Space Station – In Safe Hands

Delivering standards of excellence – that is the vision of Space Station, a company that offers flexible storage units for both short- and long-term hire.

Space Station has an interesting history, and to this day enjoys a bit of celebrity status related to its founder, the former McLaren Formula 1 team manager Alastair Caldwell, who set up the business way back in 1983. Starting as a cleaner at McLaren, his dream employer, Alastair Caldwell successfully progressed to the glory years of 1974-76 and his management of legendary racing driver James Hunt.

Inspired by the innovative self-storage facilities across the US, he decided to bring the business idea to the UK, making Space Station one of the UK’s earliest storage pioneers.

Today, Space Station has over 5,000 self-storage units across 12 stores, and its position in the sector is firm, says CEO Kevin Prince, pointing out that last year the company reached a major milestone.

“Following Alastair’s decision to step back, in 2020 the business was acquired by Heitman, a global real estate investment management firm, which owns 47 billion dollars’ worth of real estate around the world, with eight billion in self-storage. With their excellent track record in the sector, Heitman was the best partner for us – the combination of their knowledge of the sector and the operational experience of myself and my team makes an excellent basis for further development.”

Right people, right service

The company currently has stores across London, Berkshire, Birmingham and the Midlands, and offers high-quality, secure storage units with 24/7 access across its sites. Space Station takes great pride in its facilities, investing and updating them regularly to make sure they’re as clean, secure and as convenient as possible.

Under the new owner, Space Station is set to further enhance its capability and specific features, differentiating it from other self-storage providers. Kevin Prince says: “We aim to offer our customers a full, all-inclusive service to make everything as easy as possible. We’ll pick up your items directly from your door free of charge, and pack them into your unit for you. We even have an on-site store for packing supplies, with crates available for hire.”

“We don’t devalue the brand by offering a lot of front-end discounts, which most of our competitors do, but offer added value instead. We offer a free removal service rather than just free storage. That is rather unique in the sector.”

He also affirms that the company has always focused on providing the right type of service and finding the right solution for the customer’s problems. “People use self-storage in case of an event, when something happens that needs fixing, and generally it is a stressful situation. So we function as stress busters. And this is what my teams are taught as a soft skill.”

Staff are extremely important for business success, he affirms, and the company makes sure that it picks its people well. “When we recruit people, we make sure that they are suited to the job role, and therefore more likely to be good at it. The effort that we put in recruiting the right staff makes us stand out. We consider our staff as family, and invest in their wellbeing, training and development to ensure they’re always able to deliver outstanding customer service.”

During the challenging times of the pandemic, it was the staff and their safety that were the management’s first priority. The company did take advantage of the furlough scheme, says Mr Prince, but everybody that was furloughed had their wages topped up so no one lost any money.

“The defining moment was when I told my staff we had to close the stores in 48 hours but we needed to keep running the business. We did not have laptops, but within 48 hours the business was operational. That took everybody’s efforts, and truly showed people’s commitment to the business.”

Market changes

Going forward, Space Station strives not only to further enhance its services but also to promote its green agenda. Heitman themselves have committed to being carbon neutral by 2030 and Space Station has prioritised that objective.

“We have set ourselves the target of halving our carbon footprint within three years, and we’re well on our way to achieving that Carbon Footprint Standard certification. Space Station uses wind and solar energy to power some of its sites and strives to use only 100% recycled packaging cardboard materials.”

While having aggressive expansion targets, Mr Prince emphasises that growth must be achieved in the right way, with the right values. “Being genuine is important in a business, and it has to come from me as the CEO. Then it can filter down, I believe. We are aware of our role for the community, and accept that giving back is important. We also work for charities; everyone that works at Space Station can donate 1% of their paid work time to a charity of their choice.”

Looking ahead, he reflects that the self-storage sector has always been strong and has stayed this way through the various crisis and difficult times, including the pandemic – the industry has seen growth in both revenue and occupancy, making it a highly attractive sector for investors.

“The resilience of the sector is fantastic. There is always a customer. We pride ourselves on providing just the right type of service and our customers appreciate it. They generally stay longer with us than is the industry average.”

With financial backing from its owners, Space Station is now looking to grow through trade acquisitions, warehouse development and new development. “We have done the market research and we are actively searching sites,” says Kevin Prince. “In fact, we’ve already had a very good pipeline. We believe that Space Station will become a significant player in due course, certainly in the UK.”

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