What were your biggest struggles with this project?
Mainly seeing the project through in Thailand with no data to fall back on or local suppliers, so all had to be sourced abroad including the partition-installation team. In general, this meant long lead times, delays in shipping and customs, and costs higher than if we were to develop in the West.
Another thing was the availability of suitable buildings. In the West, there’s an abundance of affordable, suitable properties ranging from malls and factories to warehouses that can be easily converted. In Thailand, there are very few properties like this, so new builds or major restorations are needed to develop a quality self-storage facility.
Construction in Thailand is also very labor-intensive and manual, so delays are common in receiving materials and making sure work progresses. Being a tropical location rain can also hold up construction, sometimes for a week, and effectively stop all transports from Bangkok, which is the main source of construction material.
With this being our first self-storage facility, one thing we didn’t fully comprehend until the partitioning started to go up was that cutting around beams was a time-consuming and ineffective task. If we had been advised to avoid a system that reached the beams and gone with a wire-mesh ceiling, some frustration from the installation team could have been avoided, and we would’ve cut labor costs by 25 percent.
Advice on climate control might have come in handy, too. We find that some customers ask for climate-controlled units because of the tropical location. For our next development, we will take that into account.
Other obstacles include producing legal documents, such as bilingual rental agreements and a bilingual website, finding an insurance company and establishing online bank payments.
Ultimately you chose a mixture of roll-up doors and swing doors in all white. Are you pleased with the mix?
There were a few reasons behind choosing an all-white system. First, we prefer flat and not corrugated swing doors, and they are only available in white from our supplier. For a uniform look, we picked white doors. Also, not being sure how we would be received by the market and for future exit strategy, we chose white in case another operator bought us. Then they could easily adapt with minor costs and not be forced to change all the doors.
White is also easier to touch up than some darker colors and not as visually sensitive to minor dents. Pricewise it also made sense to go with white. Feedback from tenants shows the facility looks sophisticated, premium, spacious, appealing, clean and bright.
What has been the response for the first self-storage facility in Phuket?
It’s a relatively new type of service in Thailand that was previously executed on a minor scale in Bangkok; it hasn’t been executed at our level of quality or with intent to establish additional facilities. It may take longer to reach stabilization than in a more mature market. Thai nationals have not completely grasped the concept of self-storage yet because they were previously exposed to either storing their stuff in an open warehouse or renting a shop house or an apartment for their goods. This means our sales and marketing have to be in a more informative and educational tone than in other countries.
Is there another self-storage project in your future?
We are investigating other sites in Phuket and Bangkok. In Bangkok, it will take careful consideration for the location, how we want our brand to be perceived and our target groups.
With the intent to act as a turnkey provider, we plan to attend industry tradeshows where we would represent the brands used in development. Given time, that may result in facilities developed for parties interested in entering the Thai self-storage market.
Amy Fuhlman is director of marketing for Janus International, where she manages the marketing communications programs for Janus as well as Janus International Rolling Steel Division and Gliderol Self Storage Solutions in the United Kingdom. Headquartered in Temple, Ga., Janus is a manufacturer of commercial and industrial doors and building components for self-storage and an array of other industries. For more information, visit www.janusintl.com .