SANTA Claus has come to town at Maybury Casino – with 168 shopping days until the festive feast.
A giant St Nicholas urging office parties to “book now for Christmas” has been fixed to the venue drawing startled looks from passers-by since being mounted last week.
It is thought the 5ft wooden Father Christmas is the earliest festive promotion in the city.
Casino chiefs are building a reputation for Yuletide cheer after mounting a Christmas tree at the Maybury Road venue last August – four months in advance.
A similar fir tree is set to join Santa on the building next week.
No planning permission was required for the creative promotion because it fails to disturb any external walls of the listed building.
Scott Kincaid, general manager of Gala Maybury Casino, said he and his wife, Rosemary, are crackers about Christmas and put their tree up in October.
“I watch people shake their head as they drive by but then they smile – it’s just a bit of fun,” he said.
“It’s just something to make people smile, especially just now with the World Cup when Scotland aren’t involved so it’s just to cheer people up.”
Mr Kincaid, who has also been given the thumbs up from his grandson, Jack, seven, joked: “Next year I’m going to have to get Santa Claus himself.”
John Pearson, food and beverages manager at the casino’s Charleston Restaurant, said Santa had already attracted several bookings and was a “good reminder that Christmas is only 16 weeks away”.
“We get a lot of positive feedback but also quite a lot of negative feedback too – we’ve had quite a few phone calls about it,” he said.
“Santa’s in Edinburgh to enjoy the good weather for a change.
“It’s been very successful and other businesses will follow suit now.
Marketing expert Doug Nolan, who runs The Word Department based in Edinburgh, said the casino had launched a canny publicity drive but added it was “probably a bit mental but right” to pull the stunt.
“It’s the equivalent of writing ‘Happy Christmas’ and I like the idea of doing it in July because no-one else does,” Mr Nolan explained.
“I have got to admire their approach because it will make people smile and it certainly cannot hurt to get the attention.
“Whether or not people are thinking about their Christmas night out yet is questionable but it will make people think about it.”
Another business which is constantly in the festive spirit also approved of the manoeuvre, saying it is never too early to bring out the Christmas decorations.
Chris Smyth, who has run the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe on Canongate since 1998, said the concept was “brilliant” and that Santa Claus was the best choice because he was so “jolly”.
He said: “Good luck to them – it certainly catches your eye and it’s unusual for this time of year.”
Last year, Genting Club Casino in Fountain Park hoped to steal a march on its rivals by touting for Yuletide business before summer was out.
But it ended up vying with Maybury Casino, which also mounted a Christmas promotional drive in August.