Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What can the behavior tell us?

I was reading some news recently and a figure jumped out at me. The BBC published a story which suggested that many people in England who have garages don't park their cars in the garage. This caused, as you might expect, a significant uproar about the fact that people were lazy or using the garages for other purposes.

According to the story, over 53% of English households have access to a garage, but only 24% of those homes used them to park their cars. A group of MPs (members of Parliament) said they were "astonished" that these garages were not used to park cars. It seems like there will be some new laws about on-street parking and so forth in England. But it seems to me that these folks are missing the point. There's a significant trend occurring here that we as innovators should investigate. Either people are lazy, or cars are too wide, as the article suggests, or something else entirely is going on.

There are several reasons why people would choose to park on the street when they have a perfectly good garage:

  1. They are storing a significant amount of stuff in their garage
  2. They've converted the garage into a play area for their kids
  3. They've started a business in the garage
  4. They needed extra space and converted the garage to a completely new room
I guess there could be other reasons as well. Rather than focus on how unbelievable it is that people don't use garages to park cars, we should be considering the implications.

One could be that homes in England are too small and people are using garages for extra storage or for new rooms. This would suggest that people are accumulating more stuff and that we can expect to see rapid growth in self-storage in England the way we've experienced it in the States. Or that perhaps teardowns are more difficult in England which will lead more people to move further out into the suburbs where they can build homes to meet their current needs.

Another could be that families are having more children and they are not finding the recreation or education alternatives they expect and so are converting their garages to schools or play areas. I suspect if we were to look more closely we'd find some of those garages at use in exactly this manner. An entrepreneur or innovator might position themselves to provide products and services targeting small recreation areas or schools in these situations.

Another reason could be that people are starting the proverbial garage business. Your garage is cheap real estate to begin a new business. If this supposition is true, then it might be possible to see a boom in entrepreneurial businesses in England. An entrepreneur or innovator might position themselves right now to offer services to home-based businesses that are just starting out.

More than likely, all of these suggestions have some validity. As people who are trying to figure out the next new products and services to offer, we need to look at these trends with open minds and try to understand what's happening and what the longer term implications are to position ourselves to offer the products and services necessary as these trends continue.

Or we can just assume that people are lazy and cars are fat.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 5:09 AM

43 Comments:

Anonymous Jim Rait said...

Well... I'll go down our road tomorrow and post the pictures of garages near to me. I do believe I can find one or two that can get cars into them!
Our first home was very small but there were only two of us. the garage was in a block many yards away and I did not have a car so I rented it out to someone who used his garage as a potting shed. He put his car in mine and paid half the rent in money and half in an area on his allotment where we grew vegetables. The second hose had a garage full of bits and pieces. It was a four bedroomed house but the car was outside as we kept all the woodwork, garden tools and chest freezer in there. Whilkst I was there I took my first trip to USA, to Idianapolis. Two of us from work were invited to visit for dinner at an American colleague's house It was very dark and wet sd when we arrived we couldn't find the front door, on the building as big if not bigger than the one at home. then we realised why. The house was next door. We had been looking for the front door on their garage. So I realised how much smaller UK houses were! Eventually we moved to another house, in a more expensive part of the country, which was three bedroomed and we also had two young kids.. the garage had to take all their outdoor toys, the tools and several hundred teddy bears acquired when I volunteered to be secretary of a local society.
When we moved north again I knew we were moving to a better paid job and a cheaper housing area so we got a double garage which has never housed the car but with two girls collecting stuff at university that had to be stored somewhere... and so on. and yes we have personal storage areas over here. The wether is not as extreme as parts of the USA, crime is not so much of an issue, we don't have too much spoare floor area so a car in a garage is wasted (expensive) space. I'll have a word with my MP about this. Try Google maps to see the relative sizes of houses!!

10:27 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

and I said I would photo the garages around me... they are at
http://www.flickr.com/photos/97039613@N00/sets/72157594459286445/
I've added comments... Many people have been here for 30 years sice thay were built and they tend to be the ones without change. Where owner turnover is higher so conversion is higher. we have changed a lot inside but not added on.... yet!
There are many stories that come from the garages and their contents!
There is a lot of Thoughtless Acts (Jane Fulton Suri) going on here!

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Cheer someone up who doesn't feel well. Wearing a flannel robe with hankie, and adorable fuzzy slippers, teddy bears will be a companion in good times and bad

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Blogger Vein Doctor said...

I don't see why people should not exploit their garages for useful puposes, as long as there is space in front of the house to park the cars.

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