City centre boost from marketing blitz and trams

The �1m This is Edinburgh advertising drive has helped attract people back to the city. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
The �1m This is Edinburgh advertising drive has helped attract people back to the city. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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AN extra 750,000 shoppers have returned to the city centre since tram works were lifted and in the wake of a £1 million promotional campaign.

Footfall in the heart of Edinburgh rose by four per cent in the six months to July, with experts crediting an improved cycle network, new tram line and the removal of disruptive tram works.

But it also follows the huge advertising drive This is Edinburgh, which launched in February aimed at drawing shoppers back into the heart of the Capital.

Run by arms-length council agency Marketing Edinburgh, the campaign was the flagship offensive of new chief executive John Donnelly, who was handed the reins following the roundly condemned “Incredinburgh” 
advertising blitz and departure of Lucy Bird.

Traders have reported a rise in retail spending while attractions such as the art installation Field of Light at St Andrew Square helped draw in ten per cent more visitors to the centre in the three months to April.

The trams – originally blamed for plummeting footfall in the centre – are now proving to be a popular way of travelling from outlying areas.

And with retail giant Apple announcing its Princes Street store will open “imminently”, experts are confident the future is bright for Edinburgh.

Gordon Robertson, chairman of Marketing Edinburgh, said the initial survey findings are “extremely promising”.

It is hoped projects – including the year-long pilot to pedestrianise George Street and turn the city’s most exclusive shopping area into a centre of al fresco dining – will continue to draw crowds.

Councillor Frank Ross, convener of the economy committee, said: “Our trial to improve George Street for pedestrians and cyclists should result in a more relaxing, inviting atmosphere for residents, shoppers and visitors alike, which will help to continue this trend.”

The campaign – exclusively unveiled by the Evening News – is targeting both Capital residents and people living within two hours’ travel of the city.

It followed a survey of 2000 residents in which 92 per cent said they felt the tram works had affected their enjoyment of the city centre and a third said they shopped there less than they did a couple of years ago.

Organisers are aiming to generate an extra £50m of spending in the city centre by 2016 with a second wave of TV, outdoor and online advertising due to start in mid-September.

The proposed £850m St James Quarter development should also attract shoppers.

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh which runs the city centre business improvement district (BID) and helped fund the campaign, said: “It is clear from the initial markers – like the footfall being above the UK average at what is traditionally a quieter time for the city – that the city is doing well.”

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com