Despite getting a 10-year head start on the Mainland China self-storage industry, the Hong Kong market lacks technological advancement, according to two entrepreneurs who have self-storage experience in Hong Kong as well as Beijing, Guangzhou and other Chinese cities. While Chinese storage facilities often provide customers with digital access and online payment options, among other tech-based amenities, the Hong Kong market relies largely on tenant-supplied locks and physical keys for unit access, according to the source.
“You still need a key to open locks in Hong Kong, but here [in Beijing], all you need is a phone,” said Alan Tso Siu-hun, founder of CBD Self-Storage, which launched in 2014 and operates 43 facilities in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Chinese operators outside of Hong Kong were quick to offer technology solutions as a way to differentiate their businesses from competitors, he told the source.
CBD is among the operators that use WeChat, a Chinese smartphone application that allows messaging, mobile payments and social media access. Through the app, CBD customers can get technical support and open unit locks with their phones. It also allows tenants to assign unit access to third parties, the source reported.
“Hong Kong is lagging far behind in terms of Internet applications,” said Felix Wong Fu-yuen, who opened a self-storage business in Guangzhou two years ago and now operates 10 locations. Wong credited WeChat and other technology conveniences with helping grow the Chinese self-storage industry. WeChat was first released in 2011, around the time when the first self-storage facility appeared in Beijing, Tso said.
The number of self-storage facilities in Mainland China has grown 122 percent annually on average, with the number of locations recently jumping from less than 180 to more than 320, according to a 2018 survey conducted by Self Storage Association Asia. In contrast, the first Hong Kong self-storage facility opened in 2001. Today’s market has 369 locations, the source reported.
Those figures are down substantially from the number of self-storage facilities that were operating in Hong Kong before the market was subject to strict oversight and regulations in 2017. The government clamped down on the industry following two devastating fires that prompted safety concerns.
South China Morning Post, In Space-Starved Hong Kong, Self-Storage Industry Lags Behind More Tech-Savvy Mainland Rivals