Self storage takes off in China

By David on February 7th, 2012 | No Comments

Self storage takes off in China

The expanding self storage industry in China is a mark of the country’s growing prosperity and vibrant consumer culture. As the Year of the Dragon gets under way, we take a closer look.

It sounds obvious, but as a country grows wealthier, its citizens tend to become more acquisitive. Higher incomes enable them to buy more stuff, causing a consumer revolution. Suddenly all kinds of things we take for granted in the West – televisions, refrigerators, washing machines (the list goes on and on), become available to ordinary people for the first time.

Famously, this process has swept across China over the last twenty years, turning it into an enormous market for consumer products. In the West, the increasing acquisition of more and more stuff by ordinary people created the demand for self storage, because so many of them found they no longer had enough room at home for all the things they bought. Now self storage seems to be taking off in China, as more and more people find they need extra room for all their belongings.

Ancient self storage in China

Self storage is not necessarily a new phenomenon in China. There is actually some evidence that China may have been home to the closest thing the ancient world had to self storage, according to a discovery made by a team of Chinese archaeologists who were excavating a 3,000-year-old site in the Zhouyuan region of Shaanxi Province last year.

They discovered a series of fruit larders which closely resembled modern self storage units, and were apparently rented out to wealthy landowners to store their crops. At least one of the larders still contained a very large number of fruit seeds which, remarkably, hadn’t deteriorated, showing that their operators understood the advantages of temperature control and moisture-proofing even then!

Chinese self storage centred on Shanghai

Returning to the present, the core of China’s nascent self storage market seems to be Shanghai, where at least two different companies compete for customers.

This city is home to the interestingly-named Lovebox Storage, whose website boasts the wonderfully frank company motto “Get self storage without BS”, and also its competitor Youyou Space, who boast they are China’s first members of the International Self Storage Association.

It’s easy to see why Shanghai would be attractive to anyone looking to start a self storage business. With a total population of over 23 million, it is widely regarded as being China’s largest city, as well as a major financial centre. It is the central command point for the booming economy of China’s east coast, and includes the world’s largest container port, linking Shanghai to the outside world.

Unsurprisingly, the outside world has been very keen to get sucked in to Shanghai. Many Westerners have migrated to the city in recent years, either to start their own businesses or having been relocated by multinational corporations, breeding a familiarity with self storage amongst the city’s social elite.

Chinese self storage featured in China Daily

A recent article by Shi Yingying in the China Daily drew attention to the growth of self storage in China, choosing to focus on Youyou Space.

It showed that their prices are reasonable, with a customer they interviewed saying she pays 689 Yuan a month to rent a 5-cubic-metre self storage unit, which is roughly equivalent to £68.90 here.

The list of items which the company says people have stored with it offers a fascinating glimpse of modern China’s nouveau riche urbanites. The customer above said she wanted her unit mostly to store expensive cosmetics so they wouldn’t go bad in the heat, while the manager of the facility also mentions people hiring units to store valuable antiques and luxury brand-name bags.

So far, this company has found the business to be highly seasonal, with more customers signing up during winter and spring as they clean their homes in preparation for Chinese New Year, showing how Western self storage can interact with ancient local customs.

With China expected to overtake the US as the world’s richest economy before 2020, its citizens should only get richer, and keener to own more stuff. Expect to see self storage in China expand significantly to meet this demand.

Be Sociable, Share!

| Back to blog home |

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to This Blog

Get new blog posts sent to you by subscribing to RSS updates or to email updates.