27 November 2020
- Encourage lockdowns’ online shoppers back to the high street to save our shops
- Concern that parking ticket machines are the ‘Achilles heel’ of social distancing
Consumers whose shopping has now become entrenched online because of covid lockdown restrictions may need an incentive to encourage them back to Christmas high streets, local stores and shopping centres – safely. Lifting parking charges from the middle of December onwards could give a boost to the high street, says the AA.
It is calling for free Christmas parking from Monday 14 December to help revive the festive fortunes of beleaguered shops and street traders.
The AA also notes that, despite the strenuous efforts of shops and stores to socially-distance their customers, these precautions can often fall down as shoppers cluster around ticket machines to pay for their parking.
Councils may ask shoppers to pay for their parking via mobile phone apps but many are put off by the extra charges and older generations find them harder to use (a 2017 survey found that 70% of AA members were more likely to drive past than use a pay-by-phone parking space*). That may play against a return to the shops.
The AA believes that, now more than ever, the hours and free parking locations should be extended
“Various parts of the country have #ShopLocal campaigns** as they are petrified that niche local stores will be put out of business by on-line retail and lockdowns. Free parking periods at Christmas have been used in the past by councils and shopping centres to tempt customers into the high streets and shopping centres. The AA believes that, now more than ever, the hours and free parking locations should be extended,” says Edmund King, the AA’s president.
“With fewer shoppers and some avoiding public transport, opening up free parking would also allow better social-distancing instead of ticket machines becoming the ‘Achilles heel’ of attempts by stores, councils, and shopping centre managers to space out and protect visitors.
“This has been made worse by ticket machines becoming more complicated by requiring vehicle registration numbers as well as credit card details. Also, queuing is often a problem as ticket machines are often located where shoppers are squeezed at car park entrances or close to toilets.
“Just as Dickens described in A Christmas Carol, the grim city streets transformed by the Christmas spirit spreading cheer everywhere, let us hope free parking can banish the Scrooge mentality and spread joy to the shopkeepers.”