Behavioural cues: paid parking in shopping centres

Kieron van Rooyen

In conversation with a representative of one of the larger retailers the other day, we got talking about paid parking. Now, this might seem like something trivial in the greater retail conversation, but it could be a larger factor in retail than we realize.

You see, the thing is most of us if given the choice, would pick the centre without paid parking. If you need to shoot into the shops to get a couple of things for dinner, you will automatically choose the path of least resistance. And the path of least resistance is being able to pull into a parking lot, park your car close to the shop you want to go to, walk in, buy what you need to, and walk out. Nobody really wants to drive into a parkade, take a ticket, place the ticket into your wallet or handbag (or possibly forget it in your car), walk through the mall, buy what you need, walk to a pay station, scratch through your wallet / purse / handbag (while holding the couple of groceries that you bought) for small change (which you either don’t have, or is not accepted by the machine), to pay the amount owing on your ticket, proceed to your car, and then to the exit (where there is invariably a queue), deal with the machine not accepting your ticket and having to push the button marked “HELP” and wait for assistance from someone from the parking office. This may sound extreme, but it is a very real possibility every time you enter a paid parking.

The bigger problem with paid parking is that the longer you park, the more you are charged. Seems logical as a rental model. The more time you spend in a space, the more money you pay. If you rent a retail space for 5 years, the owner will be entitled to charge you 60 month’s rental.

The same thing happens in parkades. This makes sense if you are an airport, or an inner-city parking facility and you want people to be in and out quickly and avoid congestion, or people using the structure as a car storage facility.

But shopping centres want you to stay. They want you to linger. Shopping centres are always looking at new and innovative ways to keep people in the mall, they don't look for ways to get you to leave.

Yet with paid parking structures, this is exactly what is happening. You are incentivized to park for as short a time as possible. First hour free! Great! Let me run around, get what I need, and race out of here before I need to pay for the parking. Granted there are some malls that have looked into ways to combat this. Some malls have free parking between certain hours, some have flat rates over the weekends, and some have worked with the retailers to offer reduced or free parking to patrons shopping at certain retailers.

All of this leaves me with two fundamental questions:

1. Is paid parking decreasing linger time at shopping centres?

2. Have paid parking structures killed the need for the grocery anchor in larger shopping centres because paid parking kills convenience?

#behaviouraleconomics #retailproperty #parking

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