Tram works hell pushed residents away

Actors from the new advert in Victoria Street. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Actors from the new advert in Victoria Street. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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CRIPPLING tram works put nearly three-quarters of residents off venturing into the city centre, according to a hard-hitting report commissioned to gauge the damage they caused.

Overall, 74 per cent of residents said they had been driven out of the centre. The figure rose to a worrying 78 per cent amongst women.

In addition to the tram works, people said they did not like the absence of shops in the vacant block being developed at the east end of Princes Street and the abandoned feel of the to-be-redeveloped St James Centre. The study of how badly the works hit shops and attractions was carried out ahead of the launch of the Capital’s latest marketing campaign.

We revealed yesterday how the council is spearheading a new two-year £1 million This is Edinburgh marketing blitz to drive people back in to the city. The campaign, by arms-length city council agency Marketing Edinburgh, follows the failed and much maligned Incredinburgh campaign, and is targeted at people who live in the city or within two hours’ drive.

It comes just before the trams start running.

According to the survey, some 87 per cent said they were now willing to visit the city centre more often. Nearly half said they would visit between three and five times more per month – ­especially if tempted with ­discounts and special events.

The survey questioned 500 people on the street in ­different areas, including Granton, Dalkeith, Corstorphine and Morningside.

It found 70 per cent of ­residents would score themselves at seven out of ten or more for being proud of their city. And the three aspects of which people were most proud were shopping, bars/restaurants and attractions.

All three spheres of Edinburgh life feature prominently in the marketing campaign’s new TV ads which are being shown in primetime slots on TV from Monday.

There are two TV ads – one takes the theme of “A Day out with Dad” and shows two youngsters visiting various city attractions with their father, the other focuses on shopping in the city centre.

John Donnelly, chief 
executive of Marketing Edinburgh, said: “This campaign is designed to appeal to ­residents, so it was crucially ­important that we listened to their views and understood how to best attract them back to the ­city centre.

“We spoke with 500 people from lots of different areas around the city. They told us that discounts were important and that they’re interested in new events. So we’ve made sure we’re delivering both of those things through This is Edinburgh over the coming months.

“We also found out through the ­questionnaire that our distinctive mix of shopping, attractions and restaurants most excited people, so we knew that This is Edinburgh had to reflect that.

“As a result we’ve focused not just on the diversity of things to see and do but ­specifically on the abundance of hidden gems that the ­city centre has.”

Central Edinburgh has faced competition from out-of-town shopping, including Livingston’s Almondvale Centre.

And in addition to the disruption caused by the tram works, some businesses at the West End have been forced to close because of the project.

At the other end of Princes Street, shops have been moving out of the St James Centre ahead of proposed redevelopment. And the block directly opposite the Balmoral Hotel has been empty for nearly three years, though the new development, expected to include an Apple store, is now nearing completion.The survey showed 47 per cent would be enticed back to the city centre by discounts and 32 per cent by special events.

Organisers are planning:

n Resident discount weekends, which they liken to a Doors Open Day, but exclusively for those with an EH postcode.

n Edinburgh Style, where “dress-up shops” will appear across the city, offering shoppers professional styling advice.

n Spa in the City, returning for its seventh year, and expanding out of St Andrew Square to include the Grassmarket and the West End. Free taster treatments will be offered by health and beauty firms such as Lush, Superdrug, Boots, Harvey Nichols and Neal’s Yard.

n A film event in June, currently being developed along with the Edinburgh International Film Festival, but expected to see activity in multiple city-centre locations, including outdoor screenings.

Marketing Edinburgh has developed the This is Edinburgh campaign along with Essential Edinburgh, which runs the city centre business improvement district, and the city council.

It is the first major initiative by Marketing Edinburgh since the failed Incredinburgh campaign in late 2012, which was abandoned amid criticism and ridicule.

The new campaign has been given a positive ­reception.

Deputy council leader and festivals champion Steve 
Cardownie, one of the most vocal Incredinburgh critics, said: “I’m delighted with the new campaign. I think the TV ads are great, showing different aspects of the city which people may have forgotten about.

“They are short ads, but there is a lot there and I think they hit the nail on the head.

“I hope people will feel pride in what they see and if they have not been in the city centre for a while they will make up their minds to come back.”

As well as the TV ads, the campaign features billboards on commuter routes, posters in stations and on trains, adverts on buses and distinctive online advertising.

It aims to remind people ­living in and around Edinburgh what the city has to offer and highlights a range of familiar places, including Mary King’s Close, the Museum of Childhood and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Clare Smith, chief marketing officer at the Scottish Government, said: “Marketing a city is a complex task given the number of stakeholders involved. This campaign is vibrant, smart and depicts many aspects of Edinburgh’s quality offer. I hope it does well and look forward to hearing of the results.”

Gordon Henderson, of the Federation of Small Businesses, praised the marketing drive for its straightforward message and upbeat feel.

He said: “I like the TV ads and I’m very pleased the ­campaign is aiming at residents of Edinburgh and the city region. Outwith the tourist season, people who live nearby using the city centre is the bread and butter for traders.

“The adverts came across like a good news story and had a good, happy vibe and feel to them.

“And I’m particularly pleased there is a fair representation of small businesses – it’s not just ‘Come to Princes Street and look at the big shops’. The people in the TV advert visited Harvey Nicks and then went to what I think was Armstrongs second-hand shop.

“What is probably unique about Edinburgh is that mix of world-leading big retailers and the extra flavour added by our superb independent shops. These are gimmick-free adverts, giving an upbeat, pleasing-to-watch impression of Edinburgh.

“Edinburgh is a straightforward city – it doesn’t need fancy, gimmicky slogans.”

He said the finding that 74 per cent of people had been put off coming into the city centre during the tram works “sounds about right”. He said: “Many of our members reported big falls in turnover. We are looking forward to good times ahead. This has come at just the right time with the turn-up in the economy.”

Organisers say the campaign is aiming for a £50m boost in spending over the next two years. The News has documented how a large number of businesses were forced to close by the tram works.

Last year, Civil Engineers president Geoff French predicted the trams would help create a cosmopolitan atmosphere in Princes Street, ahead of property deals worth £100m to the famous thoroughfare being announced.

Four key players behind campaign

THE key players behind the This is Edinburgh initiative are:

MARKETING EDINBURGH: the arms-length company set up by the city council in 2011 to promote the Capital.

It came about from the merger of three different bodies: the Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance (Dema), Edinburgh Convention Bureau (ECB) and Edinburgh Film Focus.

Its first major campaign proved a flop when the “Incredinburgh” tag met with widespread ridicule.

Chief executive Lucy Bird later quit her £100,000-a-year job and was later replaced by John Donnelly, who helped launch T in the Park and also worked on Glasgow 2014.

“This is Edinburgh” is the company’s first big campaign since the Incredinburgh debacle.

ESSENTIAL EDINBURGH: the body which runs the city-centre business improvement district (BID) covering 600 businesses. It was set up in 2008 and won a resounding vote of confidence last year with a 78 per cent ballot for it to continue in existence.

Its vision is “To ensure that Edinburgh city centre excels as a place to work, a place to do business, a place to shop and a place to visit.”

CITY COUNCIL: has the overall responsibility for making sure Edinburgh lives up to its role as Scotland’s capital as well as providing services for its residents.

THE LANE: the city-based agency which won the contract and came up with the campaign theme. They also do work for Edinburgh Airport, ESPC, National Galleries of Scotland, and Nick Nairn Cook School, among others.