There are few things more prosaic than a car park. It is a functional space and the function is merely to accommodate stationary objects. Could there be anything less spectacular?
But the importance of car parks shouldn’t be underestimated. If you’re planning any kind of business or retail park – or anywhere where people will arrive in reasonable numbers really – then you need to think very carefully about parking.
Parking matters to people. It may not be something they actively care about, but it affects their behaviour to an enormous degree. Given a choice between two identical shops, one with ample parking and one with very little, people will always drive to the one where they are guaranteed a space. Why risk doing anything else?
A lack of parking space represents a ceiling for your business. If there are no spaces then you will lose custom. There aren’t many industries where you get to pick and choose when customers arrive, so you need to be prepared for peak times. In fact, you need to be prepared for something that is bigger than the peak time you will ever experience. You don’t want to have to turn people away.
When planning a new building that is to be devoted to commerce, it is hard to remember this. Land is valuable and it is always tempting to expand a new building to maximise the retail space. However, if this means sacrificing parking space, you are making a grave error, because you will never get enough customers to justify the move.
The worst scenario is that your shop will get a reputation for being hard to park near. This sounds the death knell for a business, because people won’t even drive over to take a look. Now you’re not filling the small amount of parking space that you do have and you find yourself with no customers whatsoever.
It is very hard to work out how many parking spaces you might need, but never underestimate, because so much of your business hinges on this decision. We often talk about getting customers through the door, but in the modern era of out of town retail parks, the first priority has to be to get people near the door in the first place. In order to achieve this, they have to drive and if they’re driving, they have to park. A car park may be prosaic, but it is also vital.
Andrew Marne recommends the use of car park managers.