ON paper, it should be the most lucrative retail space in Scotland’s Capital. Sitting on Princes Street, in the shadow of the Castle, and adjacent to the city’s main railway station.
The footfall should be massive.
And yet Princes Mall remains the most unloved of Edinburgh shopping destinations. A quick poll around the office today drew remarks such as “I haven’t been there for years”, “I don’t know what shops they have” and “It’s a bit dark”.
Today, we report on how the mall’s owners want to bring the shopping venue “into” the station by having departure and arrival boards and station announcements. The centre will also be rebranded Waverley Mall, a nod back to its roots. The former Waverley Market was the Capital’s premier fruit and vegetable seller until it closed in 1974. The building also housed an exhibition space hosting car, dog and flower shows, circuses and carnivals.
These are solid ideas and Waverley Mall may well do well in the short term, particularly in the absence of the St James Centre which will close early in 2016 for refurbishment. Some of the current St James’ tenants, including the Post Office, will find new or temporary homes there.
However, success in the long term will rely not on a name change but on making the mall part of the city centre journey and introducing must-visit anchor stores or attractions. Indeed, many of the rail hub’s 25 million annual passengers will be completely unaware of its existence.
All of this will require substantial investment and creative thinking, but without it Waverley Mall is probably only a few years away from its next rebranding.
And with the opening of the new £850 million St James Centre, it is likely to find the competition for footfall is harder than ever. But the prime location means it is in all our interests for Waverley Mall to thrive.