£1m to lure shoppers to tramworks-hit Edinburgh

Princes Street is aiming to bring back shoppers put off by the tram works. Picture: Tony Marsh
Princes Street is aiming to bring back shoppers put off by the tram works. Picture: Tony Marsh
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A £1 MILLION war-chest to repair Edinburgh’s tramworks-battered reputation is being readied, the Evening News can reveal.

The seven-figure-sum will bankroll a marketing campaign designed to lure people back to the city centre – after five years of disruption.

Those behind the promotional blitz claim it is the biggest ever seen in the Capital and one that will effectively “relaunch” the city centre, driving footfall and shoppers back.

Business owners have welcomed the move – saying it is high time something was done to make the city centre shine again. One member of the Federation of Small Businesses said: “This is fantastic, just what we need.”

Essential Edinburgh – which represents 600 city centre traders – has pulled cash together from the public and private sector to kick-start the campaign, working in tandem with the city and Marketing Edinburgh.

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said: “The people who have experienced disruption because of the trams are the target of this campaign.

“A relaunch of the city centre is essential to return visitors and shoppers once trams are in operation. A huge number of the businesses we represent depend on people coming into the city centre, and we want to work with them to ensure that we maximise the numbers coming to enjoy all our wonderful city centre has to offer once the trams are completed and in action.”

The marketing push is on a par with recent ad campaigns by Beat Bullying, Domestos and one for British Milk – which all cost in the region of £1m.

The spend will be put into advertising and incentives to drive footfall into the city centre. It is understood rewards could range from travel concessions – such as “kids go free” passes – to food and drink deals tied in to visiting key attractions.

Michael Apter, chairman of the West End Association, said it was time the city “dusted itself down and got back on its feet”.

“I am absolutely delighted with this and have a great deal of faith in Essential Edinburgh to ensure the money is spent wisely and effectively. We have to remind Edinburgh residents and those living in surrounding towns we sometimes forget how lucky we are to have this great city on our doorstep. The disruption we’ve faced has tarnished the city’s reputation at home and further afield but it is still a great place to visit for shopping and hospitality.”

He added: “We have had an element of people ­travelling to retail parks or to other cities because of ­disruption.”

The marketing push will run over the next two years.

Gordon Henderson, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said it was crucial Edinburgh began marketing itself to create a “feelgood factor” at home in the wake of the tram debacle. “This is precisely what I have been banging on my desk about for ages,” he said. “Edinburgh does a fantastic job promoting itself around the world in places like Dubai and Hong Kong but whose job is it to market it to people who live in East Lothian, Dalkeith and Livingston?

“It’s vital work and I hope that the money will be spent promoting the city centre to ‘Edinburgers’.”

Greg Ward, the city’s economic development chief, said: “There is a recognition by both Marketing Edinburgh and the council that the new tram represents an excellent opportunity to re-launch the city to visitors and shoppers.

“Together with Marketing Edinburgh and Essential Edinburgh we will work towards creating a £1 million marketing fund which will be invested in the city over two years. Central to this is the successful renewal ballot for Essential Edinburgh who will drive forward this campaign.”

The election will take place in May.

The News exclusively revealed last week how plans to develop a “living city centre” are being proposed. It would see the introduction of bars and restaurants to Princes Street with large pedestrian zones and traffic levels cut. The city’s new trams are expected to go live next year.

The public will get their first chance to ride on them from next month.