Writing’s on the wall for businesses off the beaten track - Kevin Buckle

An empty store on Rose StreetAn empty store on Rose Street
An empty store on Rose Street
​​The signage on Princes Street has certainly improved in recent months telling visitors how to get to other parts of the city but what it doesn’t do is give them a reason to visit.

The problem is that advertising is a real issue because of the restrictions caused by being a World Heritage site, though of course, all concerns go out of the window when the city centre is littered with advertising for Festival shows.

I had reason to discuss this with the council when it came to letting people know what was on offer in Waverley Market. At the time, the roof space was free and at least it turned out it was acceptable to advertise the businesses that were in the centre, but not OK to have any sort of advertising for other businesses, even if nearby.

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Of course, the roof is now free again as the Festival Village is finally being dismantled and while this will give an opportunity to promote the centre more extensively it would be good to get a balance between actually having something on the roof and not hiding the fact the centre is below.

Advertising is allowed on the Waverley Steps, but the odd thing there is that with occasional exceptions the main adverts are for JD Sports, who are not actually in the centre and a casino slots website.

The problem businesses have is that many are just a little off the beaten track, often only being yards from a main thoroughfare but not easily seen. While this of course applies to those situated down a close, these days even those in Rose Street will tell you they miss out on so much footfall given just how close they are to Princes Street.

The council compounded the problem a while ago by banning A-boards, not understanding that one person’s street clutter was another’s informative sign.

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What people need is to be given a reason to visit beyond Princes Street and The Royal Mile and of course I know from personal experience the difficulty of even getting footfall to the Grassmarket.

Ironically at the very time it would be good to have information for visitors about where they can eat, the council allow a huge Christmas Market to provide food that could easily be done by those businesses based in Edinburgh all year round and with not inconsiderable rates to pay.

As with the Festival, the railings along Princes Street that would never be allowed to be used to help local businesses are a mass of promotion for the Christmas Market.

These days location is everything which is why, even while hidden under a huge pub, the Waverley Market has continued to get decent footfall, but for many businesses often only minutes away from the main drag business is frustratingly slow and it could certainly be helped with better promotion and less competition parachuted in at key times.

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It remains to be seen what happens now with the Waverley Market roof and I’ll certainly be pushing for better promotion for the businesses within.

But for others slightly further afield that just need a greater awareness of what they have to offer, it will continue to be a struggle unless the council’s attitude changes.

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