Strategy

The Group’s proven strategy has evolved over the last three years with the creation of our joint venture1 with Carlyle and our acquisition of OhMyBox (“OMB”) in Barcelona. We believe that the Group has a well-located asset base, management expertise, infrastructure, scale and balance sheet strength and, as we look forward, we consider that the Group has the potential to further increase its Earnings per Share by:

  • optimising the trading performance of the existing portfolio;
  • maintaining a strong and flexible capital structure; and
  • taking advantage of selective portfolio management and expansion opportunities in our existing markets and, if appropriate, in attractive new geographies either through a jventure1 or in our own right.

In addition, the Group’s strategy is pursued whilst maintaining a strong focus on Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) matters and a summary of our ESG strategy is provided below.


1 – The joint venture with CERF, which represents a 20% investment, has been accounted for as an associate using the equity method of accounting, as described in the “Investment in associates” note to the financial statements.

Optimisation of Existing Portfolio

With the opening of 17 new stores since August 2016, and the acquisitions of 31 stores through the purchases of Space Maker in July 2016, Alligator in November 2017, our Heathrow store, Fort Box in London and OMB in Barcelona in 2019, we have established and strengthened our market-leading portfolio in the UK and Paris and have entered the Spanish market. We have a high quality, fully invested estate in all geographies and, of our 161 stores as at 31 October 2021, 100 are in London and the South East of England or in Paris, with 57 in the other major UK cities and four in Barcelona. In the UK, we now operate 48 stores within the M25, which represents a higher number of stores than any other competitor.

Our MLA1 has increased to 6.96 million sq ft at 31 October 2021 (2020: 6.86 million sq ft). At the current occupancy level of 84.5% we have 1.1 million sq ft of fully invested unoccupied space (1.8 million including the development pipeline), of which 0.8 million sq ft is in our UK stores and 0.3 million sq ft is in Paris. In total, this unlet space is the equivalent of circa 27.5 empty stores located across the estate and provides the Group with significant opportunity to grow further. We have a proven track record of filling our vacant space so we view this availability of space with considerable optimism. We will also benefit from the operational leverage from the fact that this available space is fully invested and the related operating costs are essentially fixed and already included in the Group cost base. Our continued focus will be on ensuring that we drive occupancy to utilise this capacity at carefully managed rates. Between the full financial years 2013 and 2021, occupancy of the stores in the portfolio in 2013 that remain in the Group today has increased from 63.1% to 86.0% i.e. an average of 2.9pptsper year and equivalent to a total of 2 million sq ft
 
There are three elements that are critical to the optimisation of our existing portfolio.

  • enquiry generation through an effective and efficient marketing operation;
  • strong conversion of enquiries into new lets; and
  • disciplined central revenue management and cost control.

Digital marketing expertise – UK Number 1 Self Storage Brand
 
Awareness of self storage remains relatively low with 50% (FY2020: 52%) of the UK population either knowing very little or nothing about self storage (source: 2021 SSA Annual Report). In the UK, many of our new customers are using self storage for the first time. It is largely a brand blind purchase. Typically, customers requiring storage start their journey by conducting online research using generic keywords in their locality (e.g. “storage in Borehamwood”, “self storage near me”) which means that geographic coverage and search engine prominence remain key competitive advantages.

We believe there is a clear benefit of scale in the generation of customer enquiries. The Group has continued to invest in technology and in-house expertise which has resulted in the development of a leading digital marketing platform that has generated 63% enquiry growth for the Group over the last five years. Our in-house expertise and significant annual budget have enabled us to deliver strong results. Safestore is the UK number 1 self storage brand as it moves in more customers per year than any other brand.

The Group’s online strength came to the fore during the various Covid-19 lockdowns and has since continued to support customer acquisition growth. Online enquiries in FY2021 rose to 89% of our enquiries in the UK (FY2020: 88%) and 85% in France (FY2020: 79%). Approximately 64% of our online enquiries in the UK originate from a mobile device (excluding tablets), compared to c. 60% last year, highlighting the need for continual investment in our responsive web platform for a “mobile-first” world. We continue to invest in activities that promote a strong search engine presence to grow enquiry volume whilst managing efficiency in terms of overall cost per enquiry and cost per new let.  UK enquiries increased by 25% whereas costs per enquiry decreased by 23%. Group marketing costs as a percentage of revenue were 3.7% for the full year (FY2020: 4.5%).

During the year, the Group demonstrated its ability to integrate newly developed and acquired stores into its marketing platform with successful new openings at Birmingham Middleway and Paris Magenta. The joint venture managed by the Group in the Netherlands expanded its coverage beyond Amsterdam and Haarlem with the acquisition and integration of stores in The Hague and Het Gooi, north of Hilversum. The Group also completed the integration of OMB (Spain, acquired December 2019) onto the Safestore platform with uplifts seen in both enquiry generation and marketing efficiency. Spanish cost per enquiry, for example was reduced by c. 60% although the number of enquiries more than doubled. With the integration of OMB, the Group has now completed the on-boarding of all of its managed brands onto its Digital platform.

In February 2021, Safestore UK won the Feefo Platinum Trusted Service award for the second time. The award is given to businesses which have achieved Gold standard for three consecutive years. It is an independent mark of excellence that recognises businesses for delivering exceptional experiences, as rated by real customers. In addition to using Feefo, Safestore invites customers to leave a review on a number of review platforms, including Google and Trustpilot. Our ratings for each of these three providers in the UK are between 4.7 and 4.8 out of 5. This way, wherever customers look for trust and reputational signals about Safestore, they will see an impartial view of our excellent customer satisfaction. In France, Une Pièce en Plus uses Trustpilot to obtain independent customer reviews. In FY2021, 93% of customers rated their service experience as “Excellent” or “Great” resulting in a TrustScore of 4.6 out of 5. In Spain, OMB collects customer feedback via Google reviews and has maintained a score of at least 4.8 out of 5.
 
Motivated and effective store teams benefiting from improved training and development
 
In what is still a relatively immature and poorly understood product, customer service and selling skills at the point of sale remain essential in earning the trust of the customer and in driving the appropriate balance of volumes and unit price in order to optimise revenue growth in each store.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been fast moving and uncertain but our teams created and implemented our plans quickly. The health, safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and customers is of paramount importance and all sites were operated in accordance with UK government guidelines in providing a Covid-19 secure workplace. We consulted our colleagues about managing risks associated with Covid-19, which included collaborating with them about key decisions we made during this time. The decision was taken not to access the UK government’s Covid-19 related support schemes including the job retention scheme. Our colleagues received their full salary entitlement, irrespective of whether they were working reduced hours or were unable to work because they were self-isolating.

Our enthusiastic, well-trained and customer-centric sales team remains a key differentiator and a strength of our business. Understanding the needs of our customers and using this knowledge to develop in-store trusted advisers is a fundamental part of driving revenue growth and market share.

Safestore has been an Investors in People (“IIP”) organisation since 2003 and our aim is to be an employer of choice in our sector as we passionately believe that our continued success is dependent on our highly motivated and well-trained colleagues. Following the award of a Bronze standard accreditation in 2015 and our subsequent Gold standard accreditation in 2018, Safestore was awarded the “we invest in people” Platinum accreditation in February 2021, the highest accolade in the Investors in People scale. Shortly after our Platinum accreditation, we also made the final top ten shortlist for the Platinum Employer of the Year (250+) category in the Investors in People Awards 2021. This nomination further endorses the high standard of our teams and the people development programmes that drive our skill and talent retention.

The Investors in People Awards firmly place Safestore in the top 2% of accredited organisations in the UK. The accreditation panel commented: “There are real gains on all of the indicators and individual themes compared to the survey conducted three years ago, and the response rate of 93% is excellent Safestore are a fantastic example of sustained great practice.” – Matthew Filbee, IIP Practitioner.

IIP is the international standard for people management, defining what it takes to lead, support and manage people effectively to achieve sustainable results. Underpinning the standard is the Investors in People framework, reflecting the latest workplace trends, essential skills and effective structures required to outperform in any industry. Investors in People enables organisations to benchmark against the best in the business on an international scale. We are proud to have our colleagues recognised to such a high standard not only in our industry but also across 14,000 organisations in 75 countries. This sustained people development focus is an essential component of our continuous improvement mentality.

We are committed to growing and rewarding our people and tailor our development, reward and recognition programmes to this end. Our IIP recognised coaching programme, launched in 2018, and upgraded every year since, continues to be a driving force behind the continuous performance improvement demonstrated by our store colleagues.

The last 24 months provided a challenging environment requiring us to operate in some new and innovative ways. Our online learning portal, combined with the energy and flexibility of our store colleagues, allowed us to not only continue to deliver our award-winning development programmes but also to capitalise on the strength of our IT platforms. In the first half of 2021 we rolled out our annual sales refresher programme to every store colleague online, utilising some innovative technologies along with more common communication tools such as Microsoft Teams to once again raise our performance bar. As the restrictions in the UK relaxed through the second half of the year, we were able to combine our newly created technology communication skills with our tried and tested face-to-face training sessions. In preparation for the start of our new trading year, early September saw us deliver a newly created “impact” sales refresher, further strengthening our charge into 2022.

We recognised the changing needs and demands of our customers, not only through the challenging times of 2020/21 but through the newly emerging demands and requirements that late 2021 brought. Combining new, along with tried and tested solutions and systems, we are further able to support our store colleagues allowing them to continue to fulfil the needs of our customers.

The day-to-day training and development of our store and customer-facing colleagues is an essential part of our daily routines. Due to the restrictions created by the Covid-19 pandemic, our learning and development programmes have been continually delivered online via our Learning Management System and the use of the digital platforms mentioned above. This allowed us the flexibility to continue with high-quality delivery of our core sales and development modules without the need to meet face-to-face. To support a safe working environment this Learning Management System also provides the opportunity for team members to receive rigorously enforced health and safety, fire and compliance training, ensuring that our colleagues are up to date in relation to their technical knowledge and continue to operate a safe environment for both our colleagues and customers. These tools, systems and resources have allowed us to effectively communicate changes quickly and manage compliance robustly. The onset of a national lockdown in March 2020 did not stop the continued development and training of our colleagues. Our training, developmental, welfare and compliance training modules can all be remotely accessed. Along with our online-learning portal and the adaptation of our face-to-face training programmes into a video-linked Microsoft Teams format, we delivered a continuous seamless learning experience for all our colleagues. The relaxation of the restrictions in mid-2021 has seen us take a blended approach to our training and coaching utilising the best of both remote and face to face engagement.

All new recruits to the business benefit from enhanced induction and training tools that have been developed in-house and enable us to quickly identify high-potential individuals and increase their speed to competency. They receive individual performance targets within four weeks of joining the business and are placed on the “pay-for-skills” programme that allows accelerated basic pay increases dependent on success in demonstrating specific and defined skills. The key target of our programme remains that close to 100% of our Store Manager appointments are internal hires via our Store Manager Development programme, and we are pleased with our progress to date.

Our internal Store Manager Development programme has been in place since 2016 and is a key part of succession planning for future Store Managers. The fifth intake are well underway on their programme for 2021/22, and along with the necessary skills and attributes they need to become a Safestore Store Manager, delegates have the opportunity to gain a nationally recognised qualification from ILM (Institute of Leadership & Management) at Level 3.

Our Store Manager Development programme demonstrates the effectiveness of our learning tools. In a spirit of constant improvement, our content and delivery process is dynamically enhanced through our 360-degree feedback process utilising the learnings from not only the candidates but also from our training Store Managers and senior business leaders. This allows our people to be trained with the knowledge and skills to sell effectively in today’s market place. December 2019 also saw the inaugural launch of our Senior Manager Development programme (“LEAD”) which focuses on developing our high performing middle managers aimed at preparing them for more senior roles within the business. This programme is built on the foundations of our Store Manager Development programme and includes Level 5 accreditation from the Institute of Leadership & Management upon successful completion. Our LEAD group delegates are already delivering performance-enhancing projects to our wider business and are fast heading towards their graduation day.

Our performance dashboard allows our store and field teams to focus on the key operating metrics of the business providing an appropriate level of management information to enable swift decision making. Reporting performance down to individual employee level enhances our competitive approach to team and individual performance. We continue to reward our people for their performance with bonuses of up to 50% of basic salary based on their achievements against individual targets for new lets, occupancy and ancillary sales. In addition, a Values and Behaviours framework is overlaid on individuals’ performance in order to assess team members’ performance and development needs on a quarterly basis.

February 2019 saw the launch of our “Make the Difference” forum when 15 of our colleagues were voted to be the “People Champions” and attend our people’s forum. This initiative allows our champions to be the representative voice for each of the twelve Regions and Head Office in order to influence change and drive improvement for “Our Business, Our Customers and Our Colleagues”.

People Champions:

  • Consult and collect the views and suggestions of all colleagues that they represent.
  • Engage in the bi-annual “Make the Difference Forum”, raising and representing the views of their colleagues.
  • Consult with and discuss feedback with management and the leadership team at Safestore.

2021 saw our people’s forum representative positions up for election after they had successfully completed their 2-year tenure. After a strongly contested election, our 15 new members were elected and they are already delivering high quality contributions to our business.

Our Values and Behaviours framework concentrates our culture on our customers. Customers continue to be at the heart of everything we do, whether it be in store, online or in their communities. In 2021 we further improved our customer ratings when we were awarded the Feefo Platinum trusted service award. Later in the year, we became the only Self Storage provider in the UK to have a 5 star TrustPilot rating. Along with our strong Google ratings, these independent assessments further reflect our ongoing commitment to their satisfaction as the number one storage provider in the UK.
 
Central Revenue Management and Cost Control
 
We continue to pursue a balanced approach to revenue management. We aim to optimise revenue by improving the utilisation of the available space in our portfolio at carefully managed rates. Our central pricing team is responsible for the management of our dynamic pricing policy, the implementation of promotional offers and the identification of additional ancillary revenue opportunities. Whilst price lists are managed centrally and are adjusted on a real time basis, the store sales teams have, from time to time, the ability to offer a Lowest Price Guarantee in the event that a local competitor is offering a lower price. The reduction in the level of discount offered over the last five years is linked to store team variable incentives and is monitored closely by the central pricing team.

 Average rates are predominantly influenced by:

  • the store location and catchment area;
  • the volume of enquiries generated online;
  • the store team's skills at converting these enquiries into new lets at the expected price; and
  • the very granular pricing policy and the confidence provided by analytical capabilities and systems that smaller players might lack.

 We believe that Safestore has a very strong proposition in each of these areas.

Costs are managed centrally with a lean structure maintained at the Head Office. Enhancements to cost control are continually considered and the cost base is challenged on an ongoing basis.

ESG Strategy (Sustainable Self Storage)

Our purpose - to add stakeholder value by developing profitable and sustainable spaces that allow individuals, businesses and local communities to thrive – is supported by the ‘pillars’ of our sustainability strategy: our people, our customers, our community and our environment. In addition, the Group and its stakeholders recognise that its efforts are part of a broader movement and we have therefore aligned our objectives with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”). We reviewed the significance of each goal to our business and the importance of each goal to our stakeholders and assessed our ability to contribute to each goal. Following this materiality exercise, we have chosen to focus our efforts in the areas where we can have a meaningful impact. These are ‘Decent work and economic growth’ (goal 8), ‘Sustainable cities and communities’ (goal 11), ‘Responsible consumption and production’ (goal 12) and ‘Climate action’ (goal 13).

Sustainability is embedded into day-to-day responsibilities at Safestore and, accordingly, we have opted for a governance structure which reflects this. Two members of the Executive Management team co-chair a cross-functional sustainability group consisting of the functional leads responsible for each area of the business.

In 2018, The Group established medium term targets in each of the ‘pillars’ towards which the Group continued recent progress in FY2021.

Our people: Safestore was awarded the prestigious Investors in People (IIP) Platinum accreditation and was in the final top ten shortlist for Platinum Employer of the Year (250+) category in The Investors in People Awards 2021. The Group’s pandemic response in particular has had a profound impact on trust in leadership and colleague engagement and motivation. This year, more than ever, our people have truly made the difference.

Our customers: The Group’s brands continue to deliver a high quality experience, from online enquiry to move-in. This is reflected in customer satisfaction scores on independent review platforms (Trustpilot, Feefo, Google) of over 90% in each market. The introduction of digital contracts during the pandemic offer both customer convenience and a reduction in printing, saving an estimated 156,000 pieces of paper each month.

Our community: Safestore remains committed to being a responsible business by making a positive contribution within the local communities wherever our stores are based. We continue do this by developing brownfield sites and actively engaging with local communities when we establish a new store, identifying and implementing greener approaches in the way we build and operate our stores, helping charities and communities to make better use of limited space and, creating and sustaining local employment opportunities directly, and indirectly through the many small and medium-sized enterprises which use our space.  During the year, the space occupied by local charities in 226 units across 102 stores was 18,266 sq ft and worth £636,945.

Our environment: Safestore is committed to ensuring our buildings are constructed responsibly and their ongoing operation has a minimal impact on local communities and the environment. It should be noted that the self storage sector is not a significant consumer of energy when compared with other real estate subsectors. As a result, operational emissions intensity tends to be far lower. According to a recent report by KPMG & EPRA1, self storage generates the lowest greenhouse gas emissions intensity (5.75 kg/m2 for scope 1 and 2) of all European real estate sub-sectors, with emissions per m2 less than 30% of the European listed real estate average (19.5 kg/m2) and notably 21% of the emissions intensity of the residential sub-sector (27.0 kg/m2). Reflecting the considerable progress made on energy mix, efficiency measures and waste reduction to date, Safestore’s emissions intensity (3.9 kg/m2 in 2020) is considerably lower (-32%) than the self storage subsector average. In FY2021, the Group continued to progress with a further 12% decline in absolute emissions despite continued portfolio growth and greater utilisation of stores compared to 2020. Safestore’s absolute (location-based) emissions are now 53% below, and emissions intensity 65% below the 2013 baseline level despite significant growth in portfolio floor space. Moving forward, the Group has a commitment to be operationally carbon neutral by 2035 with a medium term target to reduce operational emissions (market-based) by 50% compared to the level in FY2021 by 2025. The total investment to achieve carbon neutrality should be around £3 million.

In addition to the IIP award and the customer satisfaction ratings, the Group has received recognition for its sustainability progress and disclosures in FY2021. Safestore has been given a Silver rating in the 2021 EPRA Sustainability BPR awards. The Global ESG Benchmark for Real Assets (“GRESB”) has once again awarded Safestore an ”A” rating in its 2020 Public Disclosures assessment. MSCI has awarded Safestore its second-highest rating of “AA” for ESG in 2021. The Group has also been awarded the highest rating of five stars by Support the Goals, recognising Safestore as the third member of the FTSE 250 to achieve this level.


1 – MLA is Maximum Lettable Area. At 31 October 2021, Group MLA was 6.96 million sq ft (FY2020: 6.86 million sq ft).
 

Strong and Flexible Capital Structure

Strong and flexible capital structure
Since 2014 we have refinanced the business on five occasions, each time optimising our debt structure and improving terms; and believe we have maintained a capital structure that is appropriate for our business and which provides us with the flexibility to take advantage of carefully evaluated development and acquisition opportunities.

At 31 October 2021, based on the current level of borrowings and interest swap rates, the Group’s weighted average cost of debt was 2.36% and 68% of our debt facilities are at fixed rate or hedged. The weighted average maturity of the Group’s drawn debt is 6.2 years at the current period end and the Group’s LTV ratio is 25% as at 31 October 2021.

This LTV and interest cover ratio of 10.5x for the rolling twelve-month period ended 31 October 2021 provides us with significant headroom compared to our banking covenants. We had £252 million of undrawn bank facilities at 31 October 2021 before taking into consideration the additional funding described below.

Taking into account the improvements we have made in the performance of the business and the reduction in underlying finance charges of c. £8.9 million over the last nine years, the Group is capable of generating free cash after dividends sufficient to fund the building of three to four new stores per annum depending on location and availability of land.

The Group evaluates development and acquisition opportunities in a careful and disciplined manner against rigorous investment criteria. Our investment policy requires certain Board-approved hurdle rates to be considered achievable prior to progressing an investment opportunity. In addition, the Group aims to maintain a Group LTV1 ratio below 40% which the Board considers to be appropriate for the Group.

New financing
On 7 May 2021, Safestore extended its borrowing facilities with the issuance of the equivalent of £149 million new Sterling and Euro denominated US Private Placement (“USPP”) notes with the following coupons and tenors:

  • £20 million 7 year notes at a coupon of 1.96% (credit spread of 140 bps)
  • €29 million 7 year notes a coupon of 0.93% (credit spread of 105 bps)
  • £80 million 10 year notes a coupon of 2.39% (credit spread of 150 bps)
  • €29 million 12 year notes a coupon of 1.42% (credit spread of 118 bps)


The funds were received in June 2021 and August 2021 and were used initially to pay down Revolving Credit Facilities (“RCF”) thereby providing further capacity for medium-term growth.

The USPP notes were issued to a group of existing institutional investors.

In addition, an uncommitted €115 million shelf facility, which can be drawn in Euros or Sterling, was agreed with one existing lender, giving the Group further financing flexibility. The facility would be drawn in the form of Private Placement Notes at a coupon to be agreed at the time of funding.

The existing USPP notes and banking arrangements remain unchanged and are detailed in the Financial Review.



1 – LTV ratio is Loan-to-Value ratio, which is defined as gross debt (excluding lease liabilities) as a proportion of the valuation of investment properties and investment properties under construction (excluding lease liabilities).

Portfolio Management

Portfolio Management
Our approach to store development and acquisitions in the UK, Paris and Spain continues to be pragmatic, flexible and focused on the return on capital.

Our property teams in the UK, Paris and Spain continue to seek investment opportunities in new sites to add to the store pipeline. However, investments will only be made if they comply with our disciplined and strict investment criteria. Our preference is to acquire sites that are capable of being fully operational within 18-24 months from completion.

Since 2016, the Group has opened 17 new stores: Chiswick, Wandsworth, Mitcham, Paddington Marble Arch, Carshalton (all in London), Birmingham-Central, Birmingham-Merry Hill, Birmingham- Middleway, Altrincham, Peterborough, Gateshead and Sheffield in the UK, and Emerainville, Combs-la-Ville, Poissy, Pontoise and Magenta in Paris, adding 870,000 sq ft. of MLA.

In addition, the Group has acquired 31 existing stores through the acquisitions of Space Maker, Alligator, Fort Box, OhMyBox! in Barcelona and our London Heathrow store. These acquisitions added a further 1,238,000 sq ft of MLA and revenue performance has been enhanced in all cases under the Group’s ownership.

We have also completed the extensions and refurbishments of our Acton, Barking, Bedford, Chingford and Longpont (Paris) stores adding a net 65,000 sq ft of fully invested space to the estate. All of these stores are performing in line with or ahead of their business plans.

The Group’s current pipeline of new developments and store extensions has grown significantly over the last year and now constitutes c. 732,000 sq ft of future MLA (equivalent to c. 11% of the existing portfolio) with an associated outstanding capital expenditure of £96 million.

Property Pipeline

Store openings
In July 2020, the Group completed the acquisition of a freehold 2.17-acre site including an existing warehouse in Birmingham. The site is well located on the southern side of the inner A4540 ring road and the new 58,500 sq ft MLA Birmingham Middleway store opened in April 2021. Our existing nearby store at Digbeth (MLA 44,500 sq ft) closed shortly afterwards and customers were relocated to the Birmingham Middleway store. In due course, we intend to sell the Digbeth site, which has residential development potential.

In April 2018, we agreed a lease on a site at Magenta in central Paris. We are pleased to confirm that the 50,000 sq ft store opened in late April 2021.

Lease extensions and assignments
In the period, we agreed a new 18-year lease on our Hayes store which starts at the expiry of the current lease in June 2027. The new lease is protected under the Landlord and Tenant Act. A six-month rent-free period was granted immediately under the current lease with a further three-month rent-free period when the new lease commences.

As part of our ongoing asset management programme, we have now extended the leases on 23 stores or 64% of our leased store portfolio in the UK since 2012. As a result, since 2012 the remaining lease length of our UK stores has remained at c. 12-13 years.

Development sites
UK

In May 2021 the Group completed the freehold acquisition of a 0.8 acre site with a 108,000 sq ft warehouse to the east of London in a prominent position on the A12 in Bow. The building has existing consent for storage and we only required planning consents for some external modifications to the building. Otherwise the building was suitable for immediate conversion to self storage. The 74,000 sq ft store opened in December 2021.

In April 2021, the Group exchanged contracts on a freehold 1.3 acre site at Lea Bridge in North East London. The acquisition of the site has now been completed and we plan to open a 76,500 sq ft MLA store in 2024 as the leases for existing tenants on the site have up to two years to run. Rental income of approximately £170k per annum is currently received on this site.

In November 2021, the Group completed the acquisition of a 1.2 acre freehold site off Old Kent Road in the London Borough of Southwark in South East London. Subject to planning, we hope to open a c. 76,500 sq ft MLA store in due course. Existing tenants on the site will provide a rental income in the meantime.

In April 2021, the Group exchanged contracts on a freehold site in Woodford in North East London. Subject to contract and planning, we will open a 56,500 sq ft MLA store in 2025.

The Group has also previously acquired two additional sites in London at Morden and Bermondsey. Morden is a freehold 0.9-acre site in an established industrial location. Planning permission for a 52,000 sq ft self storage facility has now been granted and construction on this site is underway with a view to opening in H2 2022. Bermondsey is a 0.5-acre freehold site with income from existing tenants and is adjacent to our existing leasehold store. Our medium term aim, subject to planning permission, is to extend our existing Bermondsey operations with the addition of a new self storage facility to complement our existing store.

In July 2021, the Group exchanged contracts on a freehold 0.8 acre site in Shoreham, West Sussex. Shoreham is situated between Brighton and Worthing on the south coast of England. Subject to planning, we will open a purpose built 54,000 sq ft MLA store in Q4 of 2022.

In June 2018 Safestore opened its Paddington Marble Arch store. A separate satellite store at Paddington Park West Place, with MLA of 13,000 sq ft will open during 2023.

Paris
Safestore has for many years owned a vacant freehold site in the town of Nanterre on the edge of La Défense, Paris’ main business district. The site is valued at €6.85 million in the Investment Property valuation on the Group’s Balance Sheet. This area of Paris is undergoing significant development and Safestore has invested a 24.9% stake in a joint venture development company, PBC Les Groues SAS, which plans to complete a c 300,000 sq ft development of offices, retail, a school and residential properties subject to planning. The maximum investment for Safestore in the joint venture is €2 million.

In addition, Safestore will contribute its Nanterre site into the project and will receive cash of €1.7 million in addition to an underground storage area and reception within the complex, ready to be fitted out into a 44,000 sq ft self storage facility. Planning for the project has been received and construction has commenced.

It is anticipated that the project will be completed in early 2025 when the self storage facility will open.

In August 2021, the Group exchanged contracts on a freehold site in southern Paris with a significant frontage onto the N104 motorway. The site includes an existing building which will be demolished and replaced by a 55,000 sq ft MLA store. Subject to planning we expect the store to open in the third quarter of 2022.

Spain
In December 2019 the Group completed the acquisition of OMB Self Storage which operates three leasehold properties and one freehold property, all very well located in the centre of Barcelona. The four locations (Valencia, Calabria, Glories and Marina) have an MLA totalling 108,000 sq ft. The occupancy of the business at the end of October 2021, was 86.0%.

The Group is continuing its expansion of the business in Barcelona and its entry into the Madrid market with the acquisition of the following sites.

In April 2021, the Group exchanged contracts on a freehold building in a high population density area in northern Madrid. The acquisition has been completed and planning granted and we will convert the existing building into a 48,000 sq ft MLA self storage facility. It is anticipated that the site will open in the fourth quarter of the 2021/22 financial year.

In March 2021, the Group exchanged contracts on a freehold building in southern Madrid. The acquisition has been completed and planning granted and we will convert the existing building into a 29,000 sq ft MLA self storage facility. It is anticipated that the site will open in the fourth quarter of the 2021/22 financial year.

In December 2021, the Group exchanged contracts on a freehold building in a commercial and industrial area of eastern Madrid. Subject to completion and planning permission, we will convert the existing building into a 49,000 sq ft MLA self storage facility. It is anticipated that the site will open in the second quarter of 2023.

In January 2021, the Group exchanged contracts on a freehold building in a densely populated area in central Barcelona. The acquisition has been completed and planning granted and we will convert the existing building into a 13,500 sq ft MLA self storage facility. It is anticipated that the site will open in the third quarter of the 2021/22 financial year.

In August 2021, the Group exchanged contracts on a leasehold site in central Barcelona. The site is a former car dealership which will be converted to a 19,000 sq ft MLA store which, subject to planning, should open in Q4 of 2022.

In April 2021, the Group exchanged contracts on a freehold building in northern Barcelona. Subject to contract and planning, we will convert the existing building into a 36,300 sq ft MLA self storage facility. It is anticipated that the site will open in the first quarter of the 2022/23 financial year.

In June 2021 the Group exchanged contracts on a freehold property in south Barcelona. The site includes an existing industrial building which will be converted into a 30,000 sq ft MLA self storage facility. Planning has been granted and we expect to open the site in the first quarter of the 2022/23 financial year.

The total further cost of the acquisition and construction of the new Spanish sites is anticipated to be c €32 million and the seven stores will add 225,000 sq ft of additional MLA.

Store extensions 
In May 2021, the Group exchanged contracts on a leasehold basement car park adjacent to our existing London Paddington Marble Arch store. The occupancy of the Paddington Marble Arch store at 31 March 2021 was 80%. The extension opened in December 2021, adding 8,500 sq ft of MLA.

In April 2021, we exchanged contracts on the acquisition of a 0.5 acre site adjacent to our existing London Wimbledon store (MLA 58,800 sq ft). We completed this transaction in December 2021 and work will commence in January 2022. The existing reception area will be relocated to a more prominent and visible roadside location and a further 9,000 sq ft of storage capacity and 1,000 sq ft of offices will be added. The Wimbledon store’s peak occupancy, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, was 92%.

In September 2020 the Group received planning permission to extend its Southend store by 10,100 sq ft. The existing store has an MLA of 49,400 sq ft and was 86% occupied at the end of September 2020. The extension opened in December 2021.

The Group has also received planning permission to extend its Edgware store by a further 22,900 sq ft. The existing store has MLA of 24,000 sq ft and reached a peak occupancy of 91% prior to extension works commencing. The extension opened in December 2021.

In September 2021 the Group received planning permission to extend its Winchester store by 11,000 sq ft. The existing store has an MLA of 42,000 sq ft and has been more than 90% occupied for the last twelve months. It is anticipated that the extension will be open in the fourth calendar quarter of 2022 and that there will be minimal impact on day-to-day operations of the store during construction.

Property pipeline summary

 Store FH/LH Status MLA sq ft Target opening Other
London Lea Bridge FH Completed/ Subject to Planning 76,500 Q1 2025 New build. £170k pa of rental income prior to opening
London- Old Kent Road FH Completed/ Subject to Planning 76,500 TBC New build. Rental income receivable prior to opening
London- Woodford FH Contracts exchanged/ Subject to Planning 65,000 Q4 2025 New build
London- Morden FH Completed/ Planning granted 52,000 Q1 2023 New build
London- Bermondsey FH Completed/ Subject to Planning 50,000 Q4 2026 New build
Shoreham FH Contracts exchanged/ Subject to Planning 54,000 Q4 2022 New build
London- Paddington Park West LH Completed/ Planning granted 13,000 Q2 2023 Conversion of basement car park- satellite store to existing Paddington store
London- Wimbledon FH Completed/ Planning granted 9,000 storage
1,000 office
Q2 2022 Extension of existing site
Winchester FH Planning granted 11,000 Q4 2022 Extension of existing site
Paris- La Défense FH Completed/ Planning granted 44,000 Q2 2025 Facility within mixed use development
Paris- Southern Paris FH Contracts exchanged/Subject to Planning 55,000 Q3 2025 New build
Northern Madrid FH Completed/ Planning granted 48,000 Q4 2022 Conversion of existing building
Southern Madrid FH Completed/ Planning granted 29,000 Q2 2023 Conversion of existing building
Eastern Madrid FH Contracts exchanged/Subject to Planning 49,000 Q2 2023 Conversion of existing building
Central Barcelona 1 FH Completed/ Planning granted 13,500 Q3 2022 Conversion of existing building
Central Barcelona 2 LH Contracts exchanged/Subject to Planning 19,000 Q4 2022 Conversion of existing building
Northern Barcelona FH Contracts exchanged/Subject to Planning 36,300 Q1 2023 Conversion of existing building
South Barcelona FH Contracts exchanged/Subject to Planning 30,000 Q4 2022 Conversion of existing building
Total Pipeline MLA     c. 732k    
Total Further Capex     c. £96 m    
 

Acquisitions 
Acquisition of Your Room Self Storage, Christchurch2
In December 2021, Safestore acquired Your Room Self Storage in Christchurch, Dorset for £2.45m. The freehold Christchurch store has an MLA of 14,000 sq ft and the Group anticipates that the initial yield in the first year will be in excess of 6%.

The Group will rebrand the store and has taken over operation of the site with immediate effect. The store will operate as a satellite store to our two existing Bournemouth stores.

Joint venture1 with Carlyle - investment in Opslag XL
As announced as part of our 14 January 2021 results announcement, the Group’s joint venture with Carlyle acquired the three-store portfolio of Opslag XL in the Netherlands in December 2020. Safestore’s equity investment in the joint venture, relating to Opslag XL, was c. €0.9 million funded from the Group’s existing resources. Safestore also earns a fee for providing management services to the joint venture. Safestore expects to earn an initial return on investment of 12% before transaction related costs for the first full year reflecting its share of expected joint venture profits and fees for management services.

Opslag XL has three locations in The Hague, Hilversum and Amsterdam. The Hague and Hilversum are freehold; the Amsterdam store is a short leasehold (December 2021). The business had 7,000 sq metres (75,000 sq ft) of MLA and an occupancy of 58%.

In June 2021, the joint venture acquired a freehold site with an existing building in Nijmegen in the Netherlands. Nijmegen has a population of 177,000 and the site is well located on a main road with good visibility and access. Safestore provided 20% of the equity required to acquire and develop the site which will have an MLA of c. 40,000 sq ft.

These acquisitions complement the six stores in Amsterdam and Haarlem in the Netherlands acquired in August 2019 as well as the six stores purchased in 2020 in Brussels, Charleroi and Liège, Belgium. In total, the joint venture will own 16 stores with 57,300 sq metres (614,000 sq ft) of MLA. The Group’s further investment in the joint venture has been immediately accretive to Group Earnings per Share from completion and will support the Group’s future dividend capacity.

Our joint venture provides an earnings-accretive opportunity to gain detailed operational exposure to new markets while carefully managing the investment risk. The Group’s leading digital platform has already delivered substantial marketing benefits both in terms of costs and volume of enquiries. The operational integration has been completed in an efficient manner, leveraging the skills and capacities of our existing Head Office teams in the UK and Paris.

Our local property development team also enables us to further our understanding of local property markets, which will allow the Group to allocate equity investment efficiently with a risk/reward profile similar to that of our historical core markets.

Owned store portfolio by region

  London and South East Rest of UK UK Total Paris Spain Group Total
Number of stores 71 57 128 29 4 161
Let square feet (m sq ft) 2.41 2.28 4.69 1.10 0.09 5.88
Maximum lettable area (m sq ft) 2.80 2.69 5.49 1.36 0.11 6.96
Average let square feet per store capacity (k sq ft) 34 40 37 38 23 37
Average store capacity (k sq ft) 39 47 43 47 27 43
Closing occupancy (%) 86.1% 84.7% 85.4% 80.7% 86.0% 84.5%
Average rate (£ per sq ft) 30.85 19.45 25.32 33.78 28.00 26.95
Revenue (£'m) 89.7 54.4 144.1 39.9 2.8 186.8
Average revenue per store (£'m) 1.26 0.95 1.13 1.38 0.70 1.16

Note
The reported totals have not been adjusted for the impact of rounding.

Portfolio summary

The self storage market has been growing consistently for over 20 years across many European countries but few regions offer the unique characteristics of London and Paris, both of which consist of large, wealthy and densely populated markets. In the London region, the population is 13 million inhabitants with a density of 5,200 inhabitants per square mile in the region, 11,000 per square mile in central London and up to 32,000 per square mile in the densest boroughs.

The population of the Paris urban area is 10.7 million inhabitants with a density of 9,300 inhabitants per square mile in the urban area but 54,000 per square mile in the City of Paris and first belt, where 69% of our French stores are located and which has one of the highest population densities in the western world. 85% of the Paris region population live in central parts of the city versus the rest of the urban area, which compares with 60% in the London region. There are currently c.245 storage centres within the M25 as compared to only c.95 in the Paris urban area.

In addition, barriers to entry in these two important city markets are high, due to land values and limited availability of sites as well as planning regulation. This is the case for Paris and its first belt in particular, which inhibits new development possibilities.

Our combined operations in London and Paris, with 77 stores, contributed £103.5 million of revenue and £75.0 million of store EBITDA for the financial year and offer a unique exposure to the two most attractive European self storage markets.

We have a strong position in both the UK and Paris markets operating 128 stores in the UK, 71 of which are in London and the South East, and 29 stores in Paris.

In the UK, 62% of our revenue is generated by our stores in London and the South East. On average, our stores in London and the South East are smaller than in the rest of the UK but the rental rates achieved are materially higher, enabling these stores to typically achieve similar or better margins than the larger stores. In London we operate 48 stores within the M25, more than any other competitor.

In France, we have a leading position in the heart of the affluent City of Paris market with ten stores branded as Une Pièce en Plus (“UPP”) (“A spare room”). Over 60% of the UPP stores are located in a cluster within a five-mile radius of the city centre, which facilitates strong operational and marketing synergies as well as options to differentiate and channel customers to the right store subject to their preference for convenience or price affordability. The Parisian market has attractive socio-demographic characteristics for self storage and we believe that UPP enjoys unique strategic strength in such an attractive market.

Together, as at 31 October 2021, London, the South East and Paris represent 62% of our stores, 69% of our revenues, and 60% of our available capacity.

In addition, Safestore has the benefit of a leading national presence in the UK regions where the stores are predominantly located in the centre of key metropolitan areas such as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Our 2019 acquisition of OMB in Barcelona represents a platform into the Spanish market where we hope to take advantage of development and acquisition opportunities and have recently announced the acquisition of six development sites in Barcelona and Madrid.


1 – The joint venture with Carlyle, which represents a 20% investment, has been accounted for as an associate using the equity method of accounting, as described in the “Investment in associates” note to the financial statements.

2 – The enterprise value paid for Your Room Self Storage in Christchurch, Dorset, on 7 December 2021 was £2.45 million. The total transaction costs are expected to be £2.6 million subject to customary working capital adjustments.
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