Early in a yearlong test run for Anytime Valet, a first-time user opened the delivery kiosk looking for a package and also found spider webs.
It was then that Anytime Depot CEO Tony Cassady realized the package-delivery hubs not only needed to be weatherproof, but also, as he describes it, "critter-proof." Anytime Depot is the parent company of Anytime Valet.
"We didn't want to have an incident where somebody reaches for a package and something else is in there where it shouldn't be," Cassady said. "We hadn't had any substantial issues with critters, but we recognized we needed to keep insects, lizards and who knows what out of them."
Cassady has been testing the Anytime Valet concept -- packages are delivered to a central location in high-density areas like apartment complexes, rather than left on porches -- since January. The aim of the business is to make delivery more efficient for carriers like UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service; cheaper for shippers and safer for package recipients.
Currently the company has six Anytime Valet locations in central Arkansas. They're located at two apartment complexes each in Little Rock and North Little Rock, at the Kiehl Avenue Kum & Go in Sherwood and at the company's headquarters at 8060 Counts Massie Road in North Little Rock.
Complexes ideally will have between 200 and 300 units in order to make the concept most effective, Cassady said. Apartments used in the first year of testing have ranged between 230 and 400 units.
While the Little Rock metro area has been -- and will continue to be -- a testing ground, Cassady sees the concept working better in larger, more densely populated metro areas. Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Tampa, Fla., and Washington are on Anytime Valet's wish list of cities.
Users of the service specify a unique central address for shipping and are alerted via email or text when the package has been delivered to a hub, generally located near or inside their apartment complex. Cost ranges from $1.99 per package to yearly subscription options of $5 and $10 per month.
Customers input their code into a touchscreen on the exterior of the kiosk, which allows the machine to identify the proper package for pickup.
Cassady said he is negotiating with complexes to pay for the service as an amenity for residents. Users can also ship packages based on rates negotiated by Anytime Valet through UPS, FedEx and the postal service.
Eventually, Cassady envisions the delivery hubs being of great use to large online retailers. Cutting down on the locations where retailers are sending packages will save them money. Fewer delivery points mean more efficiency for carriers and less cost for shippers.
Wal-Mart and Amazon are among the large retailers that have tested delivery hubs for customers.
Cassady, who has previously developed and sold two other companies, declined to discuss his investment costs so far. He did acknowledge spending "seven figures" on a mix of equipment build-out, engineering and software development.
Anytime Depot has six full-time employees plus three contract and part-time workers. A software development company in Florida is also under contract.
The company's business plan calls for 150 employees within the next three years. Anytime Valets will be available in 1,000 locations at that point. Within three years, Cassady said he'd like to have as many as 40 employees in central Arkansas.
Any growth outside of Little Rock this year will not occur until the third quarter, Cassady said. So far the company has processed "thousands" of packages this year and is still evaluating how it fared during Christmas shipping season, particularly with users who were fearful of gifts being stolen from their porches.
"We'll start slow," Cassady said. "We're at the point now where we'll be negotiating deals and working to place kiosks in the right metros. Once we get to that point, in the third quarter, we see it taking off and growing rapidly. We've been testing it and gained some valuable insight."
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SundayMonday Business on 01/01/2017