Retail fantasy and reality are polls apart - Kevin Buckle

While I’ve written many times about empty shops in the city centre after a couple of trips further afield this week I was made very aware of how the problem is a city-wide issue.

Of course these surveys are really done to publicise those who announce the results but even so this survey was particularly flawed.

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Edinburgh narrowly beat Bristol and York to first place, with Glasgow coming in sixth. While Edinburgh did well on the cost of public transport I can’t see Edinburgh Council being too proud of the points amassed for the number of car parks.

Is Edinburgh really the best city in the UK outside of London for shopping?

While some of the criteria could have made sense if analysed properly others were plain daft. Points were scored for the number of shopping centres but not for what they offered while Glasgow’s annual rainfall counted heavily against it, leaving them bottom out of the top 15 cities listed. Other categories included the number of charity shops, flea markets, designer outlets and furniture shops.

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At this rate, the retail recovery won’t happen - Kevin Buckle
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This survey did mainly seem to be aimed at visitors so quite what the number of furniture shops was doing included I have no idea.

A particularly pointless score was that Edinburgh came second only to Manchester for people using the hashtag #shopping on Instagram.

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There have of course been other surveys and “coolest” cities is always a popular one being based around record shops, coffee shops and vintage clothing, among others. However I do remember Edinburgh only losing out to London and Manchester on one cool list thanks to Harry Potter.

Websites and papers do love to go with these lists, especially when their home town or city does well, and Edinburgh’s media is no different. I do hope however that the new council administration does not take much comfort from Edinburgh normally doing well in these polls.

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Worryingly, while I did see all of the newly elected councillors promise to tackle a variety of issues close to their hearts I didn’t see a single promise to help the city centre’s businesses with their recovery after the pandemic or to solve the problem of so many empty shops.

Certainly from the number of empty shops I saw outside the city centre there is little evidence that people are now shopping more locally.

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Habits have certainly been changed by the pandemic. For instance, it is now clear that when an album is released all the focus is on pre-orders rather than getting people into shops on the week of release.

The reason here is twofold. While shops were shut people got used to pre-ordering and now with so many limited editions and limited quantities fans are panicking that they won’t be able to go to a shop and buy the particular version of a release they want even when it is an exclusive for retail.

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At least for record shops there is still a reason for people to come in each week to see what is new and music has always been a great present.

Generally though, shops can do no more than pin their hopes on the returning visitors and in the city centre office workers getting back to their desks.

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