Scrabbling for crumbs from the rich Festival’s table - Kevin Buckle

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I’ve had mixed reports from city centre businesses on how the Festival has been for them. A few were reporting hitting no more than 50 per cent of admittedly ambitious targets while others were happy if not ecstatic with the way things had gone.

Certainly it is no surprise that those businesses closest to the city centre seem happiest while even those just off the Royal Mile were seeing little footfall. I’m well aware what this feels like from Avalanche’s short time in St Mary’s Street.

While it was mainly a central base for us where we could be easily found by those looking it was certainly not blessed with a lot of footfall even during the Festival.

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From those who are full-time artists and makers there hasn’t been much positivity. They understandably question how sustainable it is to have so many different markets with a focus on “makers” when if truth be told there simply aren’t the numbers needed to fill all the spaces available.

A Fringe street entertainer gathers a crowd on the Royal MileA Fringe street entertainer gathers a crowd on the Royal Mile
A Fringe street entertainer gathers a crowd on the Royal Mile

To some extent the answer is there are lots of part time would-be artists who tend to just surface for the Festival and Christmas and otherwise have full-time jobs.

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I'm tired of playing the bus stop waiting game - Kevin Buckle

Those Scottish businesses with premises paying business rates are now being expected to pay the full amount unlike their counterparts in the rest of the UK who are still paying half and no matter how well or badly things have gone in the last month all are agreed that there has to be a more proactive plan from Edinburgh Council to support retail and hospitality through to Christmas.

As if business rates weren’t bad enough there is the threat of massive increases in energy costs that could easily create a perfect storm and see even more empty premises by Christmas.

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It will be interesting to see if city centre councillors turn their attention to seeing what can be done between now and Christmas to helping businesses recover and face continuing challenges as I’ve seen little so far from anybody except for the experienced Jo Mowat.

If you were to ask retail and hospitality the one thing that could help apart from the obvious downward revision of business rates it would be that they do not face competition popping up every time Edinburgh sees an increase in footfall.

It also has to be remembered that half of the city centre has no representation with the Essential Edinburgh BID not covering the Old Town.

I have no idea where the proposed north-south tram line will go but the one thing you can guarantee is it will cause major disruption to any nearby businesses which in the current climate will almost certainly be fatal for many.

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It will be interesting to see if this massive downside to the plans is fully investigated before it goes ahead.

For Avalanche our customers have very much been in Edinburgh on holiday this month rather than here for the Festival. One mildly interesting thing was that the groups of young people that did come in the shop from shows no longer wore the obligitory T-shirt advertising their show but could only be distinguished by their lanyards.

There were some good customers among them but generally they stood about pointing out cool things and getting in people’s way. I preferred the Brazilian Swifties’ visit.

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