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Relief at peak times: How shopping centers benefit from smart parking solutions

Saturdays are popular for shopping. That's why shopping centers and city centers are often hectic on this day of the week. It is even more crowded when there are special offers during the winter sales, for example. While queues form at the checkouts in the stores, there is a relaxed atmosphere in the parking areas, as customers park seamlessly and conveniently - at least where a digital, barrier-free parking management system is used.

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Contents

Challenges of shopping centers at busy times

Customers who want advice before deciding on a new electrical appliance or want to try on clothes and shoes before they buy them go to the nearest shopping center or shopping arcade in a large city. They not only support local retailers, but can also take their purchases home with them.

However, seasonal discounts, which are common in the upcoming winter sales, often pose challenges for retailers and their employees. This is because the special offers attract bargain hunters to the shopping streets and shopping centers. The rush is inevitable and poses challenges for shopping centers in particular. If customers have to queue constantly, it can dampen their mood: at the entrance barrier to the parking garage, at the checkouts in the stores and finally, packed with shopping bags, at the parking machines. 

Sooner or later, customers who are already annoyed by the search for a parking space are faced with store employees who are working at their limits due to the rush and are therefore also stressed. No matter how quickly they cash in, queues form and customers' moods plummet, because the motto on the bargain hunt is "only while stocks last". The next special offer in the next store won't wait!

Mastering the rush of visitors: the key role of parking management in shopping centers

However, a visit to the shopping center can also be relaxed in the middle of the sales rush, namely when the first hurdle is removed: the stressful search for a parking space. It can therefore be worthwhile for shopping centers to rethink their parking management and, like the "daseinstein" shopping center in Munich, rely on a digital, barrier-free system.

One such solution works with data protection-compliant license plate recognition at the entrance and exit. The system automatically calculates the customer's parking time from the time of arrival and departure and checks whether they have paid for the entire parking period. Customers pay for their stay shortly before departure at touchscreen machines with user-friendly menu navigation by entering their license plate number. Depending on which machine the shopping center has installed, it can rely exclusively on cashless payment or also offer cash payment. On request, parkers receive a receipt for the parking fee paid. Alternatively, payment can be made using a smartphone via parking apps such as EasyPark or Parkster or online. In this case, there is no need to go to the pay machine at all. After payment, parkers have around 15 minutes to leave the parking area, depending on the size of the parking garage or space. 

A visit to the shopping center becomes even more attractive if a free parking period applies. The introduction of such a limited free or maximum parking period is also a good idea for shopping centers or shopping arcades that do not yet monitor or manage their parking areas, as it keeps long-term parkers away without additional personnel costs. At the same time, nothing changes for customers as long as they leave the parking area within the free or maximum parking period. 

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Advantages of innovative parking systems at peak shopping times

Reduced operating costs

The use of digital parking management systems is also financially worthwhile for shopping centers, as these solutions only require a small amount of hardware on the site and are therefore relatively inexpensive to purchase. The digital systems are also economical to operate, as they require practically no components that are susceptible to wear and tear, which saves on repair, maintenance and servicing costs. Digital parking management systems also automate parking management work steps and processes, which eliminates sources of error and saves work. Solutions that work with automatic license plate recognition do not require an on-call service, as is necessary for barrier systems, as there are no barriers at the exit and entrance. This also eliminates the expense of maintaining such a system. By dispensing with traditional parking tickets, shopping centers also save on paper and plastic waste and costs.

Flexible pricing through smart evaluations

A parking management system based on license plate recognition also provides real-time data on the use of parking spaces without the need to install additional sensors. Shopping centers can view and analyze the information about their parking spaces via a user-friendly dashboard. The possibility of this evaluation makes it possible to introduce a flexible pricing model based on the utilization of the space. Data on current utilization can also be transmitted to websites and displayed on screens in or near the parking area. 

Seamless entry and exit for parking areas and parking garages

The barrier-free entrance is particularly relevant at peak times, for example on Saturdays or during shopping events such as "Black Friday", as customers and employees can enter and exit the parking area seamlessly at any time. There is no need to stop and take tickets, which avoids tailbacks at the entrance and exit. This not only speeds up the parking process, but also reduces CO2 emissions in the parking area.

Shopping centers offer even more convenience when they allow their customers to pay for parking via a parking app or a mobile website. This allows parkers to end their visit to the shopping center without having to wait at the machine, even when it's busy.

Satisfied customers and employees

Customers who enjoy a stress-free shopping experience, even at peak times, are not only happy to come back, they also make fewer complaints. This in turn contributes to a better mood among employees, who can concentrate on their actual tasks instead of dealing with customer complaints and inquiries relating to parking.

Fewer parking offenders

Parking offenders who use the parking space without paying or park their vehicle there for longer than the permitted maximum or free parking time can be tracked almost seamlessly using license plate recognition. They receive a payment request for an increased parking fee set by the shopping center. This makes the parking area unattractive for third-party parkers and the parking spaces remain free for customers. This means that a visit to the shopping center begins in a relaxed manner, even during the sales, instead of with a stressful search for a parking space.

The Haerder Center copes with peak times with Peter Park

The Haerder Center is a shopping center in Lübeck's old town, where customers can enjoy a wide range of shopping and services on 10,000 square meters. The Haerder Center includes an underground car park with 250 parking spaces, which is operated by KWL GmbH, a subsidiary of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck. In autumn 2022, the shopping center replaced the barrier-based parking system with the digital solution from Peter Park , opening the first barrier-free parking garage in Lübeck. The new, digital parking system is significantly more cost-efficient and less susceptible to failure, as there are no high-maintenance wearing parts such as defective barriers. Thanks to GDPR-compliant license plate recognition, parkers can now enter the underground car park seamlessly and without stopping at the entrance and exit, even at peak times: "With the new barrier-free parking lot, the city of Lübeck benefits from a parking system that not only makes parking in the city centre easier, but also prevents traffic jams and reduces CO2 emissions," explains Dr. Ralph Bruns, Head of Parking at KWL GmbH. Parkers can pay for their stay in the parking garage in cash, by card and by app. 

In addition to the Haerder Center in Lübeck, the "das einstein" shopping center in Munich, for example, also uses the digital parking management system from Peter Park .

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