Summer is peak time for Easytruck Moving & Storage. Chris Humphrey, the company’s general manager, who previously owned an outdoor advertising firm, and British wife Natalie, 35, a former executive coach who also runs Baby Bazaar pop-up events, started the company in 2009. In 2011 they added storage to the moving service and later combined both to offer storage pods, packed by staff at a home or office and transported to warehousing in Dubai Investments Park, Al Quoz or Jebel Ali. Here Mr Humphrey, 45, reveals how their business is a barometer of how the local economy is faring:
Easytruck began after the financial crash – was it out of necessity?
I was genuinely worried about our future. We were both in our own businesses, businesses that were fickle. Our income dried up virtually within a couple of months. I’ve been in Dubai since 2002. I bought property, it was delayed, had to put stuff into storage. I remember being impressed by the concept; something at that point clicked … that was a business I would like to be in.
Dubai had removal firms so why was Easytruck needed?
Companies like Dubizzle were on the rise. Everyone was moving, selling fridges, sofas and leaving Dubai. I thought if someone buys a double-door fridge, how do they get it home? One option is go to Satwa, negotiate a truck. Easytruck’s original business model was connecting trucks with customers. Ultimately people wanted to move their entire house. We started doing larger moves on this outsourced model and were having drama with the guys rolling up. We realised it needs to be done right, at a premium level. We’re passionate about customer service and that was lacking in this market in 2009, so we built a team of moving professionals. We started with one truck, a trade licence and website. We rented our first warehouse, invested in signage and racks and have organically grown the business from savings and cash flow.
How does the company differ from competition?
We’ve always had high demand for storage coming into summer. I’d seen a concept in the US where they put containers in your drive and you load it. But this is Dubai, too hot to do it yourself in the peak period, so we leveraged our moving services and warehousing and created pods. This has been hugely successful. We’ve built 800 in a couple of years and more warehouses. We’re full service; we do packing, loading, transport. When the customer needs access we assist at the warehouse or we bring it to them.
How has the company grown?
We’ve got three locations, nine trucks, eight warehouses and just over 30 employees. We’re bursting at the seams. We’re adding racking to try to create more floor space to accommodate the summer surge. We’re continuing to grow year-on- year. Over the summer period everything spikes, we go up 25-30 per cent.
Is Easytruck’s business stream a barometer of the local economy?
Definitely. We get inquiries from people who are outbound. Economic uncertainty tends to push things up for us. We say everyone in storage has a story; most are unfortunate, people being laid off or in a difficult situation in need of a stopgap. We get a lot of inquiries when things are on the low. When things are good as well people upgrade from the Marina to The Palm, from Sharjah to JLT. When things are stable we’re quite flat. When people are settled, that’s not the best environment for our business. When things are great we’re busy on moves; not so great, we’re busy on storage.
So how are things in 2017?
We won’t really know until early August what’s going on. A lot of people move in Ramadan because they’ve got extra time, so we’re extremely busy. But there’s a cloud of uncertainty that carried from last year into this. We hear of people losing jobs, big numbers from big companies, but we hear it from our customers, their plight. People are wary.
Where does Easytruck go from here?
There’s definitely opportunity in Abu Dhabi and beyond but we’re busy enough in our own market. We’re launching a new concept, mini-pods. It’s a collapsible storage unit we deliver, customers fill and we pickup and return on demand, more for customers looking to clear space of seasonal stuff. We’ve built 30 as a test and they’re all rented. We’ve ambitious plans for the concept. That’s a business within the business, an entirely new customer. That’s our short-term strategy, to develop new services.
Does Easytruck provide storage solutions to retailers and businesses?
We have storage where customers from small SMEs can have stock delivered, racked and they do fulfilment directly out of here. We also have events customers. The night before an event, our team will take the pod to the venue, set up and organisers arrive ready for action. Our team comes after, breaks everything down, puts it back in the pods.
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