopes to foster a strong industry and look after our members so that they can give a good service with a working knowledge of UK legislation and standards.”

 

Currently, the Association has 405 members across 750 sites in the UK. Domestic customers represent 67% of the industry at present with about one-third remaining for the commercial sector.  There is, clearly, plenty of room for the commercial sector to continue growing.

 

Rennie Schafer will be speaking about the benefits of SSA membership and the self storage industry at The Mover Conference 2013 at Silverstone Race Circuit on the 22nd/23rd October.

 

For tickets book online at www.themover.co.uk

Photo: Rennie Schafer outside the SSA office in Nantwich

 

Self storage key facts 

 

  • In 2012, VAT was introduced on all self storage. This resulted in a slight decrease in rents because some operators have chosen to absorb the increases.

  • The average net billed room rate has fallen by over 5% to £19.96 per sq ft per annum.

  • London has the highest billed room rate at £28.33 per sq ft per annum.

  • The average occupancy in mature facilities (complexes older than 6 yrs) has fallen from 70% to 68%.

  • In London, the occupancy rate has fallen from 75% to 71%.

  • Commercial lets increased from 39% to 42% this year.

  • The average length of a hire for all customers has risen from 37 to 41 weeks.

  • 81% of self storage firms plan to open new facilities in 2013. 11% have firm plans to expand. Within existing facilities, there is 1.6m sq ft of potential expansion space (this is equivalent to 30 football pitches.)

  • 79% of self storage companies expect to be able to increase their room rates for new customers next year.
  • 81% expect profit margins to remain stable.

Facts extracted from The Self Storage Association UK Annual Survey 2013 compiled by Deloitte.

 

 

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