Published in "Parking News", the magazine of the British Parking Association, Issue 201, April 2002
Liam Keilthy won the BPA's Ernest Davies Memorial Award 2002 for this article. The Ernest Davies Award is granted annually for the 'best article' in Parking News, the magazine published by the British Parking Association.
The following tables illustrates the scale, number and supply of parking spaces in shopping centres in the Republic of Ireland in 2000.
The 15 million sq. ft of retail floor space represented in these centres have almost 70,000 parking spaces associated with them. Only one in six of these centres have paid parking.
Parking is ultimately a secondary activity. The days of the 'Wild West' - the cowboy arriving in town and looking for a place to stable his 'bronco' while he went off to the local stores, bars etc. - are little different from today's shopper arriving at a shopping centre and searching for a parking space to stable his/her car! They both have other things on their minds and their choice of transport was simply a means to achieving their main goal -shopping, leisure, work etc.
In this paper I hope to share with you some of the lessons learnt by Park Rite over the years at our different shopping centre car parks. In particular I want to share with you some of the results of customer research we have undertaken and to illustrate some of the differences between two different types of shopping centre car parks:
The car parks have a number of things in common including that they are:
In both cases the car parks are well established and very accessible from the main road networks. For commercial reasons I won't identify the specific sites.
The basic statistics
In the national shopping centre the average stay of parkers is fairly steady at 2.3 hours except during December when it increases to 3.5 hours reflecting the changes in shopping behaviour during this period. In the regional centre the average stay is 1.5 hours. The pattern of usage across a whole week is clearly illustrated in the following table:
Cars per space
On a busy day the city centre car park is pushed to cater for 4 cars per space per day while the regional centre comfortably caters for 6 cars per day. However when you factor in the difference in the average stays then hours sold per space are shown in the following table patterns:
It is not unusual for professionally managed car parks at regional/convenience centres to cater for 8 to 10 cars per space per day.
Daily occupancy levels
The average occupancy levels vary across the day, between days of the week and by time of year. However the following graph illustrates the patterns well:
The surveys were carried out over a full week during summer months and involved more than 1,000 personal interviews in the car parks.
Purpose of visit
When asked what the purpose of their visits on the day in question patrons replied as follows:
The mix of trips is a very critical factor in planning of any car park as it has a dramatic impact on the occupancy levels in a car park. If parking provision is low then long-stay parkera occupy a higher proportion of the available capacity. This results in short-stay parkers having to compete for spaces and usually these are at the perimeter of the car park and remote from the primary destinations.
Even in car parks with aggressive progressive tariffs there will always be some cars that stay for long periods. These can be service engineers visiting local premises, parking close to their destination and staying all day. They are price indifferent as the cost of the parking is being paid by their client!
Residence of patrons
In Dublin there is a definite northside and southside pattern to shopping as there is to many aspects of life. In the national shopping centre southsiders shop south side and northsiders shop north side. The city has two large concentrations of shopping serving these markets - Henry St/0'Connell St on the northside and Grafton St on the southside. Because the city is located on the coast there is no eastern segment to the catchment.
Almost 70% of the national shopping centre parkers come from within Dublin county ie within a radius of c. 20 miles of the city centre. A further 23% come from the immediately adjacent counties to the west and south with very few from the north and elsewhere in Ireland.
At the regional centre 42% were from the immediate urban area while an additional 16% were from within a 5-mile radius of the centre.
Frequency of visits
When asked how often they use the particular car parks the patrons replied as follows:
Bearing in mind that all of these people were driving cars it is interesting to note the high numbers visiting the centres on a daily basis.
Average party size
In reply to a question on the number of persons in the party the respondents in the national centres indicated 1.6 with 84% adults and 16% children. In the regional centres the figures were also 1.6 but 73% were adults and 27% children.
Timing of parking decision
We asked people when they had made the decision about where to park on reaching their destination. 79% had made this decision before they reached the city centre confirming the belief that most shoppers do not consider alternative parking options once they have decided on their primary destination ie 'I will shop in Henry St today therefore I will park at the ILAC Centre.'
Factors influencing the parking decision
The perception of many traders that price is a significant factor in the parking decision is not borne out by the Park Rite research as the following table illustrates:
Our research indicates that the average spend,of car-borne shoppers at these facilities is €60 in the national centre and €25 per visit in the regional centre. Extending these figures to the numbers of cars per space gives a spend per space of €175 per day in the national centre and €150 per day in the regional centre.
Satisfaction with car parks
The issues that were most likely to receive a negative comment in the car parks, were signage, entry/exit and price.
Factors receiving the highest positive ratings were cleanliness staff courtesy and lighting.
Sex and age
The mixture of males and females interviewed was 40/60 in the national centre and 46/54 in the regional centre. The average age of the persons interviewed was 40 in the larger centre and 45 in the regional centre.
The key points we draw from all of this include the following:
The introduction of professional parking managers to shopping centres results in:
As always the views expressed in this article are entirely my own. I would welcome comment and comparative analysis.
Copyright © LK 2002 All rights reserved