While many international self-storage markets are dominated by large companies, Spain’s industry growth is originating from small, local entrepreneurs like Costabrava Space in Girona. Opened a year ago in the country’s northeast Catalonia region, beside the River Onyar, the business is a prime example of the type of operators leading the country’s self-storage evolution—single-property owners building sites in urban areas.
Inside Self-Storage recently spoke with Carles Jover, CEO of Costabrava Space. Here he provides an overview of the local industry as well as insight to new development, operational challenges and his company’s future plans.
Tell us about Costabrava Space.
Costabrava Space has 250 square meters of net storing capacity over two floors and a mezzanine. We also own the equivalent area in the next plant for future growth.
We serve Central Costa Brava, an attractive territory that combines tourism resources, sea and beach activities, awarded cuisine, golf, and other hinterland sports. The territory extends for some 900 square kilometers. The climate is soft. Summer is an important economical asset, and the region has many cultural attractions beyond its declining agricultural economy.
What’s the state of the self-storage industry in Spain?
Self-storage is on the rise, and more people use the service. A major cause is many cities have a high population density, but the houses are small. The result is it’s impossible to store all belongings in the residence. Therefore, users are turning to self-storage to save their possessions in optimal climate and security.
How has the industry evolved?
The self-storage concept came to Spain in the 1980s and had its greatest growth in 2003. In recent years, despite the economic crisis, the number of developments has continued to grow. The fact that business is booming reinforced the deals.
Unlike in other European countries, most self-storage operators in Spain are small businesses. Seventy-five percent of operators manage only one property, 20 percent between two or three, and only 5 percent have four or more across the country. Note, the largest operator in Spain has 21 facilities scattered throughout the territory.
The self-storage sector in the rest of Europe is much more concentrated. In some cases, operators manage more than 200 centers, with presence in different countries. These large operators have little presence in Spain. One Spanish operator has eight centers in the country, and some presence in other countries.
What challenges do Spanish self-storage operators face?
Most developers look for urban markets, such as Barcelona, Madrid or Valencia, where urban citizens are already used to renting space outside the home. It’s not so easy to convince the minor village inhabitants of the advantages of self-storage. Most of them still confuse self-storage and warehousing, and many save their belongings in family garages or barns. But it's only a question of time, as it happened in other countries around Spain.
How is your company meeting these challenges?
Our particular market is divided into five groups:
- Permanent residents (mainly Barcelonian families)
- Second-home residents (European wealthy owners)
- Maritime residents living in the five commercial and touristic harbors
- Local business
- Online-sales business
At present, we think the existing facility is enough. However, we’re studying future developments that can take advantage of our goodwill penetration and credit. We’re considering opening two more facilities, roughly 30 kilometers to the north and 30 kilometers south of our existing facility, with new partners.
What’s happening with development in your country?
The storage industry has been expanding. Currently, there are more than 250 facilities throughout Spain managed by 150 operators, according to the Self Storage Association of Spain (AESS). Most of these centers are in Catalonia (92 facilities), Madrid (78 facilities) and Valencia (28 facilities). On the contrary, there are still many provinces in Spain that have no central self-storage properties, according AESS.
Are lenders providing more funding for self-storage than in past years?
Spain is still suffering a critical financial situation. Many banks did close, and despite self-storage being the most favored real estate investment, it has also encountered financial difficulties and a lack of lenders.
What’s on the horizon for the industry and your company?
If we talk about storage centers per million inhabitants, our country exceeds the European average, with more than six facilities per million. Still, these figures are far from those in northern European countries in which the rate exceeds 15 per million. By comparing the statistics of Spain with those of other countries in Europe, we can conclude that much development remains to be done in our country.
Fuente, Inside Self Storage, 2015.