Euan McGrory: Why House of Fraser might want out of Edinburgh’s west end

Frasers department store is up for sale
Frasers department store is up for sale
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The “St James effect” is what everyone is talking about in property and retail circles in Edinburgh.

It might be three years before the near £1 billion redevelopment of the east end opens - complete with its 30 restaurants and cafes, 85 shops and 1600 space car park - but already any significant deal in the city centre can only be understood by considering its impact. And the sale of the Frasers store in the west end is no different.

House of Fraser has a long lease on the building so there is no guarantee it will be going anywhere. In the near future though the department store chain has a decision to make. These days every modern department store has an escalator in the middle which leads on to open plan shopping floors. In contrast, the Frasers building is a rabbit warren.

The choice facing the retailer is whether to invest in a refurbishment in the west end - at a likely cost of tens of millions of pounds - when from 2020 onwards the vast majority of shoppers will be heading to the far side of Princes Street. At the same time, the appeal of the building to high end hotel chains is obvious. Stunning Castle views anyone?

That’s why the smart money is on change at the west end of our most famous shopping street.