COMMENT: Convenience gives shopping centres an edge

IT'S no surprise to see thousands of folk flocking to the out-of-town shopping centre at Fort Kinnaird.

And it is easy to see why so many people want to go there –and in many cases are choosing to do so instead of heading into the city centre. It is easy to reach, sitting just off the city bypass and the A1; there is an increasingly good mix of shops and eating places, with the added attraction of a cinema; and parking is plentiful and free. For anyone on the east of the city or in East and Midlothian looking for something to do with the family at the weekend that adds up to a pretty attractive package. If you have a car, why bother waiting on the bus or battling to find a parking space in town when you can get all of that so close to hand?

Of course, the city centre is always going to have a special appeal that Fort Kinnaird, or any other out-of-town shopping centre, will never be able to offer. There are more and better shops, bars and restaurants for a start, but that is not it. Whether it is a coffee in the Galleries, a sandwich in Princes Street Gardens or a cocktail on the Forth Floor at Harvey Nics, there is a touch of magic about the city centre that is hard to beat.

The new St James Quarter will certainly change the dynamics of shopping in the Capital when it is completed in 2020. The quality of what will be on offer promises to bring people from across Scotland and the north of England into the city centre and that appeal won’t be lost on those of us living in and around the city. The lift that this will give the city as a shopping centre is long overdue.

But it is not in the quality of the shopping experience where Fort Kinnaird and other out-of-town centres are edging out the city centre, it is in the convenience stakes.

Until it is easier or cheaper to park in the city centre or zip in and out on an express bus or tram, the out-of-town venues are going to provide some tough competition.