Store First offers investors the opportunity to invest in self storage “pods” with a guaranteed return of 8% per annum in years 1 and 2, 10% in years 3 and 4 and 12% per annum thereafter.
The investment opportunity is not directly visible on Store First’s website (which is aimed at customers looking for self storage) but the investment opportunity is described on other pages such as https://www.storefirst.com/this-is-money/.
The Government has filed a winding up petition against Store First and associated companies. As yet a court date has not been set.
There are a number of complaints on forums such as moneysavingexpert.com and whocallsme.com that investors have been unable to exercise the option to sell back their pods to the company, or sell the pods to a third party. These date back to 2014. More recently these problems have received coverage by the BBC and other mainstream press.
Store First has been involved in a number of pension fraud and pension liberation fraud cases where people have been encouraged to transfer their pensions into schemes which then invest in Store First. These have been extensively covered by the BBC and other media outlets. Store First says that it is not responsible for how others market their investment opportunity.
Who are Store First?
Toby Whittaker is Managing Director of Store First and the sole owner of Group First Global Limited, which in turn is the sole owner of Store First.
How secure is the investment?
It is straightforward to take your money and then pay you 8% of your investment in years 1 and 2, and then 10% in year 3, and so on. The crucial question is how much you will get when you want to sell your investment.
Investors who have recently tried to exercise their “buy back” option, or sell the pods on the open market, have been unable to do so. Those trying to exercise the “buy back” option have had their requests refused or been told it may take up to five years. Those who have tried to auction their pods have had zero bids.
If you are unable to sell your pod either to Store First or a third party, the pods are essentially worthless.
Should I invest with Store First?
Given that nobody has been able to sell their investment in Store First after several years of trying, it appears that the scheme has collapsed and existing investments are worthless.
Can I get my money back?
If you were advised to invest in Store First by an adviser regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, you can make a formal complaint against them. If they fail to give you a satisfactory response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service, who can award compensation of up to £150,000 (they can recommend higher amounts but these are not binding).
If you are awarded compensation and the adviser goes into liquidation, you can claim up to £50,000 from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. If your adviser has already been liquidated you may be able to skip directly to this stage – check the FSCS’ list of defaulted firms.
Investors should beware of “fraud recovery fraud” where someone claims they can recover your investment or buy your investment off you, in exchange for “legal fees” or “liquidation fees”. If they ask you for money, it is a fraud. If someone wants to buy your investment, they will pay you, not vice versa. In a liquidation, the liquidator does not ask stakeholders for money; it stands first in the queue and takes its fee from any assets left, before making any payment to other stakeholders.