Edinburgh economy: City shows signs of recovery

Things are looking up in the city. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Things are looking up in the city. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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CASH tills are ringing across the Capital as business experts hail a series of positive changes which they hope will prove to be the first green shoots of economic recovery.

Takings have risen by 4.7 per cent on last year, with city retailers recording their fourth consecutive month of growth.

As the disruption from Princes Street tram works starts to abate, shoppers have flooded back into the centre with nearly three million people visiting in April – a 6.8 per cent hike on 2012’s figures.

The resurgent local economy is not limited to the high street with unemployment dropping, visitor figures climbing, hotels filling up and a precarious property market also finding a foothold.

David Birrell, chief executive at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, hailed the performance as “positive news” and said businesses were “starting to see some reward for their endeavours”.

Anecdotal evidence suggests luxury jewellers have performed well in recent months owing to a spike in Far Eastern visitors.

Michael Laing, chief executive of Laing the Jeweller, which has a branch in Frederick Street, said the upmarket firm had recorded its best year.

He said: “The core question is why is Edinburgh faring so well? I think it’s that the city has so much character it is attracting wealthy tourists and one that sticks out is the ­Chinese.”

Gordon Henderson, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the results showed Edinburgh’s “resilience”.

He said: “I’m hoping this good news leads to the happiness index rising and encouraging people to go out to spend. If people are feeling more confident about the market and the security of their job, then they will go out and buy that meal or do the shopping they may have held back on.”

Hotel occupancy rose to 78.3 per cent in April – a 1.2 per cent annual boost – but David Welch, general manager of the George Hotel, blamed the Olympics for a slump in fortunes last year.

“The fact that this year has been better than last probably has a lot to do with the 
Olympics,” he said.

“A lot of the people who come to Edinburgh come via London and flights and accommodation would have been so expensive around that time they would have put a lot of people off.”

The housing market remained stable, equalling last year’s total of 700 sales, while the value of property deals increased by £30 million on the previous month.

David Marshall, a business analyst with Edinburgh Solicitors’ Property Centre, said: “Generally speaking the number of houses being sold has been increasing for about 18 months. There are a number of reasons, including lower prices and lower interest rates.

“However, it’s worth putting these figures in perspective as they are still well below pre-credit crunch levels. The improvement comes from a low base - it doesn’t mean we’re back in boom time.”