Trunkroom Channel English

Rental storage and container storage

Mr. Akira Sugawara
Yano Research Institute Ltd.

This is a series of ten reports on the storage business and self-storage markets in Japan, from a market environment perspective.

No. 1 What is the storage business?
No. 2 Macro Trends in the Population/Number of Households and Expansion of Storage Service Users
No. 3 Housing and the storage business
No. 4 Rental storage and container storage
No. 5 Market trends in rental storage
No. 6 Market trends in container storage
No. 7 Storage business as real estate business
No. 8 Storage business seen from map data
No. 9 Storage business seen from survey results
No.10 Storage business potential going forward

In No. 1, we divided storage services broadly into three categories. Indoor rental storage and container storage are often both classified as trunk rooms, but here we want to draw a comparison between indoor rental storage and container storage. Finally, we would also like to describe briefly how they differ from trunk rooms.

System Diagram Showing Different Storage Services


* Colored areas are defined as “storage services.”

In the above diagram we have tried to illustrate storage services in schematic form, including the content of services, the kinds of contract, the belongings handled, and so on.
Services for which customers sign a real estate rental agreement are called “rental storage spaces.” These can be divided into “indoor rental storage” and “container storage.” So how do indoor rental storage and container storage differ from each other?

Differences between indoor rental storage and container storage

Indoor rental storage Container storage
Contract type Rental agreement
Location Indoor storage space is rented out (The inside of a building such as a warehouse, office building, part of an apartment building, commercial facility, etc. is partitioned into storage spaces) Outdoor containers or sheds are rented out as storage space (Containers or steel sheds are set up in car parks etc. as storage space)
Stored items Can store anything except generally forbidden items such as combustibles, hazardous goods, or valuables
Security Only clients may enter the building in principle. An automatic security system is installed to enforce this Only clients may enter the premises in principle, but in many cases there is no gate etc. installed to enforce this
Air-conditioning Storage spaces have active ventilation at the very least. Some operators provide humidity control and temperature control Containers are fitted with thermal insulation etc., but there are only air vents for natural ventilation
Insurance Belongings are not insured in principle, but some operators do provide insurance (Sometimes a separate fee, sometimes included in rent)

(Created by Yano Research Institute)

We compared six aspects of indoor rental storage and container storage, as shown in the table above. Of these, the three biggest differences were in location, security, and air-conditioning.

Indoor rental storage provides storage spaces created by partitioning the inside of buildings, usually office blocks or warehouses. In some cases, however, transport containers are stacked together to form a building and their insides divided up into storage spaces. Container storage provides storage spaces created by partitioning the inside of transport containers, usually located outdoors (in car parks, vacant lots, etc.) There are also cases of storage services utilizing steel sheds installed in the gardens of ordinary residential houses.

In most cases of indoor rental storage, only users can enter the storage spaces there because of security in the building or on the floors where the storage spaces are. Security is further ensured by each storage space having its own lock. With container storage, on the other hand, access to the premises where the containers are located is basically unrestricted, and so the only security provided is a lock on individual containers. There are cases these days of operators taking additional measures such as erecting a fence around the perimeter of the premises to prevent trespassing.
Security cameras can provide security to both kinds of storage, but quite a few container storage operators have not installed them as yet.

[Air-conditioning management]
There are various approaches toward air-conditioning management among indoor rental storage operators, from those who maintain constant temperature and humidity conditions all year round to those who simply provide ventilation. But indoor environments and conditions vary from place to place and so air-conditioning management is conducted to suit each facility, such as by installing dehumidifiers in basements where humidity is high or electric fans in summer on higher floors where the indoor temperature tends to be higher. From ordinary people’s perspective, therefore, storage conditions are almost the same as in the closets of their homes.
Air-conditioning management in container storage, on the other hand, consists only of natural ventilation through air vents fitted to the containers. In summertime, because the interior temperature gets very high, measures are taken to fit a layer of insulation onto the roof of some containers. From an ordinary person’s point of view, therefore, these storage conditions are almost the same as in an outdoor shed or garage.
Contract type, stored items, and insurance are almost the same for indoor rental storage and container storage. Both have the same regulations regarding stored items, but if we must give a difference, indoor rental storage is for storing belongings as they would be stored within a home, and container storage is for storing things as they would be outdoors or in a shed, as already mentioned in regard to air-conditioning control. However, because users themselves can choose how to use storage, it is not a matter of which solution is the correct one. And because these two types of storage space do not both exist within the scope of people’s daily lives for comparison, users give priority to price or distance from their home rather than selecting either type.

Differences from trunk rooms

In general, indoor rental storage and container storage are both often referred to as trunk rooms. There are many who perceive any place other than their home where their belongings can be taken care of as a trunk room. However, as the System Diagram Showing Different Storage Services above shows, in this research we categorize trunk rooms as a separate service from indoor rental storage and container storage. Trunk rooms are a storage service governed by the Warehousing Business Act. When an operator takes charge of someone’s property, they assume an appropriate level of responsibility for it. Some operators that have expanded their trunk rooms even handle valuables such as cash, stock certificates, or jewelry. With rental storage spaces, on the other hand, security is tight but not at a high enough level to be able to take care of valuables. Also, users can move their belongings in or out of rental storage spaces 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, although they have to carry them by themselves. In the case of trunk rooms, however, the operator’s responsibility extends to transportation, enabling them to pick up and deliver door-to-door. One drawback is that if customers want to go to the trunk room themselves to pick up their things, they must do so during the operator’s business hours (which often do not include weekends). Trunk rooms are a service that places importance on the items being stored, while storage is a service that prioritizes the owner of the items being stored (the storage user). As I wrote earlier, there is probably no answer to the question as to whether a trunk room, indoor rental storage, or container storage is best. We are in an era when users can select a storage service depending on their own reasons for renting a storage space. Although users are still not being accurately informed about this, we do hope more and more people will utilize storage services.

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