Pandemic-Level Parcel Demand Putting Strain on Multi-Residential Buildings

First Published in UrbanToronto on June 19, 2020 by Jack Landau

COVID-19 has brought an unprecedented surge of home deliveries, putting a strain on delivery services, but changing demographics over recent years had already created a potential tsunami of delivery deluge. Before the pandemic, an internet business survey showed that 67% of Canada’s 9.8 million millennials prefer to shop online. Add the growing trend of online grocery delivery through services like Instacart, Grocery Gateway, and Fresh City Farms, and it’s clear why delivery demand was already rising rapidly before the world went into lockdown.

Delivery demand had already been accelerating for years, with Pitney Bowes recording a modest parcel volume growth rate of 2.9% in 2014-2015, growing by 17% from 2016 to 2017, and a 20% increase from 2017 to 2018. With the masses kept at home, COVID-19 added fuel to the fire, with some parcel delivery companies as of March, 2020 having seen surges as high as 30% in just one month. Canada Post has been hard hit in particular, reporting recent parcel volumes typically only seen during the Christmas season, including a single day in April where over 1.8 million parcels were delivered.

In a densely-populated region like the Greater Toronto Area where hundreds of thousands call multi-unit residential buildings home, the delivery boom has also put a strain on those in multi-unit buildings who receive the packages. Deliveries regularly overflow the concierge desks or mailrooms, making it difficult on occasion for residents to locate and extract their packages from sheer cliff faces of cardboard and packing tape.

parcel storage lockers, Toronto, Covid-19

Older style rental apartment building in Toronto, image by Marc Mitanis

In a time when condominium and rental building management has been trying to cut staffing costs, property managers are being forced to bring on extra staff to sort and log packages, and connect building residents with their deliveries. In buildings too small to make on-site security staff economical, lobbies are being overcrowded by packages or deliveries are piling up on doorsteps, and they are experiencing ‘porch theft,’ a vulnerability inherent when there are no eyes on the front doors. Cameras may offer some level of protection, though ‘porch pirates’ are adjusting to countermeasures, and most theft investigations go cold due to the crimes’ random, opportunistic nature. Parcel lockers eliminate these grab-and-go thefts, and are an affordable alternative to 24-hour staffing.

Storage and management systems for parcel delivery—capable of relieving staffing and space issues—are already in place in many buildings across the Greater Toronto Area, which have proven especially beneficial in the turbulent months since March. One company producing lockers for many developers is Snaile, with their systems installed in over 200 locations across Canada as of the start of 2020. 

parcel storage lockers, Toronto, Covid-19

Snaile parcel locker system at 700 Bay in Toronto, image by Jack Landau

Unlike the Canada Post-branded lockers that can only accept items shipped through their system, these ‘carrier agnostic’ systems offer multi-unit automated parcel lockers that are sanctioned by Canadian carriers. Residents can interface with the systems using English, French, or Mandarin, receiving a notification by mobile phone or email with an eight-digit code or contactless QR code that gives access to their delivery. The contactless option furthers the goal of minimizing person-to-person and person-to-surface contact, helping to safeguard all parties involved from the delivery drivers, to the building staff that would otherwise be handling packages, all the way to residents.

Patrick Armstrong, CEO of Snaile Inc., has seen demand for their products shoot up. “When looking at Q1 2020 parcel volumes as compared to Q2 to date, we project a quarter over quarter volume increase of 34% of deliveries into our network across 23 Canadian cities due to COVID-19.”

parcel storage lockers, Toronto, Covid-19

Lillian Park, image by Forum contributor WislaHD

Snaile’s systems have been adopted by several GTA rental and condo developments, including Concert Properties‘ 2013-completed Motion on Bay as well as new rental apartment projects including 700 Bay by KingSett Capital and Lillian Park by Collecdev and Shiplake. Existing rental buildings are also seeing their mailrooms upgraded, with Concert Properties’ Jazz at Church and Shuter having rather fortuitously converted their move-in/out room into a dual-purpose moving and parcel storage room several months before the pandemic struck. Other GTA customers of Snaile’s systems include developers Lifetime, Brenthaven, Minto, Edenshaw, Devron, Daniels, Starlight Investments, Cogir, InterRent REIT, and Oxford Properties.

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