Car parks: a new department for your store

I live in an inner city apartment, and while I am fortunate to have the opportunity to have a car park, I am not rich enough to pay $60 a week for a 10 square meter concrete slab. My flatmates and I chose not include a car park in our already ridiculous rent and have since grown accustommed to public transport and lugging the groceries home. However, this clearly doesn’t work for everyone. On my walk to the bus in the morning, the great influx of commuters drive past, and as I questioned where all their cars are supposed to go, I realised we may have missed out on the chance to make ourselves some money.

In and around Auckland’s CBD, parking is becoming a business in itself. Since Parkable launched in August, some hosts have already started earning over $1000 per month, for spaces previously unused.

Two thousand people have signed up to share the nearly 1000 car parks across Auckland City and the fringe listed on Parkable and Director Toby Littin says numbers are growing daily.

“Our hosts are both businesses and residents with a combination of both after hours and all day parks available.

“At this stage our largest host group is small and medium businesses taking advantage of the platform using it for both additional income from spare space and additional staff and customer parking. Residential use is our second largest category and also growing quickly.”

New World Victoria Park is currently undergoing a six-week trial of Parkable. Parking, otherwise free for customers, is listed for $3 per hour and $10 per day and is available during the store’s opening hours. They won’t comment on how successful the trial is going so far.

The launch of Parkable was timely for commuters as parking prices rose in council owned parking buildings. Parking costs $3 per hour and $24 for any time over five hours.

Parking in non-council owned parking buildings can cost up to $8 per half hour with a maximum of $60 per day.

On Parkable, city fringe parking is listed for as little as $1 per hour and no more than $10 per day.

Although businesses are making money off the app by offering up what would otherwise be customer car parks for the whole day, limiting the number of park users may not be the best business plan.

Chris Wilkinson, managing director of First Retail Group, says it’s important to encourage parking turnover to encourage more consumers into the city.

“If people are occupying parks for too long during the day then other people can’t come into town so the strategy has to be to limit parking to a two or three hour window.”

He suggests parking on a Friday and Saturday have the three-hour window as this is when people are most likely in town to dine as well as shop.

“You want to be ensuring that all sectors of the town are benefiting, like hospitality, and services.”

While Wilkinson wants consumers to be encouraged into town, he also acknowledges the need for councils to charge for parking.

“It’s important to maintain some sort of revenue flow. We wouldn’t suggest blanket free parking because there is no spending data figures that reinforce free parking as a benefit to retailers.”

Instead, Wilkinson suggests technology could be the answer. He calls it “smart parking”, and it would allow the price of parking to be changed depending on the time and day.

“Smart parking is the dynamic nature to be able to change the cost, whether you are making it free or discounting it on a dynamic basis so you are able to change it by day, even by hour.”

In a quiet period, smart parking would allow the parking prices to be reduced and locals would be alerted to the change via social media, while during busy periods the same technology could be used to lead consumers to available parking.

Wilkinson says councils around New Zealand have already started trialing this technology.

“Hamilton has just done its central city transformation programme. Parking is a key a part of that and smart parking will be one of the key tools they will use.”

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