Student Housing Business

JAN-FEB 2018

Student Housing Business is the voice of the student housing industry.

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PACKAGE MANAGEMENT January/February 2018 64 Buried in Boxes Once an afterthought, package management is becoming top of mind — and even a marketed amenity — for operators stretched thin by too many boxes. By Lynn Peisner C Core Spaces recently ran a report on the number of packages received at one prop- erty, and the numbers were staggering: 81 per day between August and December of 2017. Peak Campus reports that the staff at a 600-bed, mid-rise property that the company manages processed 10,232 packages in 2016. In 2017, that number shot up to 16,467 pack- ages. Campus Advantage says it accepts up to 200 packages a day at some of its communi- ties. Across the entire portfolio at The Preiss Company, 147,651 packages were processed in 2017, which is approximately 227 packages per month, per property. The numbers of package deliveries are steadily rising everywhere as U.S. retail e-commerce sales rose to $115.3 billion for the third quarter of 2017, according to The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce. Gen Y and Millennials, especially, love to shop online. "With students, anything they can pur- chase online they will purchase online," says Peak Campus' Chief Operating Officer Casey Petersen. "Students don't simply shop online for larger purchases like clothes or electronics, they use couriers like Amazon Prime Now for everyday needs — groceries, textbooks, etc. This equates to an increase in their buying frequency and the number of packages they receive on a daily and weekly basis." Managing package volume at student hous- ing properties has become an enormous chal- lenge. Solving the issue is a work in progress. Many companies are just now beginning to explore policies and operational protocols as more and more packages continue to come through the gates and pile up in the office. Questions remain on how to proceed. What is the ownership or management's role in com- pleting the "last mile?" Is staff responsible for getting the package to the resident's front door, or simply keeping it safe until it can be picked up? How long should packages be held? Should there be an easy way for students to mail outgoing packages? Is there a weight limit? What about all that cardboard? Policies and practices differ. Some companies believe that having students come into the office to pick up their packages is a net positive because it offers an opportunity for residents to interact with staff. "We see the acceptance of packages as anoth- er way to have a face-to-face interaction with more of our residents, whether in the office or at the resident's door," says Adam Byrley, chief operating officer at The Preiss Company. But others are concerned that high volumes can actually make such interactions worse, which can lead to bad online reviews and/or a decrease in renewals. It's no surprise leasing offices are quickly overwhelmed when they have to receive, hold and then distribute up to several hundred packages per day. "The influx of packages has greatly reduced the efficiency of our onsite teams in terms of their daily operations for leasing and market- ing and dealing with any other tenant-related concerns," says Dale Callison, vice president of property management for Core Spaces. Solutions Run the Gamut Postal Solutions is a vendor-partner that offers a variety of products and services to student housing properties looking to man- age mail and packages. Options include live- person mail and package delivery staffing, package-management software, or student self-pick-up through monitored Luxer One package rooms, package lockers, or any com- bination thereof. In addition to off-campus properties, Postal Solutions also was awarded a large RFP for package lockers that were installed in June 2017 on-campus at five resi- dence hall locations at Pace University in New York City. Craig Meddin, president and CEO of Postal Solutions, says operators should answer a few basic questions before deciding which route to go: "Do you want your solution to be rev- enue-generating? Or do you just want to get management out of the package business? Or maybe you simply want to do something to mitigate the burden?" Postal Solutions offers PackageLog, a soft- ware that enables staff to log and deliver inbound packages with automated alerts by text message and email. The notifications alert students that the package has arrived and where it is being held. It's also able to commu- nicate the identity of the sender, the tracking number and the condition, in case the package was damaged when the office received it. Postal Solutions' lockers and package rooms This locker system from Postal Solutions shows how some properties are being creative about integrating the products into a décor. At this conventional multifamily community, Ballard Public Lofts in Seattle, ownership purchased the license to use this artwork and hired a local company to wrap their locker system.

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