This is a lab,” Kaouane says with a smile, opening up his arms above his shoulders as to encompass the entire building. He does this in reply to the notion that, at face value, many aspects of the self-storage business are incompatible with the Jordanian market, which as Kaouane puts it: “we are testing” with the company’s first facility next to the 8th circle in Amman. The incongruities of the business model in the Jordanian market did not deter the Jordanian family interested in bringing the business to the country. Doing their homework first, Kaouane says the founders, “Did a lot of research, spent a year and a half researching, talking to key people in the industry in Europe, developing contacts…that’s how they found me.” He continues, that in his 15 years of experience, he was “used to people who have the funds and like the idea and get somebody, like me, who has the know-how to develop the business, but I was surprised [that the family] had done more work [and research] than I had seen before.” Despite the risk that there wasn’t a market in Jordan for this kind of business, the family moved ahead with their plan, combining its familiarity with the culture and their business savvy, with Kaouane’s lengthy experience in self-storage, to open the first facility of its kind in the Levantine region.
Business Model Adjustments
General Manager Serge Kaouane was hired for the Jordanian business with 15 years experience in opening self-storage facilities in countries all around the world, from the US to a range of European branches. He had applied his knowhow in each branch he helped open with slight cultural adaptations, especially in countries where self-storage was an unheard of idea. When he was brought in to tackle the Jordan branch, he anticipated the modifications that would have to be made to accommodate the country’s unique needs. However, he quickly found how little of his expertise in the business he could apply. “I had to adapt the business model a lot more than I thought. I thought the market wouldn’t be a big issue – it’s a small city and we’ll apply the same patterns we have in other countries. But this was absolutely not the case,” he asserts emphatically. “There’s no pattern in this market.”
Some of these changes were mere details. The cycle of business usually peaks in May and June in all markets, except for in Jordan, which peaks in July. Some differences led the company to evaluate the services it offered: “Self-storage,” putting emphasis on self, explains Kaouane. “People typically move in their own things, they buy packing materials and manage the whole thing themselves. That doesn’t exist here.” The clientele the company is attracting requires services that cover the process from beginning to end; from assessing cost, space, amount of packing and wrapping supplies needed, to packing the items, and, finally, the transfer to the storage facility. While Easy Storage usually helped in assessing space needs, they were not accustomed to providing the additional services usually outside those characteristically offered by self-storage companies. In response to this, the company opened up a small store, where customers can buy packing materials and even hired outside moving companies to move items from the clients’ houses to the storage unit.
Another concern when applying the business model to Jordan was to discern who exactly were the potential users of the service. Historically, self-storage targeted the wide middle classes of the US and Europe. Typically, those who come from the upper classes don’t have a space problem, whereas the middle class frequently have a lack of space and a disposable income to afford self-storage. With an unsubstantial middle class in Jordan, the question was: who would use the service? The company paid close attention in the beginning weeks to who was calling about their services: where they were calling from and what their needs were. By profiling the enquiries, EasyStorage quickly found out that the upper class was going to be their main customers in Jordan. While the company does get business from some middle-class clients, mostly those travelling abroad for a long period of time, Kaouane explains that the typical customer, “has a mansion in Dabouq or Abdoun and changes his living room every six months, and with expensive furniture wants to put it somewhere safe.”
The users of self-storage in Jordan differ from their counterparts in Europe in more than one way. Kaouane explains that the “success of self-storage is very closely associated to the economy of the country, which is not the case here.” The market for self-storage in Europe, which the general manager said was “booming five years ago,” plummeted when the economic crisis hit the euro zone, leaving the middle class with much less disposable income. However, as Jordan suffers economically with high unemployment and poverty rates, the upper class has remained resilient – making them consistent customers despite the economic circumstances. The type of customers has also changed the company’s marketing strategy. Kaouane quickly realized that the upper class and higher upper class were a small, inter-connected group of people and word of mouth would be their best way to infiltrate potential customers. He elaborates: “word of mouth will be the main marketing source and the cheapest.”
More than proving it can be flexible to the needs of its clientele, EasyStorage facilities and services are also top of the line. The ventilated, concrete storage building provides several different sized rooms, from 2x2 meters to 25 squared meters, so customers don’t have to pay for more space than they are using. There is also open space for storage units to be customized for particular customer needs. These can be up to 400 square meters in size. For convenience, there is no long term commitment and only a seven day notice is required to vacate customers’ goods. The customer service-oriented company also doesn’t require fees for leaving the space earlier than planned. The facility can also be conveniently accessed 24 hours a day. The round the clock safety measures present, range from security guards, cameras and alarm systems, thus providing security and peace of mind for users of the service.
Self-Storage For Businesses
The units are not only reserved for personal use, but also have found their way into the budgets of businesses as well. While customers who use the storage units for personal reasons tend to be from the same economic class, the businesses that use easy storage are quite varied. Although most of the companies tend to be medium-size, small companies not being able to afford the service, and bigger companies having their own storage facilities, the type of business ranges. Bakeries have used the units for storing sugar and flour, law firms and logistic companies who want to store dead archives, merchandisers who keep excess clothing to free up floor space in their store, and even logistic companies wanting to store a large piece of machinery for a few weeks.
The “test” facility has already proven its success. Operating for just over six months, it is already at 60% capacity and growing. With its early success, there are already plans to expand the company in sheer size, building more storage units within the city. Kaouane explains they’ll “keep urban locations with easy access – that’s the key to success here in Amman.” As a result, the facilities will remain small, never growing larger than 4,000 to 5,000 square meters in size. The company has already begun plans to expand regionally into different Gulf countries, as well as Turkey, where self-storage has not been introduced yet. In response to the market needs in Jordan, the company is also thinking about expanding its services even further by providing its own packing and transport structure, instead of outsourcing the service. As Kaouane continues to expand on the intricacies of the plan, he remarks: “It’s a big myth that self-storage is this incredible business that you just have to build the building, then people will come and put their stuff in it and it becomes a cash cow. It sounds simple, but it takes know-how.” As the business prepares to expand after only six months, EasyStorage has proven it has what it takes.