Goederenuitleverpunten de oplossing voor binnenstedelijke problemen? Een haalbaarheidsonderzoek onder winkeliers en consumenten in de Utrechtse binnenstad
Vries, J.V. de
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Inner cities are the most lively and complex parts of a city. Consumers, retailers, residents, the municipality and other actors meet each other in the city centre. For this reason city centres are attractive, but they also accompany several problems. These problems can be explained by the tension between retailers and consumers in the city centre. One of the main goals of shopkeepers is presenting an attractive shop to the consumers. This requires a frequent provision of the shops, in an effective and comfortable way for the suppliers. On the other hand, consumers feel comfortable in a vital city centre without the nuisance caused by the provision of shops. In extent to this, a high level of (car) accessibility is important for them. For retailers, such a vital city is also desirable, but this can be conflicting with their other interests which were mentioned above. The city centre of Utrecht has to do with such problems too. The municipality of Utrecht attempts to dissolve these with innovative logistics concepts. One of them is the so called ‘Merchandise Pick-up Point’ (‘GUP’ or ‘goederenuitleverpunt’ in Dutch). The most important motives for the possible implementation of this concept in Utrecht are the improvement of the air quality in the city and the improvement of the vitality of the city centre as mentioned before. Both are important goals of the municipality in the near future. This study examines the feasibility of the GUP through the following central research question: In which form is a Merchandise Pick-up Point feasible in Utrecht? The study is based on an extensive deskresearch and 10 interviews with relevant shopkeepers from the city centre of Utrecht and 365 surveys with consumers in the city centre. This gives an overview of the feasibility of the GUP concept in Utrecht and in what form the GUP would be the most appropriate for both consumers and retailers. GUP’s ensure a decrease in freight transport in the inner city of Utrecht. In the future, it will be possible for retailers to receive the goods at a suburban location (a GUP’s). An advantage for them is that they are, for example, less tied to their inner city expensive storage space. A possible advantage for consumers, is that they can park their car at the GUP and travel to the city centre by public transport. In this way they are not forced to take ‘cumbersome goods’ directly with them, but they can return to the same GUP and pick up the goods there. A prerequisite for the success of the concept is a major change in the consumers and retailers behaviour. In their habitual behaviour they both fall back on previous positive experiences and thereby develop routines. This study examines to what extent the retailers and consumers are willing to modify their behaviour, so that GUP use in Utrecht can be feasible. Despite of the opportunities of the GUP, the conditions in Utrecht do not seem very favourable. The reason for this, is that the number of stores that sell cumbersome goods is low. The number of consumers that come to the city centre to buy these goods is also low. For retailers, it seems that the GUP is not a concept they’ve all been waiting for because in general, retailers have no major problems with the urban distribution. The various problems they face are not that striking for them that they need to make big changes. The biggest problems for them have to do with the flexibility of the distribution and the accessibility of the city centre. For the retailers, a bundling of goods is already a useful solution to these problems, which is easier to implement than the whole GUP-concept. Consumers also benefit from this, because of the reduction of the number of truck movements in the city centre. Consumers are in general moderately positive about the GUP and the possible use of the concept. But if and how they actually will make use of the concept is difficult to predict. There are different kinds of consumers who are a potentially interesting target group. Consumers who come from the province of Utrecht and use the city centre for shopping as a regional centre have a relatively high interest in using a GUP in the future. The current users of the P+R facilities are most positive in their opinion about the GUP. They are already very pleased with the current P+R facility and are used to use it every time when they go shopping in Utrecht. If a GUP arises at a current P+R location, these consumers seem an easy target group to persuade into using the GUP. This is for them a relatively small step. Funshoppers, who generally come from further afield and especially the residents of the city of Utrecht seem less interested and suitable for potential GUP use. Although reducing car use is a main goal of the concept, it is difficult to tempt car users to use the GUP. Only 9 percent of the shoppers in the city centre of Utrecht is travelling by car. Thereby, only a small percentage of them would agree to change their behaviour and stop parking their car in the city centre. Most of the car users are not even willing to use a current P+R facility in Utrecht, so it would be naive to expect them to use a GUP in the future. In the context of this study, the difference between the so called ‘choice travelers’ and the ‘captives’ is also relevant. The choice travelers make separate transport choices for every trip they want to make, while the captives stick to their routines. Only the first group, regardless of their preferable mode of transportation, is therefore truly open to behavioral change and is potentially willing to use the GUP in the future. The captives are much more difficult to persuade into potential GUP use. When testing the GUP-concept, the most relevant thing to do would be to focus on the bundling aspect of the concept. This is much more simple to implement than the whole concept. Also, experiences from the past have learned us that it is useful to start with building confidence in a small group of retailers which are truly interested. If successful, positive spillovers to other retailers can provide an extension of the concept. If the concept is established on a current P+R facility, consumers can also adjust their behaviour gradually in the direction of the use of the GUP.