Who will be left out in the cold this Christmas? - Kevin Buckle
While Underbelly’s Christmas plans in partnership with Edinburgh Council would come as no surprise to many it still didn’t stop them being hugely disappointing.
Promises to extend the festivities furher afield in reality meant that yet again the footfall it claims to generate will stretch no further than the core of the city centre based on Princes Street Gardens and bringing the ice rink back to a location in George Street.
Using more of the gardens less intensively is hardly going to pacify those who have objected to the damage caused and the length of time repairs have taken previously.
Interestingly Essential Edinburgh were very pleased to have the ice rink in George Street though the jury is out on exactly what benefits the rink will bring.
Like most of the attractions provided at Christmas the most likely extra spend will be on food and drink on the go rather than sitting down for a meal, and therein lies the rub. Never one to miss a trick this is exactly what Underbelly provides with its pop-up food offerings.
You would hope that at least in George Street it has been agreed that there will not be any pop-up food places giving the nearby businesses at least the opportunity to maybe adapt a little to cater for the visitors to the ice rink.
On the other hand retailers not in the hospitality sector will I would expect see very little benefit at all and this really is something Essential Edinburgh and the council need to address.
What is needed is hard figures in which people say yes I came for the ice rink but then decided to go on a shopping spree too or maybe more realistically the truth that they came for a day or night out with no intention of carrying any bags about and just grabbed something to eat while visiting.
At the same time busineses need to have input on how they feel they have benefitted or otherwise. All of this could be easily executed and would give far more credence to future statements about the success of these initiatives.
I remember the Open Streets programme which promised but never delivered an in-depth analysis of how all the local businesses had been affected for good or bad. The best I got was one of the organisers saying their friend had spent £40 in a shop in Victoria Street!
News that Underbelly are in considerable debt despite numerous large handouts can only mean they will be looking to make as much as they can from this year’s festivities.
If ever there was a year that retailers in the city centre needed a boost in sales it is this year and with all the indications being that more than ever people will shop online and simply visit city centres for entertainment it is that scenario that needs to be addressed, as difficult as that may be.
There is a growing feeling among those outside the city centre and indeed even those in the Old Town that they will be abandoned by Edinburgh Council this Christmas.
So long as the hospitality sector deems Christmas to have been a success, and that is by no means certain, the demise of even more retailers will simply be seen as having been inevitable.