About one in four (23.7%) of the non-users of self-storage space surveyed will consider using the services of a self-storage company in Singapore within the next year, according to a survey conducted by Lock+Store in collaboration with Colliers International this year. About one-quarter of these potential users intend to store their items for one to two years.
A total of 894 respondents participated in the islandwide random survey conducted between May and September 2012. Of the 894 respondents, only 4.5% were existing self-storage users. The 95.5% majority were non-users, although an encouraging 65.8% of these non-users have heard of the concept of self-storage space, indicating that the level of awareness of the self-storage concept is relatively high among these non self-storage space users.
Lock+Store’s Chief Executive Officer Helen Ng says, ““Compared to the US and Australia where the self-storage penetration rates are about 7.2% and 1.2% sq ft per capita respectively, Singapore’s penetration rate is only 0.2% sq ft per capita. The results show that the self-storage industry has much growth potential in Singapore and there has been a significant mind-set change among residents and businesses towards the concept of self-storage. Singaporeans are now more open to the idea of using self-storage space compared to 10 years ago.” To meet the anticipated new demand for self-storage space, Lock+Store is expanding its flagship Chai Chee facility by 50,000 sqft.
Ms Chia Siew Chuin, Director, Research & Advisory, Colliers International says, “Amid the development trend towards smaller apartment sizes in line with shrinking household sizes, this pool of potential users could expand and translate into new demand for self-storage space over the next few years, particularly when more households move into their newly completed private shoebox residential units.” According to the latest estimates from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the stock of completed shoebox units will increase from about 2,400 units as of the end of 2011 to about 11,000 units by the end of 2015 (ref. required).
Majority will store personal items
A large proportion (or 70.5 %) of potential users intend to store personal items such as furniture, clothing and household goods in a self-storage facility.
Some 10.5% of the potential users were hobbyists who could be looking for additional storage space for their collections. This includes antiques, toys and wine. Another 11.4% were likely to be seeking to adopt a more cost-effective storage model for their business goods.
Ms Ng says, “With rising affluence, we have seen a shift in the demographic of self-storage users in Singapore over the past five years, with an increase in the number of hobbyists storing with us. For example, at our Chai Chee facility, we have a fund manager who stores Singapore’s largest private collection of samurai swords and bowling balls.”
Another potential demographic are small business owners and start-ups. According to the survey, about 11.4% of potential users intend to store office documents and inventory. Amid the backdrop of an economic slowdown, Ms Ng says “Self-storage offers SMEs the opportunity to better manage their operating costs.”
She says, “Many of our SME storers are already experiencing the effect of an economic slowdown. Those with inventory appreciate the flexible storage terms we offer – from as little as two weeks to as long as they like. This helps them adjust to seasonal demand and manage business costs more efficiently.”
Such flexibility appeals to Mr Lyle de Groot, the owner of ExpatFoodHall.com. Mr de Groot managed to reduce fixed costs by renting a self-storage unit at Lock+Store for his inventory.
Mr de Groot says, “Renting a self-storage unit on flexible terms allows me to manage my business costs and streamline the delivery process. It helps that Lock+Store offers a wide range of air-conditioned units and a convenient and easily accessible loading bay.”
Price and security key considerations of potential users
The key considerations of potential self-storage users in selecting a self-storage facility are generally similar to those of existing self-storage users.
202 potential users were asked to rank the importance of the different attributes of a self-storage facility (on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least important) in their consideration of self-storage space. “Price” and “Security” emerged as the two most important attributes, which garnered the most votes of 47.5% and 45.5%, respectively from the potential users.
Thereafter, the potential users rated attributes such as “Location of Facility”, “Customer Service”, “Flexible Storage Terms”, “Ease of Access” and “Confidentiality/Anonymity” highly, gathering 38.6%, 34.7%, 34.2%, 33.2% and 29.7% of the “Most Important” votes respectively.
Other attributes like “On-site Assistance” (i.e. assistance with the setting-up & tearing-down of storage space), “Availability of Accessories” (e.g. boxes, shelving, etc.) and “Recommended Partners” (e.g. moving and insurance companies) had lower levels of importance among the potential users, with only about 10.4% to 16.3% of them ranking these attributes as “Most Important”.
Ms Chia says, “’Price is clearly a very important factor for consideration when selecting a self-storage facility. Hence, self-storage providers/operators will need to take into account the price sensitivity of both existing and potential self-storage space users in order to retain their existing customers and attract new users. While more established/reputable operators are likely able to command a price premium for their branding, other factors influencing the final monthly cost of renting a self-storage facility would include the location and features/specifications/offerings (e.g. security, size) of the facilities as well as the ancillary services offered by the operators which may include specialised packing and moving services.”
Competition has stiffened in recent years, with nine self-storage operators providing more than 1.4 million sq ft of net leasable space from 25 self-storage facilities. Recent changes in the regulatory environment, such as the recent new guidelines by the URA to limit the number of shoebox apartments that can be built, as well as cost fluctuations in the residential and business space property markets, may also curtail the demand for self-storage space.
Notwithstanding the stiffer competition and challenges, Ms Chia feels the growth prospects of Singapore’s self-storage industry “remain bright”. She says, “The survey results show there is a relatively high level of awareness of the self-storage concept among the non-users. And the self-storage user demand base looks set to expand with nearly a quarter of the existing non-users surveyed potentially becoming users within the next year.”
Ms Ng says, “At present, the opportunities still outweigh the challenges, and our company is growing at a rate of 5%. We will continue to pursue a growth strategy of acquiring facilities in areas that are underserved such as Jurong and Yishun. Lock+Store will also continue to introduce innovative self-storage concepts that cater to the evolving and specific needs of niche customer groups.”