Critics were blasted and labelled “hand-wringers and armchair commentators” by Poundland’s retail director Austin Cooke as he announced the store’s opening date of Saturday, November 16.His comments follow widespread concern that the arrival of the discount store could lead to a race to the bottom for Princes Street, which has seen several flagship retailers sign up to the new St James Centre including Next and Zara.
As part of the shop’s launch, certain critics including the editor of the Scottish edition of The Times, Magnus Llewellin, have been invited to a behind-the-scenes preview in a bid to change their minds.
However, Mr Cooke said critics of the store should be “ashamed” by their comments.
He said: “Frankly the hand-wringers and armchair commentators should be ashamed of themselves.
“Yes, we’re going to cheapen Princes Street, but not in the way they mean – we’re going to cheapen it by bringing amazing value to the city centre and we see no reason to be ashamed of supporting high streets with jobs, investment and an offer we know customers will love.”
Mr Cooke’s comments come alongside hoardings at the new shop which state Poundland is “proud to bring value to Princes Street, supporting high streets while others leave, and creating jobs, investing in high streets”.
Mr Clark of the Federation of Small Businesses said the criticism hopefully does not “come down to snobbery” as he called for more diversity in the Princes Street area.
He said: “From our point of view we recognise the retail pressures on Princes Street. They exist at the moment and it is probably going to get tougher with St James Centre opening. That will naturally act as a magnet.
“Hopefully it doesn’t come down to snobbery. What we want is for people to subscribe to Princes Street as being a place for people to come to Edinburgh. There needs to be a reason for people to come here.
Mr Clark added that there is a need for more food and drink and leisure offerings in the Princes Street area in order for it to remain attractive.
He said: “You have got the House of Fraser becoming Diageo and that will add to the diversity. We probably would like to see smaller businesses as well. They would give it a more authentic experience when people come to central Edinburgh.
“Would we have an issue if the whole of Princes Street was Poundland, maybe, but ultimately what we want is good quality businesses and good quality opportunities in the city centre.”