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How to Manage Parcel Deliveries in Unstaffed Apartment Blocks

In private rented apartment blocks, like many buildings of multiple occupancy, parcels cause chaos. Due to the increasing time pressures on couriers to deliver multiple parcels successfully, and without anywhere else to deposit a delivery, piles of parcels are often left stacked up near entry corridors, where they can easily go missing and/or create a safety hazard for residents. If a property owner doesn’t address the situation, the result could be unhappy residents at the very least.

These apartment blocks need a solution that not only helps a landlord meet building safety requirements but also provides a seamless experience for residents.

The answer? Residential Parcel lockers.

The Growing Delivery Challenge

The volume of parcel deliveries headed to apartment blocks has increased rapidly in the last few years. National lockdowns during the pandemic accelerated the growth of e-commerce as people were unable to visit the shops. During the pandemic, online sales grew 47%. Many people haven’t reverted to brick-and-mortar stores, so even when the pandemic eased, parcel deliveries remained high. In 2022, 26.5% of all retail sales came via e-commerce. And that’s not just young people; today, all demographics are making purchases online.

What generally didn’t change during the pandemic is how parcels reached their final destination. Property owners weren’t able to adapt buildings quickly enough to handle large volumes of parcels. The result is that many apartment buildings face several challenges.

Safety and Security 

First, building safety. The Building Safety Act 2022 transformed how tall structures need to be designed, constructed and managed, including a range of measures to ensure fire safety. Earlier consideration needs to be given to fire strategies, not only at the time of construction but in ongoing management. A pile of parcels left in the corridor, because there is nowhere else to put them, is likely to pose a significant risk. Not only are they likely to be highly flammable, but they could block fire exits. 

A second major challenge is parcel theft. If a parcel is left in a lobby area or on a doorstep, they frequently go missing. All too often, residents have posted signs in communal areas asking delivery drivers not to deposit parcels in shared areas – but what option does a delivery driver have, if there is nowhere secure to leave a parcel?  Our research found that the number of people reporting parcel theft has increased by almost 300% in the three years to 2022. According to police data, the average stolen parcel in the UK is worth £115. In the City of London, this increases to £1,128.

An unstaffed PRS block is likely to be a prime target for such theft. A person only needs to gain access to the building by tailgating couriers or residents to find a pile of uncollected articles in shared areas. The police reported that most parcels are stolen between 9 am and 5 pm, the period when many people are at work and so aren’t in to receive a delivery. 

Introducing Parcel Lockers

Smart parcel lockers can safely keep parcels out of harm’s way. They automate the parcel process, so there is no need for additional staff – vital in an unmanned building. Lockers can be placed anywhere; in a lobby area, close to amenities such as cycle storage or outside. In the event of a fire, lockers are designed to keep contents safe as they are made from steel, a non-combustible, durable material. They also remove the potential for parcel theft. A delivery driver is given a unique code for a locker and deposits the parcel. The resident receives their unique code to access the parcel, which is stored securely in the locker until the resident chooses to collect it, whatever the time of day.

Lockers come in a variety of sizes, so a delivery driver will be able to store the parcel in a suitable location. The added benefit here is that drivers won’t have to attempt redelivery if a resident isn’t at home, which has both a monetary and environmental cost. 

A Boost to Resident Happiness

When property owners prioritise effective parcel delivery solutions, it directly impacts resident satisfaction. The 2023 Build to Rent Report by Homeviews showcases this impact, with residents praising features like electronic concierge lockers as ‘brilliant.’ Conversely, apartment buildings lacking suitable parcel solutions receive comments urging improvement in courier services.

Unfortunately, not all PRS owners and developers have recognised the pressing need for parcel solutions. Some properties continue to be designed without space for parcel lockers, offering no alternative. While retrofitting parcel lockers is possible, it’s simpler to integrate them into initial building plans. After all, it’s much more cost-effective to plan a parcel facility into the building budget, than trying to squeeze it into an operational budget later on.

Today, PRS developers allocate specific cycle spaces per resident and implement other enhancements for residents and the environment. There’s a compelling case for making mail and parcel delivery solutions a mandatory requirement.

Leaving parcels in corridors poses safety risks, while lost parcels incur financial and environmental costs. Unsuccessful deliveries waste time and have environmental implications. The advantages of installing parcel lockers are far-reaching, especially in a growing PRS sector. It’s time for developers to incorporate these solutions into their initial plans.

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