Traders in Birmingham have called on the city council to scrap car park charges throughout December and January in a bid to attract more shoppers to the city centre.
The call was made amid fears that high parking charges would lead to shoppers shunning the city in favour of out-of-town centres like Merry Hill, near Brierley Hill, where parking is free.
They claim some city retailers' fortunes are flagging to such an extent that unless parking fees are removed for the Christmas and New Year shopping period, many face going out of business.
Geoff Cox, of the Forum of Private Business West Midlands, which has about 500 members in Birmingham said: "I know people who live on the doorstep of the city centre but prefer to drive 35 minutes to places like Merry Hill because they are not prepared to pay the exorbitant parking charges that the city council imposes on us.
"Independent high street businesses are losing customers because council bureaucrats are busy making money out of shoppers and visitors coming to town."
Fellow FPB member Dave Pottinger, who manages a Birmingham business-tobusiness cost-saving service, added: "This is an opportunity for local politicians to show they really represent the interests of the public and local business and are not just interested in squeezing extra cash out of council tax payers to line council coffers."
The FPB wants other towns and cities in the region to also take up a charging freeze.
FPB chiefs pointed to figures released last week by the British Retail Consortium which showed prices for nonfood items fell for the fifth month in a row compared to the same period last year.
The lobby group said, as a result, 50 retailers were going to the wall in the UK every week.
But Bullring general manager Tim Walley said: "We believe Birmingham is fully capable of attracting visitors based on the reputation and strength of its retail offering.
"As testament to this, footfall at Bullring is currently up 13 per cent from this time last year.
"Our own research shows that shoppers are not just confining their shopping trip to Bullring - nearly twothirds of people taking part in our 2005 visitor survey said they planned to visit other shops within Birmingham's retail district."
The Bullring has launched its own £500,000 marketing campaign in the run-up to the crucial Christmas trading period.
Under the banner theme "Be At The Centre of Everything," the aim is to encourage current non-Bullring users to view Birmingham in a new light.
Marketing controller Georgina Kelly said: "Bullring's city centre location, its vibe and its diversity, will always by an essential part of what it is.
"The challenge for us is to make these qualities come across as what they really are - playful and pleasurable, rather than unsettling or scary."
A city council spokesman said there was free on-street parking all day Sunday and after 6pm Monday to Saturday.