Vanuatu: The happiest country on earth?

Voted the happiest country in the world in 2006 and 2008, there are worse places you could think of to start a new storage business than Vanuatu. Lloyd Hately of Vanuatu Self Storage certainly thought so when he opened his first facility (comprising 12 units) in the capital of Port Vila in mid 2012. A relative newcomer to the industry Lloyd found himself enjoying the extra time afforded by the business.

1. What is your background and what do you most enjoy about your current role?
I previously worked in the structural steel and building industry, however I find that “self storage gives me more time to play golf”. Having terrific staff, a good office manager and a supportive construction crew really helps.

2. How has your facility developed?
Since we opened we’ve built 16 more units with another 16 (6mx3m) currently under construction. In the future I will be looking to expand the existing site rather than opening another facility.

3. How do you advertise your business?
I started a local radio advertising campaign which has been fairly successful. Once the construction on our new units is finished I’ll step this up along with newspaper advertisements.

4. Have you noticed an impact with the global economic downturn?
The private sector in Vanuatu suffered pretty badly with the global financial crisis. Usually we have lots of Australia and NZ (ex) patriots buying land here, however that dried up completely. It’s starting to turn around now which is good.

5. What opportunities do you see in the industry in Vanuatu?
Self storage is such a new market in Vanuatu. We are the only purpose-built facility in Port Vila – there’s no one else here offering this kind of service. We had an initial rush with our first lot of units as there was a definite need out there.

6. What do you see as the challenges for the industry?
Creating awareness is a challenge; it’s important to let people know that we are here and we are good value. Most people in Vanuatu aren’t flat or unit dwellers and have big back yards (which they can fit a shipping container in), so they haven’t really seen a need for self storage. We are seeing more customers who have taken the shipping container route and have had stuff ruined though.

7. What are the points of difference in your market (as opposed to Australia/NZ)?
Generally speaking the business models from Australia and NZ don’t work here as we have a much smaller market. We also have a different demographic; fewer private storers and more commercial customers such as retail, business houses, embassies and NGO’s.

We don’t offer specialised storage such as wine or boat storage as there’s no demand for it given that the majority of our storers are commercial.

At this stage there’s no need to price discount as self storage is such a new industry here.

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