EDINBURGH'S retail industry has struck a major blow against arch-rival Glasgow by landing one of American fashion giant Anthropologie's first stores in Europe.
The firm - which has opened just two stores in the United Kingdom, both in London - has snapped up a site in the middle of George Street and is due to open a three-storey outlet by next summer.
It is thought the Philadelphia-based company, which specialises in upmarket women's fashion, jewellery, accessories and luxury goods for the home, will be paying the highest-ever rents commanded in the thoroughfare.
News of the Anthropologie deal has come just days after it emerged that one of Edinburgh's leading independent fashion outlets, Sam Thomas, had gone into liquidation.
The retailer, which will be opening at 39-41 George Street, prides itself on having individually-designed stores which operate as independent boutiques. A full-time team of visual artists is taken on to design each store and its displays.
Anthropologie opened its first store in Pennsylvania in 1992 and now has 135 stores across the United States.
Its initial London store on Regent Street, which opened last October, was such a success with the city's fashionistas that a second swiftly followed on the King's Road in March of this year.
Anthropologie, which has snapped up a 7000 sq ft site, is known to have been scouring Edinburgh city centre for a site for months. Its creative director, Trevor Lunn, a Scot and former graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, told The Scotsman last year that the company was keen to open in either Edinburgh or Glasgow.
Anthropologie, a sister company of Urban Outfitters, which opened its first Edinburgh store on Princes Street last year, will be taking over a former Austin Reed store after the latter retailer decided to relocate to another outlet on George Street previously occupied by The Pier.
Experts say the deal struck by Anthropologie, which is expected to hire at least 20 staff, is hugely significant, as the firm will be paying the kind of rent normally associated with Princes Street, at around 500,000 a year.Ewan Mackay, director at the agency SGM Property Consulting, said: "This deal shows that the top blocks in George Street are in high demand, and should prompt more key fashion retailers to identify the right stores.
"It's a huge deal for George Street, the rent deal on record, and is the first sign that it is now catching up with Princes Street."
Retail expert Niall MacDonald, a director at property firm Jones Lang Lasalle, said: "Anthropologie is a good, strong commercial brand for George Street.
"As well as the location and the other retailers that are already established there, such as Jack Wills and Abercrombie and Fitch, the key thing for them will be that this site has big floor-plates, which is why they'll have been prepared to pay such a high rent."