Independent retailers in Cardigan, West Wales, have experienced a hike in sales over the last month because the parking meters in the town centre are broken.
Thieves vandalised the four parking machines in the town’s car parks in June and businesses have seen an uplift in sales as customers increase their dwell time in store.
Rod Walker, owner of fashion and lifestyle retailer Mundos said: “We have definitely seen an upturn in trade over the last month as people are less time conscious when they visit us. They can pop in and out no problem now.
“Cardigan is a one-way high street with parking bays on one side of the road so getting pulled in is difficult. The free parking gives us independents a chance to compete with out of town retail parks. We can’t compete in price but we can now compete with service.”
Owner of womenswear independent Cleo, Fara Edwards, agreed: “People are spending a lot longer in the town and in the shops. They don’t have to run out because their ticket is about to run out. They are more relaxed. It’s been great for business, I’d love to see free parking staying in Cardigan.”
Julian Beynon-Lewis, vice chairman of Cardigan Traders- a chamber of commerce that represents 50 businesses in the town – said: “We have seen a massive increase in trade. Food shops are up 20% on last year and clothing retailers are up 50%. We haven’t seen the place so busy since before the recession. It proves the point that town centres need a level playing field if we are to compete with online and retail parks.”
The machines were charging £1.20 for an hour, rising to £2.20 for a maximum of three hours.
Ceredigion County Council needs to raise £22,500 to repair the machines and it is believed some will remain out of service until next month.
The council said: “Pay and display machines have already been reinstated at some of the recently affected car parks in Cardigan. The onus is on motorists to purchase a pay and display ticket if the opportunity is available to them. Motorists are therefore encouraged to check this and to adhere to all other terms and conditions that apply to the car parks.”