It’s Just a Line from a Movie…


It’s Just a Line from a Movie…

I was taken aback the other day when the head of a large manufacturer said that “If you build it they will come” is just a line from a movie. But then I got to thinking about it. He’s right, to a point.

In his business, building a widget and putting it in front of the customer doesn’t work. Marketing is how a company is driven. First research must be done, then the needs of the marketplace must be ascertained, then the product properly designed, built, priced, and promoted. If all the stars are in alignment, it will be a success. It’s a lot of work.

However, my continuing reference isn’t to technological advances, it’s to point out that providing free parking won’t bring shoppers downtown, and charging for parking won’t keep them away.

If you have an attraction, and it’s a good one, people will park blocks away and walk, or will pay a lot to park. (Remember how much they charge for parking at Dodger Stadium, more than the price of a seat, or across the Street from Madison Square Garden, more than the price of admission. The price of parking certainly doesn’t slow one down a bit.) However if you have a tired, rundown, half empty downtown, people won’t come if you pay THEM to park.

Century City and The Grove here in LA both are upscale destination shopping centers. The both charge for parking. They are very successful. Westside Pavilion just up the street is a nice mall, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the other two. It has been struggling and only recently began to turn around. It added a 12 plex Cinema. Parking has always been free, but that made no difference. It was the renovation and the movies that brought the crowd.

A consultant I know was helping a city with its parking issues. They had a very popular street faire that ran every weekend in the summer. People paid $5 and parked in a muddy field and walked six blocks to the faire. No one complained. The city just felt that they weren’t providing good customer service. My consultant friend agreed that it might “look” better to provide a nice multimillion dollar parking structure, but that it wasn’t really necessary. The faire couldn’t be more successful.

There are hundreds of examples. Anyone know of a place where changing to free parking made a difference? If so, let me know.

If you build it, they will come.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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