Parking Sector Recovery

With the Government prioritising “kickstarting the economy”, getting people back out to work and spending money, how is the parking sector reflecting the changes of the last 4 months, what has the impact of lockdown had on enforcement activity and what does the future hold?

At Zatpark we have analysed and reported on the data throughput of the Zatpark platform during the first and current phase of UK’s COVID19 management and response. We like many have shared this data with the DFT to assist in their modelling of transport usage and motorist behaviour.

We have been working hard to help clients stay ahead of the curve, using our analysis to advise on what they and we need to be planning for in the weeks ahead. Looking at the updated graph of data infrastructure activity below, you will see it plots three sources of information:

  • The Blue Line shows the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data on the overall volumes of traffic on UK A roads and Motorways.
  • The Red Line shows the volume of ANPR reads across our infrastructure
  • The Yellow line shows the volume of enforcement actions across the Zatpark platform.

Each line represents a percentage of activity relative to the same day of the week for the first week of March. Therefore, you can see how whilst ONS traffic flows are still down from their early March levels, meaning there are physically less vehicle movements, the Zatpark ANPR read volumes and the volume of Enforcement Actions is still significantly lower at less than half of the activity of the first week of March.

The lower number of ANPR reads can, in part, be attributed to reduced high street and retail footfall driven by high numbers of people remaining working from home, not commuting to urban centres and a general reluctance to visit busy public areas.

Research and analysis by Ipsos Retail Performance shows that retail footfall is still as of the week to 5th July an average of 61% lower that week than the same period of 2019.

When we consider the volume of enforcement actions Zatpark’s CEO, Dave Herbert says. ‘One thing I think is really interesting is that as vehicle movement increases, the level of enforcement is not going up at the same pace, because many councils and operators are either not enforcing or choosing to issue warning notices at first. This shows how mindful the parking industry has been throughout this crisis, something we don’t always get credit for.’

Speaking with clients many are keen to bring staff back into the business and recommence enforcement, but are being led by their clients and the level of action they feel is reasonable to protect their brand and reputations. Whilst this is understandable during the initial lockdown phase, as we see increasing usage and management requirements some contracts are likely to become frustrated by the lack of desire to enforce.

When will the laissez faire approach to enforcement likely change?

The UK retail sector is expected to shrink by 4.6% or £17.2bn (Centre for Retail Research) through 2020, the biggest impact is anticipated to be on bricks and mortar stores who are likely to see a fall of 19.4% or £73bn compare to last year. Conversely online retailing (including the ecommerce offerings of traditional retailers) is anticipated to grow by 16.3% or £7.8bn through 2020.

The impact on parking and the wider commercial property sector are obvious as the structural changes in our shopping habits have sped up and the realisation by many that working from home is a viable alternative.

The Centre for Retail Research are anticipating a post lockdown spending splurge, whereby some of the latent demand within the economy is fulfilled, however any post lockdown spending is not expected to recover the losses from the first half of the year and will fizzle out in September at around 8.8% above the equivalent period in 2019. To what extent this bounce back is felt on the Highstreet is yet to be determined, but the governments Eat Out to Help Out scheme is likely to have a positive impact on retail and leisure footfalls during August as is the desire to be active and out of the house during the school summer break .

We anticipate that during late August most site owners will choose to recommence enforcement due to increasing footfall and vehicle volumes and a subsequent increases in antisocial parking practices. This “increase” in enforcement, whilst not back to pre lockdown volumes, will likely generate some negative sentiment and press and likely an increase in appeals as motorists relearn old behaviours. We are advising our Parking management/enforcement client to work closely with their site owner clients on interim rules and processes for example extending out grace periods to take into account the extra time taken to que and increasing the clarity of communications with motorists through signage and mobile payment confirmation messages.

The recovery back to pre lockdown volumes is likely to be long. Structural changes in the retail and office sectors will be exacerbated as fewer people commute to a single place of work each and every day, with more discretionary and impulse spending done online.

We may in the short to mid term see a return to 1990s style destination shopping, with a trip to an out of town shopping centre or city centre a planned full days excursion rather than somewhere to pop to after work. With increasing dispersed workforces working form home local amenities and high streets are likely to see a boost, with more people able to utilise their local hub rather than transporting their need to their place of work.

The direct and indirect effects on the parking sector will be significant, with conceivably lower requirements for multiple large facilities particularly in tertiary town and city centres but with increasing need for space and management in suburban and local environments.

This will necessitate increased use in technology to manage and we will likely see Local Authorities pushing to utilise ANPR technologies as they look to manage assets and facilities in a cost positive manner. Staff redeployments will mean smaller teams will be enforcing across multiple directorates such as parking, transport and environmental services all against a backdrop of reduced public spending. We are already seeing increased movement to automation technologies from the private parking management community.

Now is the time for the parking sectors leadership to be advocating and lobbying for greater support to enable carparks as part of the wider commercial property sector to innovate and evolve, perhaps as part of the wider green transport infrastructure the country will desperately need as we transition to electric vehicles and non traditional models of car usage and ownership.

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