PARKING and tolling technology firm ParkMagic is ensuring an app-y Christmas for city retailers with a present for everyone in town.
They can all get a free listing in a street-by-street shopping directory for Limerick city centre that can be accessed online and is smartphone-friendly.
ParkMagic CEO Paul Fitzgerald said the initiative was born “partly out of frustration with a couple of the myths that are out there about the city, namely that there are no shops left in Limerick city centre and also that rhetoric that goes on to a certain extent that it is impossible to find parking in Limerick”.
Neither of the myths is true and Mr Fitzgerald said his team was determined to do something about it.
“Limerick is our home town, this is where our staff work and this is where we socialise. Our business is gone well beyond Limerick but Limerick still very important to us,” he said.
The city, he said, in fact has great variety in its retail offering and the shopping directory was developed to give users a flavour of that.
“Limerick city has so much to offer not only in terms of shopping, but also through its historical, cultural and sporting facilities as well,” said Mr Fitzgerald, urging businesses to get in touch to arrange a listing.
“There is no charge for a listing. We take the view that this service will help enable customers to find what they need in the city and contribute to the positive message that Limerick is very much open for business.”
While some retailers and city councillors have identified parking charges - and what some of them view as a get-tough approach by traffic wardens - as one of the greatest drawbacks of city centre shopping, Mr Fitzgerald believes demands for a free parking initiative are short-sighted.
“We don’t think the calls for free parking are properly thought through because what you will find when you introduce free parking - and it was done on a limited basis last year - is that people won’t move They just stay there and why not?
“The problem with that is that the shoppers being invited to spend money in the city in the afternoon will have nowhere to park but a private parking lot where prices are generally higher,” he said.
The introduction of parking meters to facilitate short-term parking was recently proposed by Cllr Joe Leddin. This would allow people coming into the city on short messages to pay a more modest fee than the €2 two-hour parking disc.
But Mr Fitzgerald said his firm already supplied such a service. All you had to do was own a mobile phone and sign up to ParkMagic’s services.
“Last year we negotiated with Limerick City Council to change the parking system from always being €2, exactly the same as a scratch-off parking disc - €2 per parking event and that was it. We persuaded them that there was a demand for shorter term parking.
“The Limerick City Council traffic department were very co-operative and changed things around to suit the short-term shopper and put in a pay-by-the-minute parking system in effect. There is a minimum you have to pay - 30 minutes, which costs 50 cent. After 30 minutes you can pay for anything extra you want so if you are in town and it is 4.45pm and you want to park up and have some food but worried about getting a ticket you can pay for the 45 minutes to take you up to 5.30pm, or for 44 minutes of 43 or whatever,” Mr Fitzgerald explained.
“It is something which customers find extremely useful. The average parking duration in Limerick now is about an hour and a quarter. That means had they all bought a disc, it would have cost them 75 cent extra and they save that straightaway.
“To pay 50 cent for half an hour is very simple to understand. And if you meet a friend for coffee and need to stay longer you just tap your phone or make a call and pay for the extra bit.”
The shopping directory meanwhile is now live and is available to visit on www.limerickshopper.com. An app is available to download at the iTunes Store.
And the directory can also be accessed by scanning the barcode stickers which are now on the most shop windows in Limerick city centre into a smartphone.