Comment: Apple acts as a magnet for shoppers

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Plenty of people will simply shrug their shoulders when it comes to the opening of the Apple store on Princes Street. Some will be counting down the days until October 18. But many others will be left wondering, “It’s just another shop isn’t it?”

Well, yes and no. The new store won’t do anything much beyond selling mobile phones, tablet computers and other of the latest gadgets from the Californian corporation. So far, so ordinary.

But there is very little that is ordinary about the new kid on the Princes Street block.

Just a few days ago Apple was recognised as the world’s most valuable brand for the second year in a row. In fact it is arguably the most powerful consumer brand that the world has ever seen.

Apple and Google, which trailed in in second place in the global brands league table, are the only two corporations ever to be valued at more than 100 billion dollars.

What does that mean for Edinburgh? Apple clearly acts as a magnet for shoppers, especially shoppers of a certain type. The new technology which it produces appeals particularly to relatively cash-rich young professionals. Thousands of them will beat a path to the east end of Princes Street and many of them will spend some of their money in neighbouring businesses.

It may take a few years for the “Apple effect” to be felt in Edinburgh, but five years from now who would bet on the east end looking anything like it does today? There is a lot of other development going on – between the St James Quarter, the new shopping mall set to spring up on the south of St Andrew Square and the plans to transform the back lanes between the two – but the presence of Apple in the neighbourhood will encourage other big names to follow.

Just look at what happened on Multrees Walk after Harvey Nichols was built in 2002. No-one doubts that the area around St Andrew Square would look completely different today if it had not come to the Capital.

As one industry expert puts it, “retails is all about footfall”, in other words, get someone in with a big enough name to attract shoppers and others will follow in their wake. The Apple store will plant a seed.