FREE Parking Sundays - positive effect

21 August 2019

Di Powell, inSwindon BID CEO responds to the Swindon Advertiser feature on free Sunday parking: “The Facebook Poll we recently completed is just one avenue we have used to source feedback to evaluate the success of the car parking initiative. As well as carrying out a survey with our BID members, we’ve analysed footfall figures to determine any early signs of improvement for Sunday shopping.

“Across the UK, footfall is declining year-on-year, largely due to online shopping. At inSwindon BID, we’re continuously looking at different ways to encourage people into the town centre. This may be through our extensive events programme, or various initiatives to support raising the profile of the town centre. This month, we saw record numbers attend our Urban Beach with positive reactions from the public. Although we’re still waiting for the official footfall figures to come in, the feedback from our BID members has been encouraging.

“As a voice for the town centre retailers, inSwindon BID and shopping centre partners, The Brunel, Regent Circus and The Parade, have worked with Swindon Borough Council to consider options for parking concessions in a bid to support town centre retailers. Historically, Sunday footfall has been lower than the rest of the week, and it’s thought that offering free Sunday parking in all town centre car parks can encourage longer stays and more visitors.

“Early results show us that although Swindon footfall has declined year-on-year, the decline on Sundays is now slower than the rest of the week, with a decline trend of -2.30% (1st April – 11th August 2019, the free car parking period to date). The most recent footfall figures released by Springboard, the leading provider of data and intelligence on footfall activity, recorded a July increase of 6.1% month-on-month and 3% year-on-year for Sundays. We hope as we continue to spread the word of Sunday free parking in the town centre, the decline trend of -2.30% will decrease further as more people take advantage.

“29% of our BID of members who responded to a survey on the parking initiative confirm they have seen increased footfall, and 86% responded to say they value and support Sunday free parking. This survey was sent to all 450+ of our BID members, and we understand that not all businesses are open on a Sunday and this initiative would have no initial affect on them, but they appreciate the projects carried out to improve the perception of town centre in general. Achieving such a high response in support of the initiative’s continuation, demonstrates retailers’ support for the town centre, with some commenting that they think it’s a great idea and good for business.

“There will continue to be challenging times ahead, as more stores are set to close. We must remember, that many of these closures are nationwide, not limited to Swindon. The latest Vacancy Report has been released and we’re delighted that Swindon is once again outperforming the national UK average – Swindon’s vacancy rate is 8.5%, compared with the UK average of 10.3%. This demonstrates the desire for businesses to invest in Swindon as we continue to see the shape of the high street change and become more leisure orientated.

“As a business whose ambition is to raise the perception of Swindon town centre, I ask that the Swindon community supports the town centre and #ShopLocalSwindon.”