Signed, sealed, delivered: LT Distributing solving Chicago’s receiving dilemma

By Arionne Nettles

Package receiving services are in hot demand, something LT Distributing owner Thomas Demme quickly discovered after becoming the first U.S. company to sell lockable parcel delivery boxes, called iBins, designed to thwart thieves.

Within a matter of weeks, Demme’s St. Charles, Illinois-based business expanded to include a receiving center that can hold customers’ packages for them, and then deliver them to their homes when it’s convenient.

The service is handling almost 90 packages per day and has been particularly popular with young working couples and families in Chicago’s Bucktown and Roscoe Village neighborhoods.

“People don’t want their packages left outside for three reasons: theft, missed delivery, and protection against the elements,” Demme said.

Roughly 10 percent of Americans — approximately 23 million people — have had a package stolen, according to a November survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associate International.

It’s a problem that’s expected to grow this holiday season, after a record-breaking Cyber Monday of online shopping.

Demme understood this dilemma. Besides his distribution business, founded in 2010, he also owned the franchise rights to a pressure-washing company that did residential work. He noticed that many houses had packages and dry cleaning left on their doorsteps.

After searching for a solution, he eventually found the iBin, manufactured in the U.K., and decided to bring that product to the U.S.

The iBin, which costs $899 with shipping anywhere in the U.S., is designed for people who are not at their homes during the day, but frequently need to have packages, groceries or dry cleaning delivered. Each delivery service can have its own digital code, which can be changed at any time.

Demme started to receive iBin inquiries from all over the U.S. — a natural growth made possible by the Internet.

“If it wasn’t for online sales and the Internet, I would not be doing this,” Demme said. “And if it wasn’t for social media, I wouldn’t have gotten the word out so fast. So to me, what a wonderful thing the Internet is!”

Demme soon discovered that many of his customers needed a way to handle large package deliveries, so he started to offer receiving services.

It turned out that these receiving services had an even larger market, appealing to customers who don’t frequently have deliveries and those who live in apartment or condo buildings that can’t accommodate an iBin and don’t have their own receiving rooms.
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LT Distributing solving Chicago’s receiving dilemma (Written and produced by Arionne Nettles/Medill; animation by Next Media Animation.)

LT Distributing customer Pat Nelson has had only smooth experiences with the company after it was recommended to him by a friend.

“I’ve had issues in the past where I had something shipped, it would be missed, and I would have to go to UPS or the post office to get it,” Nelson said. “With [LTD’s receiving service], as soon as I know there’s a package coming, I just contact them.”

LT Distributing charges $3.99 to receive and deliver packages under 40 pounds and has been receiving around 87 packages per day, Demme said. He delivers most of the packages over the weekend when customers are at home using two full-time and two part-time employees.

“It’s adding volume,” Demme said. “Right now, I’m turning dollars. I’m paying my employees; I’m paying the rent. The profits will rise.”

The company currently uses four trucks: two in its fleet and two that it rents to cover a 40-mile radius in Chicago and the surrounding area.

“I was able to find permanent part-time delivery persons,” Demme said. “These part-time employees were looking for weekend and evening jobs, so this works well into my plans.”

As volume increases, especially in the suburbs, Demme hopes to grow to seven to 10 trucks to improve efficiency.

“Logistically, it’s a lot to plan the trucks out, but as it grows, we’ll have a more condensed area [that each truck] will deliver to,” Demme said. “Almost like UPS.”

LT Distributing’s Addison, Illinois facility is protected with a multi-pronged security system, Demme said. For security reasons, he declined to allow pictures of the facility to be taken for publication.

Each delivery truck has two workers for deliveries in the city so that the truck is always monitored and packages are never left unattended — an essential part of the system since Demme provides night delivery when customers need it.

Major companies like UPS and the U.S. Postal Service, Demme said, are his main competitors, but they don’t have flexible delivery options for customers.

Local companies like Shurpa, Doorman, and ShipBob have receiving centers, but none offer a product similar to LTD’s iBin.

“There are other services to help people, but the majority requires [customers] to leave the house and pick up packages at a drop-off location,” Demme said. “That more or less negates shopping online, if you can’t have packages delivered to your house.”

Photo at top: Thomas Demme, owner of LT Distributing (Arionne Nettles/Medill)