StorageMart traveled “across the pond” for its latest self-storage acquisition—the Columbia, MO-based operator acquired a 15 property portfolio in the United Kingdom for more than 100 million British pounds, or more than $122 million in U.S. dollars.

The facilities operate under the name Big Box Self Storage and are located throughout southeast England. The portfolio spans 700,000 square feet and includes a number of newly developed sites.

“We plan to use the substantial Big Box platform to grow within the UK,” said Cris Burnam, president of StorageMart. “These are great locations in solid markets.”

The acquired facilities contain a total of 9,655 storage units.

Big Box 01
The portfolio includes facilities in Brighton, Tonbridge, High Wycombe, Colchester, Norwich, and Ipswich

Seizing the moment

StorageMart has eyed the UK market for several years, according to Sarah Little, digital media director at StorageMart.

“Mike and Cris Burnam have been looking at the storage industry in the UK since 2010 and getting to know the market. The quality of the product, price and timing was right for this deal,” Little said.

Mike Burnam is StorageMart’s CEO and brother to Cris. The Burnam family has been active in the the storage industry since 1973.

Room to grow

Little told the SpareFoot Storage Beat that the company’s interest in the UK market is not for a lack of opportunities in North America, but rather to tap into a growing market abroad.

“This expansion is no reflection to the lack of portfolios in the US or Canada,” Little said.  “We believe it is the right time to enter the UK self storage market as the economy will be on an upward trend and the Big Box Storage Centres give us a significant presence in the London area.”

Going forward, Little said StorageMart plans to be a “major consolidator” of storage properties in Europe.

Industry on the rise

Debt funding for the acquisition was arranged by JLL, who secured financing for StorageMart from Blackstone Mortgage REIT.

The European self-storage industry is much less mature than the United States market. The United Kingdom is the largest market for self-storage in Europe, possessing 40 percent of the continent’s facilities, according to JLL. The UK has 16.5 stores per million people, compared to 157.4 stores per million people in the United States.

“Strong user demand and increasing urbanization are key factors driving the boom in the self storage market and opening up opportunities for old and new investors alike.” said Ollie Saunders, lead director of Alternative at JLL.

Saunders said there was strong interest in the portfolio from a variety of investors.

Including the recent acquisition, StorageMart now operates 189 facilities in North America and Europe. The company remains the largest privately-held storage operator worldwide.

Alexander Harris