car park high street image

The Big Question: Is there a parking problem near you?

This month we’re asking retailers, is there a car parking problem in your store location(s) and what more could be done to help?

Kathryn Lukehurst​ – Lukehurst

We are fortunate in the fact that we have great parking which we own for up to 40 cars at one store and adjacent to the other is a huge council owned pay and display car park (and another little one that we own) so for us it’s not a huge problem, but I can see how it could be for more traditional based retailers.

Nigel Lomas – Harvest Moon Interiors

To Park or not to park, that is a question! So as an independent furniture retailer we are in town, pay and display right outside the store.

Visitors have to pay and expect pay in a town centre, but they will be visiting a few shops and stores, maybe having a nice Coffee, a light lunch or a breeze around a new gallery in town. It’s a morning out adventure of discovery.

That’s fine. couple of pounds is ok. So as an alternative go out to a huge retail park to park for free, great. It’s a buying mission only, there are no artisan shops, nothing unexpected, the same suspects B&M, Home and Bargain, Nando’s, Poundsave, DFS, what joys await.

Greeted on arrival by the owner or his knowledgeable staff, well perhaps not, I recently walked around a Furniture Village, Massive Store, probably 6 people in it and no one said a word to me! Sterile displays, not very inspiring, but their costs must be insane! So yes, it’s pay, display and enjoy at your indie store.

Vic Smith – Vic Smith Beds

We have three stores – our oldest is in Southgate (North London) and we have metered bays outside on both sides of the street. At the end of these bays is a small M&S with a pay & display. The second store is in Enfield Town, (North London) on the edge of the town and two doors down is a large Tesco’s with car parking.

Our third store is situated in Whetstone, again North London, this one has its own parking outside for six vehicles. We have a central phone line for contact on adverts & marketing and when people ask about parking we run through their options.  If people have mobility issues or just want to park outside for whatever reason, we steer them to our Whetstone branch.

We used to have free parking for two hours, and we found this more pleasing for our customers. But obviously councils are going to grab the chance to charge wherever they can.  It would be lovely if they would go back to free parking, but in the real world that won’t happen.

Louis Kerry – Mattressman

Some of our stores suffer from parking issues, such as late-night anti-social behaviour and visitors of neighbouring businesses using our spaces without visiting us. One thing we have done for some of our stores which have encountered these issues is work with an external parking company to turn them into paid-for spaces out of hours and some also during daytime hours unless they are a customer of the store of which we can waive the car park fee. The only thing I’d suggest to help stores who lose their car parking spaces to non-store visitors would be for local councils to provide more free parking or extended time free parking in the high streets. I’d encourage retail parks not to charge visitors also as this is something we have encountered too.

Wendy Martin Green – Peter Green

Parking in towns has been an issue for many years in this country. This was something that my father, Peter Green, was very aware of when he opened his first ‘Peter Green Walkround Showrooms’ in the market town of Eastleigh in 1966.

His very ‘new’ concept of housing a furniture and flooring business in a large premises on the outskirts of town was born from him seeing the huge ‘magasin de meubles’ situated in the countryside on his first trip to France in 1960. The vast factory building in Eastleigh that he then converted into a store provided him not only with lower operational costs but also plenty of free parking for his customers. He knew, like all of us, that not being able to find parking or having to pay a lot for parking can be off putting to customers.

When our business finally relocated to a larger premises in Chandlers Ford, parking again was a consideration. On School Lane where we are now our customers have the luxury of ample parking both on and off site. Of course we have to work harder to draw people to an ‘out of town’ location but when they arrive we find they are relaxed because there are no parking issues and therefore ready to buy.

Steve Adams – Mattress Online

Parking is a key requirement for any store roll out, all our current stores have facilities for parking onsite or close by. It’s an important element to make our customers’ purchasing journey as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

At one of our stores parking is limited to one hour on the road outside, and many customers find the nearby car park a little expensive – if local councils could reduce car parking charges this should and could encourage shoppers and footfall in the high street. Future stores will also need convenient parking for customers and staff.

George Sinclair – Nimbus Beds

We choose locations with excellent parking resulting in zero parking problems. We have made sure all of our locations have had trains stations right next to them and we have even installed rapid charging points in our new retail park site.

Matt Scott – Sopha

Here in Sedgemoor we have always had a really supportive council on almost everything apart from parking. One of the main things we looked at when choosing where to build our store was the ability to create our own car park that we can control and that our customers could use for free without anything to make their lives unnecessarily more difficult.

People passing our shop in their metal boxes on wheels can’t support our business and local authorities taxing our customers for the privilege of shopping in town is something that I find abhorrent. Car parking charges were often introduced in different times when the demand for car parking in our town centres was higher than the total number of spaces, these days however councils are often sitting with half empty car parks that they’re considering selling for development when the town centres and the businesses that form our communities are starved of trade by local authorities.

Many forms of retail business can easily survive on the customers who live within walking distance of their shops, but for many types of retail such as furniture stores need a larger catchment area in order to make the business viable.

Unfortunately until local authorities rethink how people arrive in their town centres local businesses will struggle to compete with both out-of-town retailers and retailers such as Sopha who are fortunate enough to be able to build stores with their own private car parking.

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