Consumers and businesses in many parts of South Africa are still learning about the benefits a well-run self-storage operation can offer. However, the demand for units in the KwaZulu-Natal province, particularly around the city of Durban, is so high that the owners of Giba Storage launched their business last year on a large plot of land that’s also home to a gravel-borrow pit. In fact, waste material from the quarry comprises the blocks used to construct the storage units.
Giba Storage opened in December 2011 with 56 units. Based on demand, the owners raised rental rates 16 percent by the end of their first week. By the end of the month, 40 units had rented, and by the end of January, the facility was fully booked and placing names on a waiting list. The owners are adding another 20 units and plan to offer 250 by the end of June 2013 as part of their phase-one plan.
“We will continue building units while there is a demand,” says CEO Chris Harburn, adding that the only marketing Giba Storage has used is Google AdWords. “It has been a fascinating introduction to an interesting industry, and we are learning as fast as possible. We realize that no business is easy, and we are trying to keep our feet on the ground. It is early days; we know very little about the industry.”
The facility is in an area famous for its diverse nature and outdoor activities. The Giba Valley is known locally as Clifton Canyon, and since 2007, it has become popular with the public thanks to the opening of the Giba Gorge Mountain Bike Park. Outdoor recreation and activities in the valley include boot camps, horse trails, venture groups, mountain-bike rides, organic produce, restaurants and conferences. Harburn believes it has the potential to become one of the major lifestyle and tourist attractions in KwaZulu-Natal and all of South Africa. Giba Storage is in Giba Business Park in Westmead, about 29 kilometers outside of Durban.
Giba Storage offers roll-up, shutter doors on units and plenty of space for customer parking and vehicle access, he says. The standard unit size is 5.52 by 2.78 meters, with a ceiling height of 2.75 meters. Standard units rent for nearly $85 per month, excluding a value-added tax.
Customers have access to the facility 24 hours per day. The office/reception area is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. All units have a 24-hour guard linked to an armed response unit, and an electric fence surrounds the site.
“Giba is keen to provide customers with a cost-effective, professional self-storage solution, suited to personal budgets,” Harburn says. “We are currently reviewing the demand for other unit sizes.”
Harburn is optimistic about Giba Storage, particularly with consumer demand high in KwaZulu-Natal. Self-storage operators in the Durban area are either mostly full or have only one or two units available at the end of the each month, he says. Three facilities in the area are currently expanding their operations.
Harburn says he’s thankful for the amount of help and advice offered by existing self-storage operators. “The industry is still in its infancy and has huge potential for growth,” Harburn says. “It is exciting times in an otherwise dull economy.”