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New self store for Pink & Jones

Dec 08, 2016
Deputy Editor David Jordan takes a trip to Northamptonshire to see Britannia Pink & Jones’ newly opened self storage facility - Kettering Selfstore

If location is key to the success of a self storage business, Britannia Pink & Jones has hit the jackpot with its impressive new facility on Kettering’s Pytchley Business Park. As I drove down the busy A14 and my satnav announced “You have reached your destination” a large blue, red and yellow sign mounted high on the side of the tallest building on the Park came into view: unmissable to all. Pytchley Business Park is close to all the usual suspects: McDonalds, Tesco, KFC and the like, all adding to the footfall in the area and will help make Kettering Selfstore a familiar brand in the town. 

Pink & Jones and sister company Harrison & Rowley, based in St Neots, were founder members of Britannia Movers International and provide services in the adjoining counties of Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire. Harrison & Rowley has offered limited self storage facilities for some years in St Neots, but this is the first time the Spooner family, that owns the two companies, has operated a full 24/7 service. 

As I entered the 2.5-acre site I passed through the first line of security, a sturdy steel gate opened by tapping in a unique security code - known only to the customer - into a nine-key pad.  To make life easier the main gate is open during working hours, although with CCTV, closely monitored by Mayson Byatt on reception and a second keypad entry needed to access the building, security is tight.  Mayson met me at the door and introduced me to Director Mark Spooner, General Manager Jim Williams and Site Manager Steve Newman. 

As we chatted over coffee in Steve’s office I asked Mark why his family - who also own the property company that developed the site - decided to open a self store business.  “We bought Pink & Jones, which at the time was based in Wellingborough, about six years ago with the intention of expanding the business,” said Mark. “We needed bigger premises and spent the next few years looking for something suitable, but nothing was available in the area. Self storage was always part of our plans so when this site in Kettering, right next to the A14 came up, it was a chance too good to miss.” 

There were also historical connections, as Pink & Jones had originally operated from Kettering before moving to Wellingborough some years ago, and the name was still well known in the area. 

“It was a ‘brown field site’ that was frankly a bit of an eyesore, so planning permission was fairly easy to obtain,” said Mark. “The site was big enough for us to build several industrial units as well as the 10,000-square foot warehouse we needed for Pink & Jones, so the Council welcomed the development and its potential to create local employment.” 

The warehouse, which opened in September, is at present divided into two sections, half being kitted out with purpose built self storage units over four levels and the remainder used for container storage for the removals side of the business.  If the level of business is sufficient, more self storage units will be added in the future. 

“It’s early days but already about 20% of the self storage units are full,” said Steve. “Most of our customers are business people rather than private individuals. If you’re running a small company for example and need to keep stock, you can rent the space you need, when you need it, rather than tying yourself into a lease on a building and paying rates and utility bills. It makes good business sense, especially with all the uncertainty following the referendum.” 

Although there are other self storage facilities in the area, Kettering Selfstore is the only one offering genuine 24/7 access.  “All the big self storage operators are quite a long drive away from Kettering,” said General Manager Jim Williams. “People don’t want to have to drive for miles to visit their storage unit and being able to do so 24-hours a day 7-days a week is a big attraction.  It’s also something customers are prepared to pay a little extra for.” 

The design and fit-out of the building was carried out by Cheshire-based Active Supply and Design and comprises 165 units, ranging in size from 10 to 200 square feet, on four levels and accessed by a passenger and goods lift.  

Active’s Sales & Marketing Manager Richard Allen said, “It has been a pleasure to work with Mark and his staff on their first venture into the self storage industry and we are quietly confident that the business will expand further in the not too distant future. We were involved with this project from the early stages and, as always, used our industry experience to provide the very best in all aspects of the design and build in a cost-efficient manner.”  

Pink & Jones used a local radio station, Connect FM, to generate initial publicity for the store and the team has planned an ongoing radio campaign along with leaflet drops and Google AdWords to create new business in the future. 

Setting up a new self storage business is an expensive undertaking, but given the public’s appetite for the service and the small number of staff needed to run a modern facility, the rewards can be considerable. 

I asked Mark how long he expected it would take Pink & Jones to recover its initial investment. “Other Britannia members I’ve talked to who have started self storage businesses have recouped their capital investment in about four years,” said Mark. “We’ve been a little more conservative with our business plan, but I’m confident we’ll get pay-back by the end of our fifth year.” 

More information about the self storage industry is available on the Self Storage Association’s website: 

Photos:  Top: let to right; Jim Williams, Steve Newman and Mark Spooner. Top right; Mayson Byatt. Middle left; Kettering Selfstore interior. Middle right; Kettering Selfstore sign.  Bottom left; Pink & Jones van.

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