Double parking

Mr Wilkes of the Brunel Centre seems to be jumping to conclusions about the effectiveness of dropping the cost of parking around Swindon town centre.

My prediction is that if they were to end this deal shopper footfall at the Brunel would return to 17 per cent down in January…. If the council were to remove these improved tariffs it would cause a wipe-out in January.

Welcome to Mt Molehill, Mr Wilkes. Both Mr Young of Swindon Borough Council and Mr Jackson of inSwindon manage to be rather more circumspect.

I think these statistics underline our strategy, meaning that if you give someone a four-hour ticket for about the same price as an hour long stay, they will spend more time and money in the town centre.

Visually the town centre looks busier this year and certainly people are still coming into town and still purchasing in all of the stores.

And seemingly purchasing more or more expensive items, as on average store revenue is the same as last year.

Now, I’m not suggesting that the drop in parking charges has not been beneficial to business in the town centre, but to claim that putting the charges back up would cause ‘wipe out’ is clearly over-dramatic.

The bare facts.

  • In September, the number of shoppers visiting the centre was down 17% from the previous September.
  • So far in December the number is down by ‘just’ 10% from the previous December.
  • Parking figures for 2008 are not available.
  • Since September this year, when the parking charges were cut, the number of people parking in town centre car parks has increased by over 20%.

But there were also things happening between September and December last year, which Mr Wilkes seems to have forgotten. Little things, like two of the UK’s biggest banks almost collapsing. Little things, like Honda announcing that it was going to close its South Marston production lines for several months. So even without the boost from reduced parking charges, it would be reasonable to expect the drop between December 2008 and December 2009 to be less than that between September 2008 — when the economy still had another nosedive to come — and September 2009.

With the council’s finances in a mess, it needs to rely on something better than a retail manager’s dodgy statistics before deciding whether to continue spending our money to keep parking charges down.