The Sharing Economy, Warehousing and You
Blame Uber and Lyft if you must, but the “sharing economy” is a huge backbone of South Africa’s society these days and will continue to affect how business is done going into the future.
Without getting too far into the Econ 101 weeds, it’s easiest to define the sharing economy as a peer-to-peer method of sharing access to goods and services, often through an online platform or mobile app. Think about the earlier examples of Uber or Lyft (particularly when you wind up sharing your ride with someone else on the way to the airport) or even something like rentable work spaces and phone apps where you can sell your used stuff.
The sharing economy has worked its way into nearly every facet of South African business (and, to an extent, life in general), and this includes the world of warehousing. A lot of warehouses are giving part of their facility (if not the whole darn thing) over to the sharing economy, renting space (and in many cases the accompanying fixtures like pallet racks and shelving) to other businesses that need it for short-term usage.
In particular, the rise of warehouses in the sharing economy has stemmed from the growth of ecommerce. Online shopping has made it easier for nearly anyone to start their own business, but as many of us have learned, you’re going to run out of space in your spare room for your eBay stores eventually, and that’s where shared warehousing can come in. Sharing warehouse space, generally by renting an unused portion of a currently existing warehouse, can be a huge benefit for smaller ecommerce businesses who need a better way to store products but don’t quite have the economic footing to purchase their own offsite storage.
Similarly, a lot of businesses use it for temporary storage as the need arises. Crowdfunding, for example, can require a flexible amount of storage space for all the products you may or may not be making after your crowdfunding campaign concludes, which shared warehousing space can easily provide. Similarly, businesses that deal in more temporary stock such as seasonal items can benefit from renting part of someone else’s warehouse to help manage their changeable stock volume without wasting excess space at their own facility (or, worse, renting an entire empty warehouse and only using part of it).
What does this mean for your warehouse? If you have unused space in your own building, this can be a great way to get a little extra revenue out of it. If you have well-equipped extra space with warehouse shelving (since most renters won’t be able to provide their own storage equipment) you can easily turn this into shareable space to help your bottom line and branch out into new fields. Ideally, if your warehouse is already optimised you shouldn’t have to do much work to reach this point but be warned—you will have to share a lot of services. Make sure your renters are aware of your shipping capacity and your ability to work with vendors to get orders on time and try to provide a wide array of shelving including high density shelving and other types of equipment to handle any given storage need, including FIFO for perishables and consumables.
It isn’t for everyone, but if you have some room and shelving to spare you may just be able to boost your bottom line by sharing your warehouse. Who knows—it could be the start of a whole new business venture?