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Vandalism + free parking = shopping boom?

Vandalised parking meters

Parking meters have taken the rap for years for the decline in foot traffic along high streets. Local retailers have often complained about how their presence discourages shoppers and how they repeatedly lose out to the out-of-town superstores. Retailers can now bask in the glory of righteousness as we’ve seen the scenario played out in a small coastal town in Wales. Free parking has been restored to the townspeople – thanks to a bunch of vandals and a council budget that’s lacking in reparative funding.

Just over a month ago, four pay-and-display ticket machines were vandalised in the small Welsh town of Cardigan. The local council doesn’t have the budget at present to repair the machines, so locals have now re-claimed their high street and are enjoying free parking, the knock-on effect of this being a massive soar in local trade to the tune of 50%!! Ching Ching!!

And the world is taking notice of this real-life experiment in action. Dutch retail expert and professor Cor Molenaar from the Erasmus University remarked: “This should be an incentive for local councils to provide periods of free parking.”

Customers stay away when they have to pay up to 20 euros for parking.” commented Sander van Golderdinge, director of the Dutch Retail Association. “This also happened in Nijmegen, there was an electrical fault in the parking meter payment system, and this too led to increased foot traffic and sales.

Owner of Cardigan bakery Martin Radley, current chairman of Cardigan Traders said “What we have now is a level playing field. People who have enjoyed free parking at supermarkets are finding they prefer going to small, independent shops which offer goods of a far better quality. People are staying longer and spending more. They feel more relaxed not having to worry about their cars. It demonstrates what we’ve been saying for years: if you have lower parking fees, or even no fees, then people will come into town.

So are we to be thankful to the vandals that have provided us with a unique opportunity to review our parking practices, or is there more than meets the eye when considering an overhaul of local parking policies? Your view?

Click here for the full article in English from the Daily Mail and here for the Dutch take on it from De Telegraaf (in Dutch).

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