Free parking scheme for shoppers to launch in Sunderland city centre via ParkingPerx - this is what we know so far

Shoppers visiting Sunderland city centre could benefit from free parking under a unique scheme set to roll out next year.

Friday, 11th October 2019, 11:11 am
Updated Friday, 11th October 2019, 4:36 pm
The ParkingPerx app in action

ParkingPerx , developed by North East company ProxiSmart, allows users to earn rewards from retailers which can then be used to pay parking fees.

In 2017, the scheme was piloted in Sunderland with a select few invited to try out the smartphone app.

The scheme has also been supported by Sunderland City Council, The Bridges and Sunderland’s Business Improvement District (BID).

ProxiSmart founder Chris Reed

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This week, it was revealed Sunderland has been chosen as one of four cities that will ‘go live’ with the new technology.

ParkingPerx can be earned in over 150 national brands and stores currently.

However, the team behind it are working with Sunderland BID to expand this into more local and independent traders within the city.

Head of business operations at the BID, Sharon Appleby, said the app could have a real impact when combined with other parking promotions.

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This includes the ‘free after three’ initiative in council car parks on Thursdays.

“The nationals now are waking up to the fact that they need people to come into their shops and they’re looking at different things,” she said.

“With parking its not ‘one size fits all’ – what we have to keep remembering is that the offer in the city centre has to get better.

“Once it’s there and you know you’re coming for what you want and you will get what you want, the parking becomes almost immaterial.

Sunniside car park.

“ParkingPerx is a brilliant option, who pays for that, it’s the retailer.

“The retailer is having to give something off their product but they’re getting people through the door.”

The comments came during Sunderland City Council’s Economic Prosperity Scrutiny Committee on October 8.

In Sunderland, the app will be available initially in Sunniside and St Mary’s car parks and could also be rolled out at The Bridges.

How ParkingPerx works:

The app was developed by entrepreneur and ProxiSmart founder Chris Reed in a bid to support the high street.

In recent months, the businessman walked away with £80,000 of investment to develop the idea after a successful pitch on BBC show Dragons’ Den.

In action, the app uses ‘smart beacon’ technology which transmits a Bluetooth signal in and around car parks and parking spaces.

Shoppers can make a wireless ‘handshake’ with their smartphone letting ParkingPerx know when they enter or exit a car park.

Smart beacons will also be used in and around stores signed up to the scheme to verify ParkingPerx claims.

When a customer uses makes a qualifying purchase, shoppers present their claim to the retailer via their smartphone.

ParkingPerx then collects consumer-earned rewards from shops and pays them directly to car park owners/operators.

When customers use the app to pay for parking at the end of their stay, they will have a ‘My Perx’ balance that they can use to reduce or even eliminate their fee.

The man behind the idea, Chris Reed, said: “Sunderland has played a key part in helping me get to where I am.

“Without the support and forward thinking of the city council, The Bridges and the team at Sunderland BID, I wouldn’t have got anywhere near Dragons Den.

“I’m delighted that the city will be one of the first locations which will go live.

“I believe that ParkingPerx will help to reverse the decline of our high streets and I’m looking forward to showcasing Sunderland as an example of how we achieve that.”

Praise for ParkingPerx

Cabinet member for environment and transport on Sunderland City Council, Amy Wilson, welcomed the news.

“It’s one of the council’s key objectives, and this is outlined in our emerging City Plan, that we must have a better performing city centre for everyone,” she said.

“There must be more working, more living, more leisure and play, and more study in central Sunderland.

“Modern smartphone apps can be part of this and the council always welcome initiatives that can help make our city more dynamic, healthy and vibrant.”

Centre director of The Bridges, Andy Bradley, added: “We’re delighted to be working with Chris, the BID and key organisations within the city with a view to trialling the ParkingPerx initiative in Sunderland.

“We can certainly see its potential and look forward to its implementation in the near future.”

When will ParkingPerx go live for Sunderland?

Final agreements around the scheme are currently under way .

But partners hope to roll out ParkingPerx in Sunderland in February/March next year.

Any businesses in the city who are interested in signing up can get in touch with Sunderland BID or visit the ParkingPerx website: www.parkingperx.com

Any shoppers interested in free parking can also pre-register on the ParkingPerx website.