Edinburgh pandas: retailers grin and bear it

Mark Singh with cuddly pandas at the Best Fae Scotland souvenir shop. Picture: Julie Bull
Mark Singh with cuddly pandas at the Best Fae Scotland souvenir shop. Picture: Julie Bull
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The failure of Tian Tian to deliver a baby panda cub has pressed the pause button on a spin-off mini industry worth an estimated £50 million to the city over the next decade.

Everything from merchandising to visiting delegations of Chinese VIPs and an attendant media storm have been put on ice – leaving countless entrepreneurs to rue a missed window of opportunity and many already eagerly anticipating next year’s breeding season.

Graham Birse, director of the Edinburgh Institute at Edinburgh Napier University, said the financial benefits of a panda cub are potentially huge.

He said: “Inevitably, there would have been a huge response to the arrival of a panda cub, particularly when it comes to souvenirs.

“There certainly would have been financial benefits for the city from a panda being born.

“But to me the issue is not the door being closed – it’s that we are all going to have to be patient.”

News film crews from all over the world would have descended on the city if expectant mother Tian Tian had delivered the first panda cub to be born in the UK.

The birth would also have attracted Chinese dignitaries and Scotland’s great and good.

Everyone from First Minister Alex Salmond to the powers that be in Whitehall would no doubt have been keen to enjoy some of the feelgood spin a birth would have created.

Merchandising – official and not so official – is where massive profits could have been earned. The zoo too would have enjoyed a massive bounce in visitor numbers.

Mark Singh, of the Best Fae Scotland souvenir shop, is one of those hoping to have made a profit from panda cub merchandising. He said: “We purchased a wide range of 
merchandise for the arrival of the royal baby and still have a load of it left, but for the pandas we were hedging our bets a little and waiting on the cub’s arrival before buying anything.

“If there had have been a new panda cub I’m sure we would have shifted a lot [of 

Clothing store Primark was clearly keen to cash in on the act too – its “Mum’s the word” panda T-shirts were still on sale at £5 each in the Princes Street store last night.

We revealed last month how there had also been plans to unfurl celebratory flags at sites across the Capital to welcome the panda cub. The banners, which were to be hung from Edinburgh landmarks such as Summerhall, The George Hotel, The Scotsman Hotel, Camera Obscura and St John’s Church, had been provided by delivery firm FedEx, which first flew the pair to Scotland on a chartered flight back in 
December 2011.

Working on the right formula

SCIENTISTS at Scottish universities are working to develop “panda formula milk” for cubs in captivity.

It is hoped the project, part-funded by the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China, will improve the survival rates of orphaned or abandoned cubs.

Cubs are dependent on their mother’s milk, or colostrum, to protect them from diseases.

The study is being led by the School of Life Sciences at Glasgow University and Glasgow Polyomics facility.