Shopping Centre
Driving shopper spend
Published:  29 September, 2014

New research from CACI shows car-borne shoppers spend more than public transport users, but they do shop less frequently

Shopping centre owners and managers have long recognised the benefits of providing high quality car parking facilities and with research showing that drivers spend 40 per cent more on retail than non-drivers, it is more important than ever.  

The research, provided by information technology specialist CACI, shows that commercially, drivers are more valuable to shopping centres than non-drivers, spending on average 43 per cent more in in-town centres and 52 per cent more in out of town centres. Plus, they are 20 per cent more likely to make a purchase than non-drivers and will typically come in larger groups. 

However, this higher spend is off-set by a more infrequent shop, with drivers visiting a shopping centre 40 per cent less frequently in a year than non-drivers. A statistic in part explained by the fact that drivers live up to 23 per cent further away from the centre than non-drivers. 

Drivers are more likely to be affluent, over-indexing on Acorn groups like ‘Executive Wealth’ and ‘Mature Money’. 

And the use of catering is not heavily weighted towards drivers – they are as engaged with catering as non-drivers – but their average spend on catering is 20 per cent greater. Something CACI put down to larger party size and greater affluence. 

There is also a variation between how drivers behave in in-town shopping centres and out of town centres. Out of town, both drivers and non-drivers are more likely to spend than shoppers at in-town destinations (where drivers are more likely to spend than non-drivers) and the party size between drivers and non-drivers is more similar (albeit still weighted to drivers).

In-town, drivers will spend 12 per cent longer in the centre than non-drivers whereas in out-of-town centres they actually spend 4 per cent less time. 

“This is probably a function of drivers being more likely to have to pay for parking in an in-town shopping centre,” explains Alex McCulloch, principal consultant at CACI. “They are more inclined to stay for their allotted time, and the motivation for visiting is for destination rather than convenience shopping.”  

By using the frequency of visit, propensity to purchase and value of purchase, CACI has calculated that for an in-town centre, drivers are 38 per cent more valuable and account for 34 per cent of visitors. And for an out of town centre, drivers are of equal value, and make up 81 per cent of visitors. 

“It is imperative that in-town shopping centres meet the needs of drivers as they are high value contributors to centre success,” says McCulloch. 

“CACI has observed that affluent consumer groups - who are more likely to be drivers - are more critical when asked to rate centre attributes,” he adds. “Therefore clear signage, adequate space provision, space size and clear ingress and egress are critical.”  

What is unclear is the role that parking charges play in this dynamic: “If there were no - or lower - charges then a scheme will incentivise more drivers to come, however this does not mean that their relative over-performance will be maintained, as seen in out-of-town schemes where parking is free and drivers are worth the same over the course of a year as non-drivers,” says McCullloch.  

“The relative value of drivers in in-town schemes may be a function of parking charges; those who drive to the scheme do so as a destination rather than convenience shop and are therefore shopping with a purpose.”  

About the sample 

CACI’s Shopper Dimensions database contains the shopping habits of over 220,000 UK shoppers collected in more than 100 shopping centres over the last couple of years. Each of the respondents answered an exit survey whilst on a shopping trip and among the metrics CACI has captured are dwell, retail spend (by retailer), frequency, party size and mode of transport.