Retail guru supports free parking

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RETAIL guru Mary Portas has long been an advocate of more convenient, lower priced and preferably even free car parking in town centres.

The television personality turned Government advisor on retail, has spoken at length about how vital parking is for a town centre.

“To remove controlled free parking from our town centres puts them at a massive competitive disadvantage,” according to the customer service expert.

Ms Portas, whose retail tips recently inspired a set of training sessions for a range of businesses in Banbridge town centre, said town centres will find it increasingly difficult to compete with out-of-town retail parks should free parking be the main difference.

“The ease with which out-of-town retailing can be reached by car means that high streets do not have the luxury of pretending that car-based access is not convenient for shoppers,” she said.

If there are nearby alternatives with plenty of free parking customers will likely choose these over other centres where parking charges apply, she said.

And in the longer term Ms Portas said towns which have parking charges imposed upon them will undoubtedly suffer as a result of customer choice.

“I fundamentally believe that to increase the cost of parking in a locality (when there are alternatives offering free parking elsewhere) is to curtail the appeal of that location to the shopping consumer and therefore the longer term economic viability and wellbeing of the area.”