Edinburgh shoppers return to the city centre

Princes Street was the busiest spot in the city. Picture: Jane Barlow
Princes Street was the busiest spot in the city. Picture: Jane Barlow
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BUSINESS is booming in the centre of Edinburgh as the tram works clear and shoppers return.

Latest figures show the Capital’s rise in retail sales outstripping the rest of Scotland and the UK.

And footfall in the city centre is growing while it is falling elsewhere.

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, which runs the city centre business improvement district, said the statistics showed the Capital was in a positive economic position.

Turnover in the city centre was up six per cent in May compared with last year – dramatically higher than the Scottish average increase of 0.8 per cent and the UK rise of 3.4 per cent.

Footfall last month was up 2.4 per cent in the centre of Edinburgh while the UK saw an average fall of 4.4 per cent.

Princes Street outside Marks & Spencer was the busiest spot in the city centre, with 1,013,919 people counted during June, an increase of 23 per cent than the same period last year.

Spending on food and drink was up 5.9 per cent on last year and spending on shopping up 4.3 per cent, but hotel spending was down by 6.5 per cent.

And a visitor survey found a drop in people complaining about car access to the city centre from 93 per cent to 76 per cent, an indication of the progress made in reducing tram disruption on the streets.

Mr Neal said: “The figures show the strength of the offer in Edinburgh compared to results seen in the Scotland and the UK.

“The heritage of Edinburgh’s strong tourism performance and the reduction in tram disruption is driving this positive result.

“At the equivalent time last year the trams were really disrupting trade.”

He said the fall in hotel spending was likely to reflect the growing popularity of cheaper budget hotels.

The statistics also showed a fall of 12 per cent in shoplifting in the city centre from 2011-12 to 2012-13.

Fiona Moriarty, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, welcomed Edinburgh’s strong performance. She said: “This is a fairly solid showing which chimes with rising levels of consumer confidence in Scotland.

“Customers remain price-conscious, but the signs are that they entered May a little more willing to spend, especially on value 
ranges.

“Retailers read the shifting public mood well and offered well-timed and targeted promotions to draw in shoppers on the look-out for a good deal.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail at finance experts KPMG, said despite rising sales figures, it remained an uphill struggle for retailers fighting over every pound that enters the tills.

He said: “This battle for their share of consumer wallets will remain fierce.”

Liz McAreavey, of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said the latest figures showed stronger signs of an economic bounce-back than a year ago. But she added: “The recovery remains fragile and sustaining it will depend to a significant degree on the policies of 
the Scottish and UK 
governments.”