In a private rented sector (PRS) block, parcels can cause chaos. Without anywhere else to deposit a delivery, couriers leave parcels stacked up in corridors, where they often go missing 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.
Many PRS blocks exist today without an adequate solution to handle parcel deliveries. Where there isn’t a team of on-site staff to spend considerable time accepting and sorting parcels, a new different solution is needed. The solution needs to not only help a landlord to meet all building safety requirements but provide a seamless experience for residents.
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 visiting the shops, so even when the pandemic eased, parcel deliveries remained high. In 2022, 26.5% of all retail sales came via e-commerce. It isn’t just the case that young people make purchases online, as e-commerce has grown among all demographics. Today, every type of person who lives in an apartment block is likely to be 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 a number of challenges.
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 taken to posting 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?
Research from Parcel Pending by Quadient 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 9am and 5pm, the period when many people are at work and so aren’t in to receive a delivery.
One solution is to install smart parcel lockers to safely keep parcels out of harm’s way. Lockers can be placed anywhere; in a lobby area, close to amenities such as cycle storage or even 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.
By using parcel lockers, the potential for parcel theft is also removed. A delivery driver is given a unique code for a locker and deposits the parcel. The resident receives their own 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.
When a property owner provides the right solutions to handle parcel deliveries, the impact on resident happiness is clear. Homeviews’ 2023 Build to Rent Report includes comments such as that “the electronic concierge lockers are brilliant”. On the other hand, an apartment block that lacks a suitable solution for parcel deliveries triggers comments such as: “Please improve the courier collection and delivery system, urgent!”
Not all PRS owners and developers have recognised the urgent need to provide a solution for parcel deliveries. Properties are still being designed and constructed without space for parcel lockers, providing no alternative solution. While it is certainly possible to install parcel lockers retrospectively, as they can be located anywhere inside, or outside a property, it is easier to factor them into building plans from the outset.
PRS developers today need to include a certain number of cycle spaces per resident, along with other measures that improve the building for both residents and the environment. There’s a real argument that installing a solution to handle mail and parcel deliveries should also be a requirement.
Parcels left in corridors compromise people’s safety, while lost parcels are a cost to people and the economy. Unsuccessful deliveries have environmental costs and waste people’s time. The benefits of installing parcel lockers are wide reaching and, in a growing sector such as PRS, it’s time developers started to include these solutions in plans from the beginning.
Jon Hammond is the Head of Real Estate Parcel Locker Solution Sales for Quadient in the UK & Ireland. Jon has 20 years’ experience of launching smart technology and SaaS services into the UK&I market. He has worked with developers and operators across all asset classes and at all build and operation stages. Jon regularly blogs and speaks on issues around the last inch delivery conundrum.