The History of the Self Storage Industry

Self storage is a facility that allows people to store their personal possessions or household goods, usually on a short-term basis. Both individuals and businesses can use these facilities that usually consist of a locked unit where goods can be kept safely and securely. Typically, only the individual or business renting the space has access to the unit. Yet, self storage as it is recognised today has its origins in a rather different form of storage.

You might also find our previous blog post about the History of Collecting Through the Ages interesting.

The origins of storage

It is widely believed that the idea of storage units comes from ancient China, possibly as early as six thousand years ago. At this time, people stored their personal possessions in large ceramic pots that were stored in secure, underground storage areas. The basic concept of this early storage system is in essence the same as the idea of secure storage facilities today.

A few centuries ago, the British aristocracy adopted a similar idea. Travel was becoming more popular and available to the rich. Not wanting to leave their possessions unattended for the months they were away, they made use of banks. The banks hired stables on their behalf, and here they could securely store their possessions until their return.

In the 1850s, Martin Bekin was the first to create a storage business in America in response to the needs of immigrants who needed somewhere to store their belongings while they settled in America. The Bekins were the first to build warehouses constructed from reinforced steel and concrete in 1906. The first was located in Los Angeles, followed closely by a second in the same year in San Francisco.

Self storage as we know it

Self storage as it is recognised today is commonly believed to date back to 1950s America. The first storage facility where the tenant has exclusive rights to the storage space they are paying to use was first opened by the Collum family in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1958. This company was simply called Lauderdale Storage.

By the 1960s, the idea had spread across America. It was during this decade that a man called Russ Williams from Odessa, Texas, famously founded the ‘A1 U-Store-It’ storage business. Although he worked in the oil industry, he enjoyed fishing in his leisure time. He needed a place to store his fishing equipment and thought that others would also benefit from somewhere to store things they did not use on a daily basis. He purchased several apartments and rented out the space to others for storage.

The beginning of business storage

It wasn’t until the 1980s that self storage became really popular and it was during this time that self storage arrived in the UK. Self storage for business became particularly popular during this era. Expanding businesses needed somewhere secure to keep their archive documents, surplus stock and unused office equipment. Many businesses considered that paying low cost self storage rates or using an onsite storage container was a cost-effective and efficient way of keeping their business stock secure.

The self storage industry takes off

At the turn of the Millennium, there was an increase in the number of individuals choosing to use a secure self storage facility. At times such as house moves or a change in personal circumstances, people realised that the low cost self storage was a good solution to furniture storage. By hiring house movers and packers, all their worldly goods could be delivered to a secure facility and then they would simply pay the furniture storage costs each month.

It is now estimated that there are approximately 800 self storage facilities of this type in the UK, a number that continues to grow as there is the need to meet the increasing demands of people looking for storage space. Similarly, companies operating over multiple sites often have the need for storage containers. It is estimated that at this time, 35% of the people renting storage space are businesses. It is not unusual for businesses to run their entire operations using just storage containers and the Internet.

Storage industry trends

The trend for growth in the storage industry is consistent across the globe, with an increased need reported in America, the UK, Australia, France and Germany. Such is the level of interest in storage that is has inspired a new trend; storage auctions. If people hiring the storage units repeatedly do not pay their self storage cost, there is the opportunity for members of the public to buy the contents in an auction.

Although the ways that people store their goods has changed significantly between the times of ancient China and the modern day, the concept and purpose of container storage remains the same. The changes are simply in response to the changing needs and expectations of individuals and businesses. These changes directly reflect changes in lifestyles and society as a whole. Public awareness of the availability of places to store possessions has also contributed to the rapid growth of storage companies and the range of facilities available.

If you need storage for your business, home or student housing then just contact us here at Flexistore for a free self storage price quote.


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