Scaling up the self-storage model

Shrinking living space and the proliferation of rabbit hutch homes means we have become a nation of self-storers, according to Store4U’s Paul Gilmartin

Paul Gilmartin, chief executive Store4U: ‘I was looking for a low-cost business model that I could replicate and improve with tech’

Demand for self-storage is continuing to surge as more people working from home and an increase in multi-generational living have added to the more traditional reasons that people need to store belongings offsite.

The market is worth $2.3 billion in the US where most units run at 80-90 per cent occupancy rate. Across Europe, there are an estimated close to 5,200 facilities offering self-storage. They occupy approximately 11 million square metres of space across the continent.

Paul Gilmartin has a track record of running businesses over several locations and in diverse areas. He has a very keen financial background and this, coupled with his business experience, gives him an edge at spotting a gap in the market and transferring that to a successful business model. His training and experience in business finance and marketing has given him a true insight into running a business and its workings.

Gilmartin holds a degree in marketing and business. He started an insulation business in 1997 and was the first to introduce the innovative bonded bead system to Ireland.

“Starting with one vehicle and two employees, I quickly grew this into a business turning circa €7.5 million annually with 120 employees. Having developed my own production facility, I set up a nationwide distribution business with numerous installers throughout Ireland.”

He was runner-up in the Young Entrepreneur of the year in Galway in 2000. “Although the company took a hit in the economic crash, it secured several large contracts through government works and energy efficiency programmes. This sustained the insulation business, which was sold in 2012.”

Gilmartin continued to trade in the energy sector through different government-based schemes such as Better Energy Communities and the Energy Efficiency Obligation Scheme. In 2014, he secured contracts from Energia under the EEOS and went on to agree further contracts with Bord Gáis and Electric Ireland. His company still trades in this sector and the business remains profitable.

Store4U opened its first location in 2018 in Galway. “I was looking for a low-cost business model that I could replicate and improve with tech. More importantly, I am always interested if a business model is scalable over different sites or markets.”

Store4U has now expanded to Dublin, Limerick, Drogheda and has a second site in Galway. The company has just one full-time employee and is run through a mix of apps and electronic surveillance.

Gilmartin said that it is a very simple business model. “Our advertising is done through Google and all payments are made electronically. Customers also access their keys electronically. We give customers unique PIN code access, registration plate reading and 24-hour CCTV.”

“The nature of self storage is capital intense in the early years with the costs involved in setting up the facility. But it is almost tailor-made for the EIIS scheme as it returns a J-curve in economic terms.

“Our EIIS offering is a four-year term giving a 10 per cent return on investment. It’s important to stress here that all the funds that are invested go directly towards the purchase of the fixed asset and these assets are non-depreciating. This means that there is a huge level of security with the investment.”

The business has daily cashflow, said Gilmartin. “It has been profitable from year one and continues to be profitable. Plus the business is growing in terms of cashflow and in terms of units.

“We currently have an agreement in place to open a new site in Cork and we are looking at opening sites in the major regional towns after that. We know the model works and we are the only storage company in Ireland looking to take the business to a nationwide business base.”


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