Are shoppers ready to pay to park at the mall?
MyPark, an app that enables shoppers to reserve parking spots, is reportedly signing up malls at a rate of two per month, including the recent addition of Woodbury Common Premium Outlets and The Florida Mall. But a New York Post article, “Shopping malls want to make you pay for prime parking spots,” implied that not everyone is happy about it.
In the article, the writer Lisa Fickenscher describes charging for parking as a “rather odd marketing plan” given brick & mortar retail’s steady loss of traffic to online commerce.
MyPark enables parking spaces, often near the entrance or by popular restaurants, to be booked on demand or reserved in advance for $3 for up to two hours and $3 for each additional hour. Some places charge more, such as Mall of America which asks for $6 for the first two hours. Empty spots are protected by a four-foot-tall metal barrier that lowers when activated by the smartphone app.
In an April press release announcing a $2.1 million round of financing, Luis Mayendia, CEO, said that since launching in 2016, MyPark has been downloaded by thousands “to eliminate the headaches and wasted time of trying to find a parking spot.”
Consumers can reserve spaces six months in advance, and Mr. Mayendia told the Post that reservations are already being made for Black Friday. A two-hour mall visit with MyPark is also considerably less expensive than the valet parking that some malls offer, and shoppers don’t have to hand over their keys and cars, he added.
Competitors include BestParking, Parker, ParkMe, ParkWhiz and SpotHero, although many of these apps focus on urban markets.
Simon Property Group took a low-tech approach in introducing Parking Made Easy at several of its malls earlier this year. Shoppers pay $5 to a uniformed attendant at the entrance for a reserved spot close to the mall.
Parking Made Easy is finding skeptics, as well. When introduced to Pennsylvania’s Ross Park Mall in early May, shopper Kate Alsaihati told WPXI.com, “If it’s $5 or $10, I probably wouldn’t use that. I would rather drive around for 10 minutes, honestly, than pay for parking.”
- Shopping malls want to make you pay for prime parking spots – New York Post
- MyPark Secures $2.1 Million Seed Financing Round from Local and Nationwide Investors – MyPark
- Ross Park Mall to offer premium paid parking – WPXI.com
- Parking Made Easy! – Simon Property Group
- ParkMobile Reservations Now Available at New Brunswick Parking Authority Facilities – ParkMobile
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see paid parking services as a net positive or negative for malls and retailer tenants? How can malls assure the broadest appeal of such services for consumers?
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24 Comments on "Are shoppers ready to pay to park at the mall?"
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Strategy Architect – Digital Place-based Media
Paying for parking is a further tax on buying. Parking fees should be validated on some sliding scale at the time of purchase, and those who aren’t shopping or who are using the mall parking lot but not entering the mall should pay for the privilege.
President, Max Goldberg & Associates
Malls are losing customers, yet they want to charge for parking. It doesn’t make sense. The harder malls make it to shop, the more consumers will turn to online.
Principal, Retail Technology Group
Paying for parking will have its share of customers (those who can afford it and are willing), but many won’t bite (those who don’t see the value or want to get the exercise of walking from the far-away space to the entrance). This is worth doing but will have its skeptics.
If malls want to attract more shoppers, free parking is table stakes. Better yet, make parking a true convenience and offer free valet parking. Skip the “validate your ticket” idea and stop forcing customers to download various parking apps, making the process even more of a hassle, when folks are apt to decide it is just easier to order what they want by smartphone.
Professor, International Business, Guizhou University of Finance & Economics and University of Sanya, China.
Just another reason to buy online.
Principal, KIZER & BENDER Speaking
It seems to me, with the gigantic struggle to motivate customers to visit the malls and to battle the empty spaces that need to be filled, the focus should be first on building reasons/events to draw customers to the malls. Announcing a charge to secure a good space to park seems a little premature. With football games, basketball games, etc. it works — but not for a mall with serious downward traffic counts and square footage not being lit.
I think the last thing you want customers to think about is paying to park. And if they won’t pay, will they be agitated when they take the less convenient space? Maybe this could work for Black Friday and such other crazy times but, as a steady diet, I think more focus on the bigger issues is tantamount to successful growth. How many of us have found it a challenge to park at our local mall? My guess — not many.
Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC
Customers are willing to pay for convenience, and in this case convenience is “rock star parking.” This won’t work at every mall (or for every customer). Higher-end malls that typically have valet services will do well with this option. And higher-end malls that should have valet will do well, too. It will be interesting to see how retailers use the parking fee reimbursement as an incentive to get customers to shop at their stores.
President, Integrated Marketing Solutions
If you are Mall of America, that’s one thing. For all the other malls struggling with declining traffic this may be one of the stupidest ideas in a long time. While it might appeal to some customers who are already shopping at the mall, the added cost of parking will certainly not attract new shoppers to malls.
While everything is testable, common sense says this one is destined to fail.
Chief Customer Officer, Incisiv
I just noticed this recently at St. Johns Town Center (a Simon property) in Jacksonville, FL. At first it turned me off but then I thought of holiday parking there and to me, it would be worth $3 to $5.
At higher-end malls this is a service that most would be willing to pay for. At all others, it would be a deterrent as mid-market to low-income consumers will not be willing to pay extra for the privilege to shop.
President, b2b Solutions, LLC
There is no question that there are customers who will pay for the privilege of parking close to the mall’s entrances. The fees mentioned are not onerous for many customers. I expect there will be other customers who will see this as a sign that the mall doesn’t want their business and will elect to shop elsewhere whether at another mall or online.
I noticed that the article did not include any comment or feedback from the mall’s retailers. Knowing their reaction after the “pay for parking” program had been in place for a while would be informative and help gauge the future of this concept.
Chief Executive Officer, Progress Retail
Shopping centers should be doing all they can to entice shoppers and remove all friction from visits. Simon did have a loyalty scheme in place with VIP parking which seems to make sense, but there’s a large distinction between that and paid parking.
Principal, KIZER & BENDER Speaking
I saw this online over the weekend and crazy posts and headlines were causing people to lose their minds. Calm down. It’s opt in.
Free parking at most Las Vegas Strip casinos ended in 2016, prices went up in 2017. I’m sensing a trend here, and not a good one. I agree with Al McClain that malls should offer free valet parking, and make it as easy as possible. I hate having to have a ticket validated because I always forget.
There are times when I valet park at the mall and I am sure that there will be times when I would use this app. But I think that malls have to be careful to break the you-have-to-pay-to-park-here perception pretty quickly before that perception becomes reality.
Senior Retail Writer
I can see this maybe working for Black Friday. But that’s about it. Shoppers don’t want to pay for parking; these “rock star” spaces will be empty most of the time. I’m not sure why malls would shoot themselves in the foot by charging for parking and creating even more friction with consumers.
Principal, Anne Howe Associates
Most malls don’t have enough of an experience worth going to for free let alone adding a parking fee. There will always be people who will pay for a front row spot, but I don’t see a wide audience for paid spots at most malls, especially since the high-end malls generally have valet parking.
Global Retail & CPG Sales Strategist, IBM
If there’s an attractive anchor tenant, then this can work. It’s already working in higher-end places in California.
Consumer Advocate, finder.com
This is baffling! Yet another way to drive customers online (pun intended). It seems like there is such a small market of people who would use and pay for this service compared to the large amounts it would turn off completely.
Managing Director, GlobalData
I guess some will pay for this, but most won’t. What malls must ensure is that there is plenty of parking for everyone. Carving out too many spaces for this paid option will cause annoyance.
Marketing Strategy Lead - Retail, Travel & Distribution, Verizon
I think we are all scratching our heads on this topic. Mall traffic is declining and adding a financial barrier to visiting a mall seems like a bad idea.
While there may be a small segment of consumers that value the opportunity to reserve a parking spot near the entrance, I think most people are averse to paying for parking — especially at malls. Dedicating all the close parking spots to paid parking will drive all the other non-paying customers further from the entrance, which will continue to deter them from visiting malls.
CFO, Weisner Steel
Presumably, this will put to rest the idea that all malls are dying, ‘cuz the last thing one would expect if that were true is to have the malls make it harder to do business there. (Of course that isn’t necessarily the reality, but it’s likely to be the perception.)
Beyond that, this seems to be in keeping with the broader trend in life to make everything “pay to play”: an idea that has plusses … and more than a few minuses.
Director, SaaS Marketing, Zebra Technologies
This looks only to be tying up a select number of highly desirable spots so I don’t think it will really make a difference in shopper behavior. This could be turned around as a reward and used as part of a frequent shopper program.
Founding Partner, Merchandising Metrics
Sounds like this has limited application in a limited number of malls … today. But, the market is by definition “smart.” So test away. The market will sort it out. If the malls have to spend money to help create “experiences,” I can see them wanting to participate in some form of revenue other than leases. In a world of diminishing mall traffic they will only be able to hike rents so much or they will have trouble attracting tenants. So … yeah, test away. Another example of the bifurcation of the whole retail landscape.
Vice President Retail, Tori Richard Principal, Osorio Group LLC, dba JAM with Mike®
Baffled that malls are signing up for this at a time when shoppers are disappearing from malls in record numbers.
Kudos to the MyPark team on their success, though.
Senior Marketing Manager, RW3
Seems like a Hail Mary type strategy for the malls, for a second I thought they might be helping locate open spots for shoppers so they could get into the stores faster and save some gas or partner with car cleaning services letting shoppers get their car washed or detailed while they shop.
Pay to park while you shop does not help assure the broadest appeal to the consumers.