The great car parking design makeover

If you’ve ever bought a home, you’ll appreciate how important it is to make sure that your new surroundings reflect your personality and how you want to use that space.

Across the last few years, interior design has captured the imagination of consumers, and with more TV shows, more magazines, and more online and social media presence, many of us are increasingly confident in how we want our homes to look. We are also more able to share and learn from others’ ideas.

This evolution has been mirrored by the adoption of new levels of investment in interior design by the retail industry. Think Apple store, and you will know exactly what you’re going to experience. Think Starbucks, think Cineworld, think Lush, and it’s the same – brands strive to ensure that their customers are welcomed with a consistently high standard of appeal.

This is, of course, no accident. The brief to an interior designer is to listen to and interpret their needs and desires, create the right atmosphere, and personalise the space on behalf of consumers. The designers then form the store around the customer’s journey, which all, of course, helps to maximise their spending.

Unfortunately, the retailers’ passion and attention to detail for design can often stop at their shop door – and it’s frequently the car parking that suffers by comparison.

This is what Sir Stuart Rose, former CEO of Marks & Spencer and one of the UK’s leading experts on the retail industry said recently.

“If you go to the average shopping centre these days, and you’re driving in, mostly the car park is pretty grotty. It’s difficult to get round, it’s poorly lit, it’s often a bit damp, and often it’s expensive. Until you get to the theatre upstairs, nothing actually happens. It’s all about giving customers what they want. It’s all about investment.”

That’s pretty damning stuff, isn’t it? Even if Sir Stuart is perhaps generalising to make a point, it’s a view that’s likely to reflect what a lot of drivers think whenever they go shopping.

It could be argued that Sir Stuart is provoking the providers of retail car parking – whether that is the retailers themselves, or the owners and managers of car parking linked to a retail location – to understand the critical importance, not just of the aesthetic appeal of a car park, but also the functionality of the space.

When retailers are competing with online for shoppers’ business, it’s vital that the theatre of the experience, as Sir Stuart puts it, is extended into the car park. It needs to be seen as of equal importance to the interior design within the retail or entertainment space. The car park is the customer’s first impression and, especially if they are spending money to park, they want to know that they are paying for something that will enhance their experience every time they visit.

Smart Parking is playing its part by developing solutions such as Pay & Walk and SmartGuide, which make car parking much simpler, quicker and easier to use, alongside clearer, easier to understand signage – so drivers are positively encouraged to return and recommend others. As Sir Stuart says, it is all about investment – and we look forward to talking to decision makers about how we can help them maximise the return on their investment in their car parking facilities.