In the US it’s very common to have self storage facilities where you can put stuff that you don’t want to have laying around your house anymore. Considering that the average Chinese apartment is a whole lot smaller than the average US house, it makes sense that self storage might work in China as well. So far there had not been any serious attempts to set this up, but now Carson Block (a former US attorney at Jones Day Shanghai) and his wife have started Love Box Storage.
Last night Carson gave a talk at a NextStep event at Lounge 18, and it was interesting to hear his entrepreneurial ideas. It took the company almost a year to find the right location and get it approved by the fire bureau, but now they got started in Zhabei (on Hutai Lu, just to the Northwest of where the NS Elevated Road and Inner Ring Road cross). Pricing is not very cheap for Chinese standards (starting at RMB 458/month for the smallest room), but you will have a guarded facility with controlled humidity – not unimportant in Shanghai! The company can also arrange insurance for your goods, and you have 24/7 access to your room.
The idea is new to most Chinese, but as China has also become more of a consumption society it could be a potential hit. However, as one attendee noted, most Chinese do not want their goods to be outside of their home (Is that true actually? I did not hear about this before). I am sure it will take time to get used to, but I think there will eventually be a market for it. Maybe starting with expats that have too many things in their small Shanghai apartments, or landlords that need to store their excess furniture when new tenants move in who already have their own furniture.
An interesting business idea for sure, and I will follow how Carson and his team will fare. One thing is certain, if this takes off there will be a lot of local competition very soon. They will then need to compete on service and storage quality, and not try to compete on price, and if I look at their site they understand that. They now already offer pick-up and delivery services for example, and they plan to offer the online management of tenants accounts. Carson even put his mobile phone number on the site, so people can always get in touch with him should there be any issues. In case you read this Carson: I think it’s a great idea, good luck to you and the team to implement it and make it a success!