Free parking brings shoppers back to CBD

KATIE KENNY
Last updated 13:00 09/07/2014

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The data is still to come, but word on the street is that Nelson loves free parking.

The city council's trial of free parking, introduced a week ago, has already boosted foot traffic and spirits around the city, retailers say.

A Litter Arty Secondhand Books spokesman said the Hardy St store had experienced an "unbelievable" increase in the number of customers since the trial started on July 1.

"People seem pleased about it. I think it should be a permanent thing."

Shine owner Jo Menary agreed, saying there was a marked increase in shoppers last week especially.

"This week has been school holidays, so it's a bit different, but definitely last week there was better flow in the shop. People felt less stressed."

Although parking previously cost just $1 an hour, she said any amount was a barrier because most people did not carry cash.

"It's put Nelson on a level playing field with Richmond. It's great the council has listened to the retailers."

In Bridge St, Beetees owner Glen Beattie said about half a dozen customers had brought up the topic of free parking, saying it was a reason they had come into the CBD.

"The first week [of the trial], there was a noticeable buzz about town."

He said retailers appreciated the council's decision. "The council needs to be congratulated for listening."

Paymark spending figures, along with vehicle counts, would be released during the trial to quantify its impact, Uniquely Nelson manager Cathy Madigan said.

"Anecdotally, there was definitely an increase straight away," she said.

"Most of the retailers I've spoken to said it's definitely had an impact on foot traffic and sales as well. But it's too early to get data."

She said the organisation was "astounded" by the outcome. "Compared to the same time last year, all the car parks are full."

As to whether free parking could cause a shortage of parking spaces, "I wouldn't go that far".

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- The Nelson Mail

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