The 2011/11/30 at 15:35
Alexandre T. Analis
A graduate of the ESC-Rouen, Anne-Catherine Péchinot, 41 years old, worked at GMF and PPC before joining Homebox in 1998, becoming its Chief Executive in 2006. Holder of a master’s in management sciences, Franck Casas, 37 years old, joined Homebox in 1997 and has been the group’s Network Manager since 2008.
Commerce International: In what circumstances was the company Homebox founded?
Anne-Catherine Péchinot: “During a trip to the United States in 1995, Nicolas Rousselet, CEO of Groupe G7, discovered the self-stockage profession. This activity did not exist, or was practically non-existent, in Europe. This is why he decided to found, the following year, the company Homebox, a subsidiary of Groupe G7, which is both a specialist in mobility (Taxis G7, G7 Taxis Services and ADA) and storage-logistics (Homebox, MGF Logistique and Novarchive). In 2010, the Groupe G7 had 2,000 employees, achieved a business volume of 511.5 million euros, and a turnover of 294.2 million euros.”
What does Homebox’s self-storage activity consist in, and what services do you offer?
Franck Casas: “Homebox is the pioneer and the number one in self-stockage in France, with 64 centres open to date (a 65th centre is located in Switzerland). The average size of a centre is 5,000 m2. We offer storage spaces ranging from 1 to 50 m2; beyond these dimensions, we can adapt to client requests. These storage spaces are private and entirely secure. Our clients hire them for the duration they desire thanks to a very flexible contract, and can access their spaces whenever they wish, 7 days a week. Homebox also offers a whole range of turnkey serv-ices: availability of handling equipment free of charge (carts, trolleys, pallet jacks…); security for goods thanks to video surveillance 24 hours a day and anti-intrusion radars; sale of storage supplies and useful accessories (boxes, protections…); the option of hiring utility vehicles at special rates; a relaxation space with couches; WiFi Internet connection and a coffee machine for ‘winding down’ between trips or loading sessions…”
Who are your clients?
F. C.: “70 % of our clients are private individuals (60 % of the turnover) and 30 % are professionals (40 % of the turnover). Professionals may be VSEs, SMEs-SMIs, tradespersons, builders or key accounts, that is large groups that hire storage space in storage centres to stock their advertising materials, samples, spare parts, sample products… Our portfolio includes a total of 20,000 active clients, 6,000 of these being businesses. There are over 150 major company clients including Danone Eaux, Mattel, Moët…”
How does the company Homebox stand out from its rivals?
A.-C. P.: “We base our offer on great proximity and quality of service and client relations. Our teams are available to find solutions for clients who sometimes live in stressful situations (moving, birth of a child). Our rates vary depending on the geographical location of our centres, but remain highly competitive (around 19 euros per m2 per month). Our contracts are flexible and have no minimum duration, requiring only 8 days’ notice. Finally, we are the only operator on the market to benefit from ISO 9001 certification since July 2011.”
What is the proportion of subsidiaries, franchises and lease management at Homebox?
F. C.: “Out of the 65 Homebox centres today, there are only 7 subsidiaries compared with 25 franchised centres and 33 centres under lease management, a system in which Homebox makes all investments and where the partner is the manager and minority shareholder. This is a good way, in our opinion, to encourage entrepreneurship among those with only 5,000 to 10,000 to invest at the outset. As for franchising, personal contributions are higher, representing 35 to 40 % of initial investment. The entrance ticket is around 1 million euros without the building and 2 million euros with the building. It is important to recall that self-stockage is an activity that requires medium to long-term commitment. Generally, the break-even point is reached after 3 years, return on investment within 5 or 6 years, and the internal rate of return is 15 % over 10 years.”
How do you communicate with private and business clients?
A.-C. P.: “Our communication budget was around 2 million euros this year. We are seeking to develop our name via several means: firstly Internet; poster campaigns near centres; public relations and participation in trade fairs (SITL, Salon du E-Commerce, Franchise Expo and a few regional expos); finally, thanks to television (we sponsored the programme Les Guignols de L’info on Canal + during the Cannes Film Festival).”
What are your coming development projects for Homebox?
A.-C. P.: “We are going to maintain our rhythm of ten openings per year, which should allow us to go over the 100 centre mark in the next three or four years. Our network covers almost all French cities with 100,000 inhabitants or more; we will therefore seek to open centres in towns where we are not yet present (Angers, Brest, Chambéry, Metz, Nancy, Perpignan, Poitiers…). We will also be opening centres in Île-de-France and the PACA region where demand is strong and where a single centre cannot cover the whole catchment area. Let’s note that the market is not yet mature: as an example, France only has 250 storage centres compared with 700 in the United Kingdom, a country with a slightly lower population and smaller surface area. The margin for progression is still very wide.”