Mary Portas is wrong

Mary Portas is wrong.

That is how I wanted to start this blog after listening to a radio 4 bulletin this morning, however after reading ‘the Queen of Shops’ High Street Review in full I actually quite agree with Portas.

She lightly skips over the issue of offering ‘free parking’ which as Paul and I have discussed before doesn’t actually exist, and really isn’t practical.

However she does have some valid points, parking charges are rising and no one seems to know where the money is going. Where is the re-investment of this money? In times of squeezed budgets and caps on spending are councils just looking to reap the benefits from easy money makers such as car parks?

It’s no secret that I work for the dreaded ‘retail’ sector; a section of the parking industry which I feel is often frowned upon by the public sector and certainly treated as though we have oodles of money. As much as I hate to generalise and speak about a divide its hard sometimes to ignore.

However the point being is that as ‘retail’ operators we have a lot to lose by offering poor service, all be it no more than local shopping areas. I feel that local shopping areas are not treated as ‘areas’ rather treated as a selections of shops conveniently grouped together.

There are several areas near where I live which are no more than streets, but have been have been branded, have a committee looking after the well being of all shops making sure there are not too many of the same thing but a real mix of shops, bars and restaurants. An area which previously was in a decline now is in a bit of a boom.

Parking is not the key to success of an area, free parking will not make a shopping centre successful just as charging for parking would kill off trade. Over charging will kill shopping areas.

The issues facing the high street are that I can do all of my Christmas shopping online in around 30 minutes. I can usually get a better price, have it delivered to my desk and in most cases pay a little extra for someone else to wrap it for me. I don’t get cold, I don’t have to pay for parking and I don’t have to queue.

I don’t see all the special offers; I don’t get to touch the products or carry heavy bags around or eat mince pies and sample the Christmas market. I don’t have the experience.
That is what high street shopping is all about, the hustle and bustle and the hard work all in an effort for the satisfaction at the end as you slump in to the chair at home… (sigh) “i’m done.”

Shopping is an experience, and as long as the high street and shopping centres offer that ‘experience’ people will come. We as parking operators need to be an extension of that experience, world class parking at local prices. It’s not easy, but then that’s what makes it fun.

Well done to Mary Portas for standing high and voicing her thoughts, and pretty much being spot on with parking.

Shopping centres and other out-of-town formats often have the advantage of single ownership. The landlord is able to create an identity for the centre, choose the retail mix, manage the centre so that it reinforces the brand, co-ordinate marketing and refresh the centre through regular reinvestment. Single ownership is rare on our high streets, but that shouldn’t stop some of these elements being replicated. Our high streets need to plan their identity and shape their retail offer accordingly. They need leadership, business plans and day-to-day delivery.”

British Property Federation submission to The Portas Review

The full report can be read here: