By Amy Fuhlman
In October, StoreGuard Co. Ltd. opened a MY STORAGE facility in the Jungceylon Shopping Center of Patong, Phuket, Thailand. Nestled in a mixed-use development, it’s the country’s first state-of-the-art self-storage. I recently spoke with company owners Sukanda Chiaranussati and Robert Akerblom about the challenges of renovating an existing building, their biggest hurdles to developing in Phuket, and whether they plan to do it all over again.
Tell me about the birth of MY STORAGE.
As operators of a real estate company in Phuket, we noticed a lack of commercial services available such as self-storage for property developers, suppliers, buyers and sellers, and temporary residents after years of construction focused mainly on hospitality and residential developments. StoreGuard Co. Ltd Thailand was founded with the intent to develop, own, manage and offer turnkey self-storage solutions. With facilities under our own brand, MY STORAGE, we aim at becoming a national leader in self-storage services and products.
Thailand is a green-field market with no proper data for high-quality, premium-priced self-storage, so our research was based on existing regional facilities in Singapore, Hong Kong and general trends in the West.
MY STORAGE is a conversion rather than a new build. What factors made you decide to convert an existing building over new construction?
For a first flagship facility, we needed a location in a major metropolitan area, preferably close to retail and high traffic. Being already established in Phuket and with an existing available warehouse at Jungceylon Shopping Center in Patong—the largest mall in Southern Thailand with 300 commercial tenants—we thought we had found a suitable location.
Built with an internal ceiling height of 9 meters and a shape following land boundaries, the space was far from square or rectangular, which presented challenges when trying to achieve maximum square footage. A newly built facility would have been our preference, but with high land prices, local building restrictions, zoning and few available plots of suitable size, we decided on a long lease option.
Patong is Phuket’s major hub, with strong growth expected for years to come in spite of the current world economy. We discovered storage facilities in mixed-used development typically have a higher success rate, so we decided it was a good fit.
What were the costs involved?
Construction costs are, strangely enough, higher here than in the West due to ineffective construction methods, lack of proper building material and long lead times. A new build would be best if selecting a prefab-type warehouse from an international brand produced in Thailand, such as Blue Scope Steel, which we may try for our next facility.
Other costs, of course, include partitioning systems, management software, ancillary products, etc. All of these needed to be imported, making the entry barrier even larger.
Tell us about the layout of the facility.
The facility has three floors of 800 square meters, each with a ceiling height of 2.6 meters. The two lower floors have been fitted together, with three larger units on the third floor. Plans are to design the final layout for the third floor after reaching 60 percent to 70 percent occupancy on the lower floors to determine a suitable unit mix.
With Phuket being a transient holiday destination, the average unit size is 5.10 square meters. We have a few smaller units up to 2.25 square meters; a wide range to 4.5 square meters; units between 6 and 9 square meters; internal larger units up to 15 square meters; and 20- to 25-square-meter external drive-up units with 24-hour access.
Layouts are projected between the floors, giving corridors identical location. Units along the outer wall have an irregular shape, but are apart from the rectangular.