The Last Mile – Online Purchases and “Free Shipping”

April 2022

The last mile is typically the most expensive and complex part of delivering products to your home.  Something you ordered may have originated half way around the world or down the street.  That last mile of delivery from a warehouse to your home can comprise more than 50 percent of shipping costs.

High-rise condo living combined with online shopping has made this last mile more complex.  Merchants and shipping companies often absorb these costs to accommodate “free shipping” and consumers unwilling to pay a delivery fee.

One of the greatest challenges is having someone at home to receive packages.  With someone receiving packages the risk of theft disappears.  There is no need to redeliver packages at a later date or have someone temporarily store them.

Customers desire convenience.  Ordered items are expected to arrive without damage and not “disappear” in transit.  Remaining home waiting for a package delivery is inconvenient.  It could mean missing one or more days of work the cost of which, in lost income, likely exceeds what has been ordered.

High-rise condo living offers a partial solution in that packages can be left with a concierge.  In buildings without a concierge they may be left unattended at a lobby door.  Many things can go amiss before packages (hopefully) make it to intended recipients.

For one reason or another, more than 20 percent of deliveries are not made during a first attempt.  Customers may be required to retrieve their packages at a post office, warehouse or other location if redelivery is unavailable.

Condominium communities may impose parcel rules to address an overwhelming number and size of packages, lack of storage space, and residents failing to promptly collect their packages.  They may impose size and weight restrictions.  Items not picked up in a “reasonable” time may be returned to sender.

Insufficient space for large packages, or too many small packages, is an ongoing challenge.  Storing packages for residents who may not retrieve them for days or weeks is a cost and responsibility many condo boards are unwilling to accept.

Package delivery challenges exist throughout Canada and the United States.  Package management has become so costly that some communities no longer accept them.  In response, new solutions are being introduced.

  • Drone delivery is being explored by Google and Amazon. In China, DHL now offers this service.
  • ‘Digit,’ a two-legged robot offered by Ford, can make home deliveries.
  • Software solutions speed up the process of receiving, storing and ensuring packages reach building residents.
  • Smart lockers have been introduced by Canada Post, Amazon and others. Tridel has incorporated smart lockers in their new buildings.  Residents receive an electronic notice when a package for them has been left in a smart locker.  They can retrieve the package without human intervention.
  • President’s Choice (PC) and other merchants allow customers to pick up groceries at selected subway stations in Toronto.
  • Walmart is among the merchants allowing in-store pickup of online orders.
  • Penguin Pickup offers a free and one-stop location for picking up online purchases.
  • Some companies connect consumers to local, non-professional couriers who use their own transportation to make deliveries.

These are some of the current solutions available to address the last mile of delivery.  Not all offer the expected level of convenience nor are they suitable for all.

An increasing number of communities, unprepared to dedicate more of their limited common area space to package storage while incurring internal costs of accepting, storing, delivering and returning packages for residents, are exploring these and other solutions.