Edinburgh Council's ham-fisted help for shops does little or no good - Kevin Buckle

Edinburgh Council, clearly not happy with one badly thought through initiative in #ForeverEdinburgh, have now launched another attempt to “help” shops with #shopherethisyear.

By Kevin Buckle
Saturday, 28th November 2020, 7:00 am
People need reassurance that shopping on the high street is safe, which it very much is, says Kevin Buckle
People need reassurance that shopping on the high street is safe, which it very much is, says Kevin Buckle

This latest plan to bring people back to the high street focuses on shopping local but shows no understanding of what is a more complex situation than simply getting people to nip into their corner shop.

Quickly slammed by Essential Edinburgh chair Denzil Skinner for leaving out the city centre, or more accurately the city centre BIDs, who were deemed to have received separate funding the 11 nominated areas later became 12 with the addition of the “New Town”.

However, the West End shops are still to have their area included despite the fact that their BID is currently dormant because of the pandemic. The whole thing raises more issues than it solves. At best the council’s attempts to help the high street have been naïve and at worst plain incompetent.

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T he shop local message is a confused one as it should apply to all shops big or small and certainly should not be intended to deter people from shopping in the city centre. After the “digital Christmas” statement from Adam McVey, what is needed is to reassure people that shopping on the high street is safe which of course is very much the case.

A side issue in all this is how loosely the words “city centre” are used. Sometimes those talking of the city centre really mean the New Town businesses of Essential Edinburgh and maybe the West End, which clearly leaves out the entire Old Town business community.

My opinion has always been that there should be one BID for all of the city centre and it has to be hoped that after the failure to establish an Old Town BID and with the issues to be faced once we are in recovery that this is given serious consideration.

Another issue that has to be faced head-on is that ignoring the sometimes dubious nature of how economic benefits are calculated these benefits are very much skewed to the currently beleaguered hospitality industry. The last time I checked retail only received 12 per cent of any benefit as unsurprisingly most people’s spend went on accommodation, food and drink.

Already we are hearing about the economic cost of there not being a Christmas market this year and yet there is very good evidence, actually based on speaking to businesses including those in hospitality rather than some survey paid for by Underbelly, that these pop-up Christmas interlopers take a big chunk of what is already a relatively small share of economic benefit. No doubt some local businesses benefit supplying Underbelly but that isn’t helping the high street.

Essential Edinburgh may well represent the “big boys” in all this from Harvey Nichols to Marks & Spencer and will soon include the new St James quarter but by working with the independent retail sector they can show customers that the high street still has much to offer.