Observing that an ISO shipping container is a standard product is correct. From that assuming that one container is as good as another is a mistake. Additionally to assume that one container seller is as good as another is also a mistake. Here is why:
In a normal year there are more than 4 million containers built in China. With few exceptions, the only variation in these containers is the color! The factory production is sold to shipping lines and container leasing companies. The containers will typically be in active trade for 13 years. The decision by which a container is removed from service is based on age, depreciation schedule, repositioning cost and condition. The quality of construction and design has dramatically extended the useful life of a container resulting in condition be less of a factor in equipment retirement.
Of this factory production, a very small percentage are loaded with cargo and sent out to be sold as ‘single trip’ boxes once they are unloaded and delivered to a sales yard. Because it would potentially double the price of a container if it were delivered from China without cargo truly new and unused containers are not available.
Containers retired from service are sold in the wholesale market to container resellers. These resellers come in a variety of types and knowing the differences will help in choosing the best supplier for you. Here is a general rundown on the types of suppliers:
|Factories||When production demand is low container factories will offer equipment for sale on a limited basis with a minimum volume commitment. An inexperienced buyer can find themselves with numerous challenges when buying this way. Pitfalls might include equipment being redelivered to a location other than yours, damage in route or quality variations. These sellers are in the market one day and out the next.|
|Shipping Line||Pretty much all shipping lines have container inventory that they are or will be selling. In most cases there is a person dedicated to equipment disposal. Primarily lines sell to wholesalers who can pay for and pick up equipment at a variety of locations. These sellers value convenience and efficiency.|
|Leasing Company||Container leasing companies see used equipment sales as a critical part of their business model. Unlike shipping line, equipment sales are seen as a profit center. Usually, regional sales people sell equipment to wholesale buyers who have established credit, resale authority and good relationships in the industry. Leasing companies value volume and convenience.|
|Container Depot||Container depots are set up in port and container interchange locations to inventory containers for cargo bookings, repairs or repositioning. Like the leasing companies, most depots are active sellers of equipment and this is an important part of their income. Often equipment that has been identified for sale will first be made available to the depot. Depots value volume and price.|
|Established Retailer||Retailer is a company that was established to sell containers. They might have 6 or more container suppliers and offer everything from as is containers all the way to complicated build-outs like offices or equipment storerooms. They tend to focus on customers looking for a dependable supplier of quality equipment. Retailers value repeat customers and quality.|
|Repositioning Seller||The companies purchase equipment in one location and short term lease (called ‘one way’) it to shipping lines to facilitate repositioning that equipment to a location where is can be sold profitability. This model often works well in times of scarcity. Good market awareness is the key to a profitable operation. Usually, these sellers have inventory is 20 or 30 locations across the country and typically sell to the Retailers. They value volume and ease of transaction.|
|Trader||A trader is a seller who buys and sells on opportunity. They seek out purchase opportunities that can be matched against known sale opportunities. Or they take known sale opportunities and seek out equipment to meet that specific need. They may or may not stock inventory and usually do all they can to make simple and fast transactions. They value volume and efficiency.|
|Off the Truck Seller||These companies often own only a cell phone and a delivery truck and trailer. They will advertise equipment for sale on various websites, when a local customer calls they will show the customer the container on their truck bed and it’s a take it or leave it sale. Often the transaction is done without sale tax and with an ‘all sales are final’ approach. These companies value simplicity of transaction.|
Choosing the best supplier for you obviously is up to you. Understanding what each brings to the transaction is important in making that decision. I’ll confess that I am an Established Seller, but from there go ahead and explain why that is your best choice for a supplier, here is why:
Location/Accessibility: We operate locally, we have been in this location for 10 years and don’t anticipate moving. We are not hidden down in the congested port area and you can come here walk out into our yard and look at containers all you want. Yesterday after showing 6 20ft containers to a customer, I left him alone to take his time and decide which would be best for him. Because it’s our yard and all we do in this yard is sell and rent our containers we can allow customers to take their time.
Relationship/Responsibility: Every year we establish new customer relationships, but we are gratified by the amount of repeat business we enjoy. In 2014 60% of our customers had done business with us before. We always want to do better, we have been surveying customers a week after a container is delivered to them. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Customers appreciate our service and our product.
Selection/Modifications: From the beginning of a customer conversation we seek to find the best storage solution for the customer, even if that means they will not be using our services. But considering about 75% of what we sell are containers that have been modified it shows how we seek to provide what is best for the customer, not just give them a container and let them sort out the best way to meet their storage needs.
We are not shy about what we do and how we do it, Container Solutions is a group of 10 people who know we have to work hard, listen to the customer and finish the job as promised to succeed in business.