Traders wildly wrong on shopper parking
Traders wildly wrong on shopper parking

A new study from Berlin has shown again that shopkeepers are basically clueless about how their customers arrive at the cash register.

In recent years traders in Australia and around the world have been prominent in opposing the development of better bike infrastructure through shopping streets and districts.

They have loudly proclaimed that bike lanes are causing congestion and leaving less space for car parking.

And because they believe that a large proportion of their customers arrive by car, they say these changes are resulting in a major loss of business.

Related: An unfounded obsession with car parks

In this latest study of two busy shopping streets in Berlin, researchers interviewed 145 traders and 2000 shoppers.

The key findings were that traders overestimated car use and underestimate active transport.

And potential customers more often lived closer to their shopping destinations than retailers perceived.

Only 6.6% of shoppers travelled to the streets by car, far less than the 21.6% that traders estimated.

Furthermore they underestimated transit, pedestrian, and bicycle travel by 8.1%, 6.2% and 3% respectively.

The study also found that while car drivers spent more shopping on each trip, they made less trips.

Overall, people who arrived by foot, PT or by bike spent 91% of all expenditure in the study zones.

Traders were found to overestimate the distance customers travel to visit their businesses. Traders believed only about 13% of their customers lived within one kilometre, but the real figure was 51%.

Multiple studies have shown traders making these same mistakes. Why? You would think business people would need a proper understanding of their customer’s behaviour if they hoped to be successful.

The study points to the answer: traders who themselves travel by car assume that their customers must do likewise.

Some 42% of traders commuted by car, and they assumed that about 29 per cent of their customers also made that choice whereas the actual figure was 6.6%.

“The findings of this survey are in line with the growing body of literature that suggests improved active travel (ie for pedestrians and cyclists) and transit infrastructure is likely to benefit local business”, said lead researcher Dirk von Schneidemesser.

“Business associations should consider this evidence when weighing the benefits and disadvantages of infrastructure development in order to best represent the interests of local business."

"Our findings can help explain the opposition of local business to sustainable transport infrastructure and offer a knowledge basis for better informed decision-making regarding urban land use in cities."

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