Frank Ross: Let’s not stop with Apple store

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The opening of Edinburgh’s first Apple Store at the east end of Princes Street this weekend is great news for the city centre retail offering and the citizens of Edinburgh.

While Edinburgh has much to be proud of in terms of some of the world-class retailers we host, such as Harvey Nichols, Louis Vuitton and Anthropologie, we must ensure we do not rest on our laurels.

A recent report has highlighted that our high streets are performing well with 39 more stores opening in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2013. This is a very strong performance when compared against the Scottish and UK averages and I am confident that the arrival of the new Apple store will only improve this further. A strong city-centre shopping experience is crucial to Edinburgh’s success which is why the Council, along with Marketing Edinburgh and Essential Edinburgh, invested £1 million over two years in the This is Edinburgh marketing campaign that is aimed at encouraging people from Edinburgh and those within a two-hour drive to come back into the city centre.

And if we look further into the future, Edinburgh’s retail offering can only get better. The £1 billion development of the St James Centre by TIAA Henderson coupled with the ambitious plans we recently outlined for the area around Register’s Lane and the extension of the Multrees Walk shopping district will help transform the east end of the city centre. In addition, the new owner of Princes Mall, Catalyst Capital, is investing in this asset, while the £75m redevelopment of 3–8 St Andrew Square will deliver significant new retail space. It should be said that the development of the Business Improvement Districts (BID) across the city is helping to drive this success. Essential Edinburgh has done an excellent job in the Princes Street and George Street areas while Queensferry Ambition and Greater Grassmarket activity is helping to drive footfall. I’m delighted traders in the West End are looking to set up their own BID which I am sure will help drive sales there.

Of course, Edinburgh’s retail success is not just about the city centre and the Council will continue to work hard to ensure our nine town centres across the city remain vibrant and attractive places for independent retailers to flourish. Part of Edinburgh’s attraction as a retail destination is the number of smaller, boutique stores that sit alongside the larger retail outlets. It is crucial that Edinburgh maintains this variety which is why the Council is working with the Federation of Small Businesses for Small Business Saturday on December 6 which aims to highlight the work of these retailers.

Creating the right environment for successful retail is important which is why the Council is trialling a reconfigured George Street for the next 18 months in a bid to make it more pedestrian friendly.

In addition, we recognise that high-profile events can have a dramatic impact on footfall and sales which is why we invest in high profile events such as Edinburgh’s Christmas.

The new Apple Store is a welcome addition to Edinburgh and I’m sure it will be a great success. As one of the world’s most valuable brands, it says a lot about Edinburgh that they have chosen to take over this prominent site on Princes Street. The Council will continue to work with our partners across the Capital to promote Edinburgh as a retail-friendly city to ensure other high profile brands and independent outlets open here.

• Councillor Frank Ross is economy leader on the city council