St James Quarter: Edinburgh’s ‘most significant transformation since the Castle’ opens after half a decade of construction
Following half a decade of construction, what has been described as “the most significant transformation to happen to Edinburgh since the Castle”, the St James Quarter will officially open the first phase of the 850,000 sq ft shopping galleria today.
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Opening to the public for the first time at 9am sharp, the completion of phase one of the development brings a new, retail-led, lifestyle district to the city centre, which is being billed as an inspiring, attractive, and vibrant destination for locals and visitors to shop, eat and play.
Once described by managing director Nick Peel as ‘a cathedral in a world heritage site’ the new space will be undergoing a phased opening over the next 18 months, with Bonnie & Wild Food Hall to come over the next few weeks, as well as further retail offerings opening their doors until November.
Over 40 retailers were set to welcome the public through their doors on opening morning, many of which are debuting their brand in Scotland for the first time, including, & Other Stories, Stradivarius, Bershka, and Pull&Bear.
H&M, Mango, Next – including its Victoria Secret offering, Rituals, Tommy Hilfiger, Peloton, Salerno, Nordic Outdoor and many more also welcomed their first visitors to their new stores. As part of the development plans, John Lewis opened its newly renovated store in May.
Mr Peel said: “Today is the day we’ve been waiting for, for a long time – it marks the moment we bring a brand-new fashion district to Scotland. “The brands opening their doors within St James Quarter are world-class and it’s great to so many retailers debuting in Scotland for the first time.
"From firm fashion favourites to local gems, there’s something for everyone.
“The St James Quarter team has been working tirelessly to ensure customer safety is the number one priority, so we have ensured all relevant measures are in place to allow people to enjoy the St James Quarter experience comfortably and safely. We look forward to welcoming guests over the coming weeks and to share what lies behind The Quarter with everyone.”
The St James Quarter will also host several new concept stores including Zara, which spans a huge part of the development and is the only Zara store being opened this year, and Superdrug which has added a showcase Skinnydip stand for lifestyle and fashion accessories along with a Beauty Studio area for professional beauty treatments.
Meanwhile Breitling opened its first standalone boutique in Edinburgh, and The Body Shop opens its first Activist Workshop store in Scotland. LEGO has unveiled to shoppers a bespoke Edinburgh themed LEGO mosaic, while IOLLA will be introducing a new experiential showroom with an interactive try on garden. Miele has also opened its largest British store at St James Quarter.
Martin Perry, director of development for St James Quarter, said the opening was a “momentous occasion for the city of Edinburgh”.
"This is just the beginning. The brands and experience that we have welcomed today demonstrate our commitment to delivering a curated destination for the people of Edinburgh. We are now looking forward to continuing on our journey to deliver a truly mixed-use destination of the future as we welcome more brands, leisure, and our new neighbours.
“The impact of the pandemic has of course had a profound impact on UK retail. However, retail required a rethink long before the pandemic. The high street was already changing, which is why we have been continually working with our partners, retailers, and the city as whole to ensure that the St James Quarter continues to be enjoyed by generations to come.
“A new normal demands a new kind of retail destination, a development that can respond to an ever-changing situation, one that serves the needs of its community as well as overseas visitors. It is the reason we are focusing on creating a unique experience for our customers. There is something for everyone – which is why our occupiers are still focused on the long-term journey at St James Quarter.
“We believe in Edinburgh, and we are excited to help lead the way as part of the city’s wider economic recovery. Throughout this pandemic we have never questioned our investment in not just the St James Quarter but the city itself. We’re here to stay and we’re here to help.”
The futuristic, digitally-led shopping experience is described as like no other in the country. Everything down to the parking spaces under the Quarter has been meticulously planned with guests in mind. The car park boasts the largest electric car charging point in Edinburgh, and the spaces are colour coded to ensure visitors are not lost when they return.
There is even digital number plate recognition so customers will be able to ask guest services to locate their vehicle if they lose track.
While the grand opening was scaled down, without the ribbon cutting or ceremony due to Covid safety measures, the grandiose Quarter is imposing by itself. The distinctive W Hotel, is set to open in a separate phase, transforming the skyline.
The £1bn development’s hospitality and residential elements are set to complete in three further phases through to 2022.
Bosses say when fully complete, St James Quarter will be a destination like no other - bringing together brands from global to local, and convenience to luxury.
A number of brands will continue to join the line up in the coming weeks, including the Scottish foodhall, which opens next month, as well as Bross Bagels, The Kooples and Aeronautica.