Matt and I attended the SSA European Annual Conference at the QE2 Center in London earlier this month. The SSA is the Self Storage Association, the trade body for the rapidly growing storage sector in the UK. They are part of FEDESSA the European equivalent. We have been gradually gaining clients in this industry, with which we have been involved since 2004, and thought it would be good to see where the operators and owners think the sector is heading, what the major issues and opportunities are, and what new innovations are on the way.
We also wanted to meet some of our clients in a less formal environment, and to meet potential new clients.
It was a useful couple of days. Well organised and with some interesting sessions. The two keynotes were given by Karen Brady and Stuart Rose and were both well worth listening to for general business knowledge, experience, and anecdotes.
I was interested in the Economics Session (well somebody had to be) given by a Finnish specialist with lots of data. No surprises I guess that the sector is expecting to have to weather a recession over the next 5 years, but it is expecting to prove again, as it did in 2008, to be pretty resistant to the worst aspects of an economic downturn. And, of course, players with cash and strong balance sheets will be able to take advantage of a property downturn.
The question of how fast show far to automate is a big challenge for the sector, which is adopting new technology, but is also wary of ditching its human face, especially given the relatively low level of acceptance and recognition of self storage as a consumer product in the UK.
We met some delegates from the US and Canada, where the use of storage by individuals is much higher, and the issues are rather different. I renewed an acquaintance with the leading light of the Polish storage industry, which is going from strength to strength.
We spoke with software providers, some of whom have Xero partner status, and enjoyed the experience of the Natural History Museum after closing time. All in all it was a great two days. Our next outing is to Xerocon, again in London, in November.