24 October 2016
Using technology like mobile apps and e-quotations to improve customer experience has been an emerging trend in the mini-storage industry. Photo: Hongkong Storage
Using technology like mobile apps and e-quotations to improve customer experience has been an emerging trend in the mini-storage industry. Photo: Hongkong Storage

Stories behind the mushrooming of mini-storages

Have you ever wondered why there are a growing number of mini-storage users? Why are they willing to pay thousands of dollars a year to keep things they rarely need in the daily lives? What exactly are they keeping there?

Some are doing it for practical reasons. Residential properties and offices in Hong Kong are known for their steep prices.

It therefore makes a lot of financial sense to tuck away less often used things in industrial buildings where these mini-storages are typically located and take advantage of the big rental gap, said Louis Chung, managing director of Hongkong Storage.

Common examples are for customers to store up their off-season clothing, or sundry items like toys, books, CDs, golf clubs, suitcases and electrical appliances.

There are also short-term needs for storage space.

Households planning to move to new homes may need them for temporary storage of furniture.

Couples may also need a place for their pre-wedding purchases of all sorts before they move to their new homes.

Storage of memories

There is another group of customers who are driven by their emotional needs.

“Some items are not expensive enough to justify the rental cost, but instead of monetary value, they may carry tremendous emotional value to a customer,” Chung noted.

He cited the case of a customer who wanted to keep the gifts and other mementoes from his former girlfriends, sentimental items that he could not leave at home where his wife could find them.

For these people, there is a need for a secret and safe place to store up some very personal items that hold much intangible value.

A service provider rather than just a storage firm

Light music, Wi-Fi, proper decor and smart lighting, these are hardly things this writer had expected to see before stepping into the one of the company’s storage units.

Although it seeks to meet basic storage needs, Hongkong Storage has adopted a service-oriented strategy since its early days, after having found that most of its customers were located in relatively wealthy residential areas.

The company listens to what customers demand and shapes its premium services accordingly, turning customer needs into something of business value.

Knowing that users may be concerned about theft, the company tapped a security firm to help design its surveillance system, including an alarm directly connected to the police station nearby.

Some customers are worried about weather changes and molds, so the company offers temperature and humidity control as well as regular debugging.

Some people prefer to have the flexibility and privacy to drop in anytime they want to store or retrieve their things, while others want pickup and delivery service to save themselves from the hassle.

The company offers both choices – mini-storage rooms and storage boxes – to clients.

Lots of newcomers have sprung up in recent years.

Is Hongkong Storage worried about the rivalry causing an excess of supply?

Chung estimates that only 10 percent of Hong Kong families are using mini-storage services.

If the US experience is any guide, the market is far from saturated. Rising population will also drive demand.

“The popularity of online shopping also favors further growth of the storage business. People are buying more stuff,” Chung added.

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EJ Insight writer

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