Tram works ban is a hit with pedestrians

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The number of people visiting Edinburgh’s main shopping thoroughfare has surged after tram works were lifted and the street was pedestrianised.

Traders have reported strong sales since the programme of events and activities on Princes Street got into full swing last weekend. New figures show that the number of pedestrians in the week up to last Sunday was up 21 per cent on the same week last year.

The news is a major boost to the city centre after much of the activity around Edinburgh’s Christmas lights switch-on ceremony had been cancelled the week before.

Activities are taking place on the street after the council offered up £80,000 from its £445,000 budget for promoting the city centre during the tram work.

Cllr Gordon Mackenzie, the city’s transport leader, said: “These numbers are encouraging and clear evidence that the £80,000 invested by the council has been money well spent.”

The main Princes Street footfall counter, outside Marks & Spencer, registered 243,726 people in the week from November 28 until December 4. However, it only includes people on the pavement on Princes Street so the true figure would be far higher if the people that walked on the pedestrianised road were included.

The figures are up against a poor week last year, when the city was hit by severe snow storms. But businesses say the extra activity has brought more people into the city centre.

John Lewis said that sales at its St James Centre outlet in the week to December 3 were 31 per cent ahead of the same week last year.

Operations manager Hazel Tierney said: “John Lewis is always supportive of initiatives which drive footfall to the city centre and the additional festive activities for families on Princes Street are certainly helping people to get in the mood for Christmas. Whilst our figures were flattered by the snow, which caused disruption to trade this time last year, trade has continued its strong momentum this week.

“It is not surprising that fashion has begun to take off as the weather becomes more truly seasonal. We expect to see continued strong sales growth as there is no escaping that Christmas is round the corner.”

Activity on Princes Street this weekend included African drumming and the Scottish Christmas Fair at the West End, a Santa “Zumbathon” and Santa Fun Run.

One shop to have benefited from the extra activity is the One World Shop at St John’s Church in the west end, which had faced closure two years ago after tram works were blamed on it recording a £60,000 loss.

Rachel Farey, the shop’s business manager, said: “I would say we have cautious optimism this year and the coming two weeks are what we hope will be the big ones but I’m delighted so far.”