Are shoppers ready to pay to park at the mall?

Photo: MyPark
Jul 09, 2018
Tom Ryan

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, “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.”

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?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"The focus should be first on building reasons/events to draw customers to the malls. "
"This is baffling! Yet another way to drive customers online (pun intended)."
"I can see this maybe working for Black Friday. But that’s about it. Shoppers don’t want to pay for parking..."

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24 Comments on "Are shoppers ready to pay to park at the mall?"

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Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

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.

Max Goldberg

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.

Bob Amster

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.

Al McClain

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.

Gene Detroyer

Just another reason to buy online.

Rich Kizer

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.

Shep Hyken

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.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

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.

David Weinand

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.

Steve Montgomery

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.

Ray Riley

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.

Georganne Bender

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.

Meaghan Brophy

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.

Anne Howe

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.

Ralph Jacobson

If there’s an attractive anchor tenant, then this can work. It’s already working in higher-end places in California.

Jennifer McDermott

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.

Neil Saunders

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.

David Naumann
David Naumann
Vice President, Retail Marketing, enVista
1 year 2 months ago

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.

Craig Sundstrom

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.

Larry Negrich

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.

Jeff Sward

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.

Mike Osorio
This is a good example of a debate that requires none. There are already hundreds of examples, primarily in downtown shopping districts, with paid parking. The way this new version of paid parking operates is no different than any other “pay-to-play” service or commodity: A highly desired service or commodity, with limited availability, is offered for a fee. In this case, that desired commodity is front row or nearby parking. Black Friday parking is hardly the motivation, but rather daily parking in hot malls. Obviously this would not be done in a mall which either has plenty of parking vs. it’s desirability, or where the consumer economic demographic would not allow for it. There can be an entirely different debate on the rise of subscription services and other pay-to-play models and whether even an upper moderate consumer can afford what could be dozens of such services. For now though, these models will continue to proliferate. But the question here is whether paid parking is positive or negative for malls and how to leverage it for… Read more »
Edris Bemanian
1 year 2 months ago

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.

Seth Nagle

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.

"The focus should be first on building reasons/events to draw customers to the malls. "
"This is baffling! Yet another way to drive customers online (pun intended)."
"I can see this maybe working for Black Friday. But that’s about it. Shoppers don’t want to pay for parking..."

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