As ecommerce deliveries grow they are becoming problematic in offices and even apartment buildings. Will UK housing operators ban them?
It’s typical. Retailers invest in getting the perfect ecommerce site up-and-running, address the complex logistics of a nationwide home delivery network, build up loyal customers who love getting products straight to their door – and at the last moment the shopper’s landlord says it won’t accept the package.
That’s exactly what retailers in the US are facing after the news that one of the largest apartment operators in the country has stopped taking delivery of ecommerce items.
It’s an understandable problem: online shopping is the great modern phenomenon in retailing and becoming more popular with every year that passes. With most people out at work, someone has to take delivery of the numerous packages that arrive throughout the day and find somewhere to store them securely.
But it’s certainly not good news for US shoppers, or retailers, who have to find an alternative way of getting products to their shoppers.
Where the US leads, often the UK follows.
So should British retailers be paying attention to these developments across the Atlantic? And what would it mean if UK landlords start following suit?
When president of Camden Property Trust Keith Oden announced the drastic solution to what he described as “package-gate”, he explained that the cost of taking so many ecommerce parcels was getting out of control. “Ultimately, this was going to eat our lunch,” he said.
It might seem far-fetched, but Camden Property Trust is by no means alone.
A string of big property owners and operators have announced similar plans, such as to install lockers with secure access codes in the basements of buildings and even asking for residents’ permission to enter their flats while they’re out.
So could the same happen here? London Management Company group managing director Rupert Collingwood says that, while a different living and property operating culture means this isn’t a pressing issue just yet, there are growing pressures on offices in particular to manage demand.
He says: “It’s not a huge problem at the moment. The set-up isn’t quite the same in this country and the front-of-desk concept is relatively new. But more and more businesses are stopping taking deliveries because of the amount being ordered in by their workforces”.
As UK cities, especially London, become more densely packed and a culture of managed apartments and concierge services springs up, similar problems could emerge. So how would this affect retailers?
Adapting to habits
Tom Allason, founder and chief executive of e-fulfilment specialist Shutl, says it could become another consideration in the wider trend of retailers having to adapt to changing consumer habits.
He says: “The solution to all these problems is being able to let consumers choose when, where and how they want items to be delivered. The problem is that this may not always be the most effective solution for the retailer or the courier”.
As is frequently the case, entrepreneurial businesses find a way.
In San Francisco, a company called Doorman.co offers to receive goods on behalf of consumers during the working day and deliver them in the evening.
Click-and-collect points in shops are growing in popularity despite, as John Lewis has found, questions over how cost-effective this can be. And retailers such as Amazon are driving the use of collection lockers as a way around the home delivery conundrum.
Whether UK retailers and their couriers have a future showdown with landlords to contend with isn’t clear. But what is certain is that in Britain’s exceptionally competitive ecommerce market retailers have to find ways to give customers the convenience they want – whatever landlords might have to say.