Edinburgh ‘must improve as shopping destination’

It is hoped that the trams will help attract shoppers to Princes Street. Picture: Ian Georgeson
It is hoped that the trams will help attract shoppers to Princes Street. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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EDINBURGH city centre needs to work harder to promote itself as a shopping destination despite figures showing more people in Princes Street, it was claimed today.

Latest statistics suggest the Capital is bucking the national trend and attracting more shoppers to the city centre.

Footfall outside Marks & Spencer – the busiest spot in Princes Street – was one per cent up in December compared with the previous year, while the UK saw an average 5.5 per cent drop.

But the surge is likely to have been at least partly due to the return of bus services following the prolonged closure of the road for the tram works.

Figures in the latest briefing from Essential Edinburgh, the body which runs the city-centre business improvement district, also show that the Capital is doing better than the rest of Scotland in terms of revenue.

Revenue for November was down 1.4 per cent in Edinburgh – behind the UK average, which showed an increase of 0.4 per cent, but ahead of the Scottish figure of -2.2 per cent.

But Essential Edinburgh chief executive Andy Neal highlighted findings, included in the briefing, on what visitors were doing in the Capital.

He said: “The visitor survey shows the strength of the leisure sector with more people saying they come to Edinburgh to visit its pubs and bars, and more people visiting them when they were here.

“The opposite is true for shoppers – fewer said they come to shop and fewer shopped when they were here.

“This shows the need to take advantage of the completion of the trams, to ensure that both locals and visitors are reminded what a great experience there is in Edinburgh city centre, with shopping central to that.”

Graham Birse of Edinburgh Napier University’s business school, said the Capital had unique advantages compared with other places. “Town centres are in difficulties throughout the UK and [retail expert] Mary Portas is heading a drive to regenerate town centres and high streets in England and Wales.

“Edinburgh is the pre-eminent city centre in the UK because of the quality of the built heritage, the festivals, the museums and art galleries and the shops, restaurants and bars.”

Mr Birse gave a cautious welcome to the latest findings.

He said: “They suggest the beginning of an improvement in confidence and a recovery under way, but we probably need to see a succession of numbers – not just footfall, but spending, unemployment and other barometers – over a quarter or two before we can say anything too definitive.”