St James Quarter: Customers describe first experience at Edinburgh's new shopping centre

Shoppers have shared their views on what it was like being inside Edinburgh’s new St James Quarter when it opened this week after more than five years of construction work.

By Katharine Hay
Friday, 25th June 2021, 6:47 pm
Updated Saturday, 26th June 2021, 4:10 pm

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.

Opinion is divided over the £1 billion development, which currently includes more than 40 retailers, including brands in Scotland for the first time, such as & Other Stories, Stradivarius, Bershka, and Pull&Bear.

Some customers have described it as “stunning” and “a fabulous new experience for Edinburgh”, while others have been less forgiving and questioned its relevance to the city.

Customers queuing outside shops in the new St James Quarter picture: John Devlin

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Edinburgh Evening News reader Chris Storey took home a positive first impression after visiting the shopping centre.

He said: “It’s a new jewel in the crown for Edinburgh, it’s exactly what Edinburgh needed.

"A modern shopping centre that everyone I know has been impressed by.”

Customers at the new St James Quarter in Edinburgh on Thursday, the day it opened picture: John Devlin

Happy customer Ian Simpson said: “It was out of this world. A fabulous new experience for Edinburgh, on a par with London and Newcastle.

"It puts the old one and Waverley Market very much in the shade.”

Shopper Catrina Douglas said she had a look inside the new build the day it opened and described the interior as “stunning.”

Ian Simpson said: “A billion pound project, but wow, what a result, well worth the five year wait.”

Edinburgh Evening News reader Maria Fraser, however, said there are still many questions left unanswered to the public concerning the nature of the new development,

the implications to the surrounding areas; including Princes Street and the Royal Mile.

She added: “It shows a complete lack of regard of the city’s heritage status at present.

"Unjustified amorality towards the city’s heritage and the public must continue to make a stand against this and further developments that destroy the city and the communities within.”

Reader David Peden also took a disliking to the new development, which drew thousands of people to its doors on Thursday.

He said: “This place is as ugly inside as it is outside.

"Even the logo is ugly.

"I wonder how long before the novelty wears off and it is as ‘busy’ as the Ocean Terminal?”

Another reader, Olga Kennedy, shared her concern for the impact the new shopping centre could have on nearby shops in Princes Street.

She said: “So sad, another shopping centre. And Princes Street, which should be pride of this city, is empty and disgraceful.”

Other’s questioned how long shopping centres will be used with the competition of online buying platforms developing and growing at a fast rate, such as Amazon.

Reader Garry Sprott said: “How long will it last? Will we be asking ourselves, ‘where did it all go wrong?’ when the shops start to close. Look at Kirkcaldy - no shops left so they are closing the mall.

"Ocean terminal – they are asking permission to demolish the Debenhams part. Will we ever learn? As soon as the novelty dies down - we will back to Amazon.”

Hundreds of people queued up outside the 850,00 sq feet shopping centre when the doors opened on Thursday, with some people arriving as early as 3am to be the first in.

While the opening fanfare was scaled back due to Covid restrictions, three dancers from the Scottish Ballet were on hand to perform and kick-start celebrations for the grand opening.

In its first phase of opening, more than 40 retailers welcomed the public through their doors. Six new brands will join the line up in the coming weeks, including the Scottish food hall, Bonnie & Wild, which opens next month, as well as Bross Bagels, The Kooples and Aeronautica – with a further 19 opening by the end of Autumn.

When complete, in addition to the new shopping hub, St James Quarter will include a 244-bedroom W Edinburgh.

The first in Scotland, the glamorous hotel which has changed the Edinburgh skyline will include a W Lounge, a signature restaurant, a W Sound Suite, workout facility and spa.

152 New Eidyn apartments for residential city centre living from Native Land will also join the roster.

As well as stunning views from their ‘gardens in the sky’, the new homes will include a shared garden room and a full concierge service.

There will also be a stylish 75-room Roomzzz Aparthotel, where guests can stay for one night, a week and up to a year.

A boutique Everyman Cinema will debut its first Edinburgh location and will feature five screens and indulgent sofa seating.

Speaking to the Evening News at the opening, Nick Peel, managing director of St James Quarter said: “It’s been fantastic after many years of project planning, to throw open the centre this morning and see guests pulsing through that’s what it's all about. We’ve always designed St James Quarter with the guest in mind.

“We’ve had some great feedback and adrenaline has really kicked in.

“We’ve been speaking to all of our retail partners and asking whatever you’ve got in mind in development for 2022 and beyond - bring that here.

“For Edinburgh and Scotland to have something like this is sensational and this is just the start of the journey. We’ve got 10 more brands opening in July, literally something happening every fortnight, every month, between now and October, November.

“Harrods beauty we’ve announced this week which will open before Christmas. There will always be a reason to visit St James Quarter now - and throughout 2022 as well.”

St James Quarter is open from 9am until 8pm Monday - Saturday and 10am until 6pm on Sunday.

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