Mary Portas has done a great deal for the cause of independent retailers and we should support what she is doing by encouraging small & medium companies to play in the same field as the Giants.
Why, because they add variety, give each town & city its own unique identity and create wealth with new employment in areas starved of growth.
Last time I was in a store owned by a multiple retail chain, I could have been anywhere. The layout, design and even the way the staff interacted with me was AVERAGE. It is only when you step away from the samey & boring chains that you can start to discover diversity and groups of people who want to make a difference to our society.
Quite recently, in a suburb of my home city I saw the opening of a Tesco express and a Costa coffee-I started to shiver at the thought of these brand names, with their mediocre levels of service moving into a suburb that had been built up over the last 10-12 years by small and independent Coffee Shops and Grocers. The multiples didn’t want to know this area back then until the independents built up a lucrative suburb, they then move in and you know what follows-The independents close. It’s not because they can’t compete, because most small businesses can and are faster on their feet when it comes to change, it’s because a high percentage of british society are Sheep-Sorry Sheep- but they are. They are reassured by Brand names and seek the comfort from the sameness and status that they attach to that brand that “owns a piece of their mind”
Now Parking-Parking doesn’t suffer in the same way-There aren’t the entrepreneurs delivering a difference and in most cases you get a space for your car whilst you shop.
Local Council’s have felt the wrath of Mary over their pricing and the lack of “On Street” parking spaces at a reasonable price. But when Councils have only Two streams of income and one is parking, they are not going to give that up or even dilute it. The most likely scenario is that Out of Town & Regional Shopping centres may start to charge for parking and why not? If it’s good enough for Town Centres to charge, what’s the difference?
Here lies the problem-Secretly if you own a Bluewater, Lakeside, Metro Centre or a Trafford Park. You would love to charge even £1 for Parking-It’s worth between £60-£100 million a Year if you do. It would not drive Shoppers back to Towns and Cities though.
This is why it won’t happen without government intervention. If you’re the first “Out of Town” centre to start charging then you become a pariah for life-Almost a Gerald Ratner. If you get together with the other “Out of Town” centres and agree to do it together you could end up in prison because that would be Price Fixing.
So-We are left with where I came in. Towns and Cities wanting to attract more shoppers and how can we do this and make Parking more attractive:
- Special Parking Offers for members of Shopping Centre VIP clubs
- Off Peak and Premium Pricing to encourage a spread of the hordes
- Pricing based on popularity of arrival and departure-Like the Airports
- Better Car Park lighting and security
- Minimum standards-Parkmark Car Parks can charge more, but it has to be much harder to get Parkmark than it is Today
- Automated payment methods that Bill you monthly
- Discounts on shopping if you use the Centre Car Park
There are many more and I spend my time consulting on just these matters across the Globe.
But here is the final point that retailers won’t like-Don’t blame parking charges if your sales are down, but look at the following:
- Store navigation
- Choice & selection
But most of all-The correct number of staff to deliver a great shopping experience that is not dictated by some far removed nerd in a chains head office. And that is why it is still not too late for the independents…
- Mary Portas disappointed over ‘out-of-town threat’ (itv.com)
- More Portas cash to save shops (express.co.uk)
- Doubts over high street revamp plan (hartlepoolmail.co.uk)
- Mary Portas gets government retail position (simplybusiness.co.uk)
- Small retailers and pubs to benefit from Mary Portas Review (premierlinedirect.co.uk)