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While Christmas is clearly not a moveable feast, having the flexibility to cope with the year’s most extreme seasonal peak is critical in allowing both manufacturers and retailers to take full advantage of the annual spending frenzy.

And, according to Spaciotempo, although aluminium framed temporary buildings or warehouses are becoming an increasingly popular solution, few still recognise the true commercial benefits they can bring to a business.

Spaciotempo was formed from the merger of three European temporary storage specialists in November 2006. The UK business was established in 1972 and is based in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire.

Spaciotempo has three divisions – UK, France and Spain, with a combined turnover of 50 million euros, 7,300 clients, 200 employees and a rental stock of 600,000 sq m. Spaciotempo is also a division of GL Events, which specialises in event engineering, with offices throughout Europe, USA, Middle East and Asia.

The ability to hire the extra space rather than buy it means that companies can maximise profits by paying for extra space only for as long as they need it, allowing their business to expand and contract in line with seasonal fluctuations.

Temporary buildings are also quick to install, providing a rapid solution in periods of unforeseen demand with the ability to return the building just as quickly in the event of an unexpected downturn.

A temporary building also keeps goods and people dry, allowing outside space to be used year-round.

Manufacturers are keen to get away from the idea that a temporary building is a glorified garden shed, pointing out that aluminium framed temporary buildings are both lightweight yet engineered to meet British Standards in terms of wind and snow loadings and can be supplied complete with glazed windows, heating, lighting, insulation and even refrigeration for the storage and handling of chilled products.


European supplier Haltec offers three different approaches. The Steelflex hall system offers a wide range of possible uses for industry, trade and commerce and because of its design, Steelflex can be adapted flexibly to operational and site-related circumstances.

The Aluflex industrial warehouse is designed for short and medium-term space requirements. The storage hall can be extended or transferred to a different site at any time. The tent can be assembled without a foundation and set up on existing asphalt or gravel surfaces.

For short-term space requirements, Haltec has the Variant lightweight hall which consists of straight side walls and an arched roof. The modular structure offers flexibility both in terms of length and width.

An intriguing development in the market has been the creation of the “bolt-on” building by Mar-Key Marquees based at Bournemouth Airport.


The structure was specially designed to extend existing retail premises for Tesco with the mandate of causing minimum disruption to the Tesco trading floor facilities and the customers.

This structure has been used at the Tesco store at Good Mayes near Romford in Essex. Such structures have subsequently permitted Tesco to continue to trade across the whole country while carrying out renovation to their existing stores.

Another innovation has been the development of a cassette flooring system which has been designed to have a 10kn2 load capability. Mar-Key’s systems are modular in length and are therefore categorised by type and width and it builds in widths from 4m to 30m. In terms of overall area, it can create structures covering up to 20,000 sq m.

Variation is the spice of life

An alternative strategy has been developed by a company called Variation, which offers a “matchmaking” service to the space rich and the storage poor.

Variation is the brainchild of Bill Howie and partner Graham Williams, who both worked for Tibbett & Britten, and together have some 50 years senior management experience of logistics and supply chain management. Howie and Williams reckoned that millions of square feet of warehouse space across the UK lay idle – both complete sites, and part-filled warehousing and this represented a potential income loss to operators of around half a billion pounds a year – income which could go directly to the bottom line.

Variation’s ‘space programme’ which brings together organisations in need of flexible warehouse space with operators with ‘dead’ space not earning its keep, currently has some 3,000 locations on its books and is turning over upwards of £1m. A growing list of clients now sees Variation as an important part of their logistics resource, both on a regular and ad hoc basis. Howie says: “Our initial success has shown that there is real demand for flexible warehouse space – both short and long term – which wasn’t being met before, and this despite the fact that, however successful, every large warehouse operator has pockets of empty space all the time. We simply make that space earn its keep – adding to the bottom line for logistics operators in a new way.

“We are logistics specialists, not property agents – and our experience and knowledge of the marketplace mean that we can find, negotiate and manage those pockets of space which have not been available before. Our web-based location system and dedicated call centre also means that we can match clients’ space needs using several different operators if necessary, but still with a single point of contact, designing truly cost effective solutions, for both long and short term needs.”

Jeff Dobbin of PZ Cussons, which uses Variation to find space, says: “Variation has filled a real gap in the marketplace – not just by taking the hassle out of trying to find space off our shoulders, but in organising things so that we only need one point of contact, even when the solution may require contracts with several warehouse operators.”

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