Self-storage wars: Hong Kong's Boxful acquires smaller rival GNL after US$6.6 million funding round

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 August, 2015, 5:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 August, 2015, 5:51pm

Hong Kong's highly competitive self-storage market is beginning to see some consolidation as market leader Boxful said Thursday it has acquired smaller rival Go N Live (GNL). 

The move comes after Boxful closed an HK$51.1 million (US$6.6 million) Series A funding round in June, which executives said would be used for expansion. 

GNL founder and chief executive Mark Sims will join the company as a senior advisor, Boxful said in a statement. 

"Mark has spearheaded the development of valet storage in Hong Kong and I appreciate the contributions he's made," said Boxful co-founder Norman Cheung. 

In the past 18 months, Hong Kong has gone from having a very traditional self-storage market, with deals conduct by phone and warehouse space rented out by the square metre, to a hyper-modern, app-focused economy with multiple companies tussling for customers and market share. 

Boxful, Spacebox, Klosit, StuffGenie and until Thursday Go N Live all operate on the same basic principle: someone with too many belongings lying around will happily open an app and order a plastic box delivered to their flat. 

READ MORE: Hong Kong storage start-ups jockey for piece of the action

The customer then throws all the non-essentials - winter clothes or old photo albums, perhaps – into the box and has it sent to a warehouse for storage. The customer is charged a minimal fee, usually about US$7 per month, for each box.

By charging customers for the boxes they use rather than the space they may not, the firms are able to undercut traditional warehouses and attract customers who may not have used self-storage in the past. 

Boxful and other companies also offer users the option of cataloguing and checking their stored items. 

This is something that GNL specialised in, namely, providing customers a "virtual cupboard" from which they could order or deposit items as if it were in their own home, rather than in a warehouse potentially many miles away.