Dreaming of a bright Edinburgh Christmas

Crowds watch Sir Chris Hoye officially open last year's city centre extravaganza. Picture: Universal News and Sport
Crowds watch Sir Chris Hoye officially open last year's city centre extravaganza. Picture: Universal News and Sport
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EDINBURGH’S plans for festive shoppers will be improved after listening to feedback from the public about last year says Andy Neal

The announcement of the plans for a bigger, better and more affordable Edinburgh’s Christmas is one that promises to bring Festive cheer for the city centre’s businesses.

Last year’s event was a real success, with big benefits seen in terms of footfall, trading and in terms of public participation and enjoyment of a high quality event. Essential Edinburgh is delighted to continue to back Edinburgh’s Christmas, and we are delighted that St Andrew Square Garden is one of the two key sites used.

Essential Edinburgh represents around 600 businesses in the city centre’s Business Improvement District, and our survey of last year’s event was the first detailed look at how businesses fared over this essential period to the retail and hospitality sectors in particular.

The figures spoke for themselves, and are worth repeating, with footfall up significantly (against the UK trend) by almost 8 per cent and more than 90 per cent of businesses saying the event was good for the city centre, and 83 per cent reporting improved trading on the previous year.

Hardly surprising, given that research carried out for the organisers showed that more than 380,000 tickets were sold and that 97 per cent of visitors were satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of the events. More than half of those questioned said the Edinburgh’s Christmas events and attractions were the main reason they were visiting the city centre.

The only slight downsides were concerns that more affordable rides should be included and that a wider variety of attractions for families and children would be positive.

Organisers Underbelly have tried to take the lessons inevitably learned in their first year of operation on board in their programme for this year, which has just been announced.

• EH postcode holders receive a 20 per cent discount on all shows, rides and events.

• Special family prices will be available for most attractions. Edinburgh residents are able to take advantage of these prices and also use their 20 per cent discount – so getting the best value for money.

• New attractions in East Princes Street Gardens priced at between £1 and £4.

Another piece of feedback from 2013 was the need for more activity to support other areas of the city centre. For Essential Edinburgh that means the West End of the New Town and Rose Street, but for the broader city this means the Grassmarket and Old Town. Activity to help spread the benefit of Edinburgh’s Christmas is still being investigated.

The programme his year is varied, but highlights for our businesses include the creation of a stunning new ice rink built around the Melville Monument in St Andrew Square Garden, complete with two bridges; shows that promise to build on the huge success of Limbo in the Paradiso Speigeltent in St Andrew Square Garden last year: Add in the huge appeal of Light Night, which drew 26,000 people into George Street last year, and the packed programme promises something for all.

The return of the Scottish food and drink and European Christmas markets is also to be welcomed, and it is gratifying to note that greater variety is promised for those browsing the stalls.

All in all, we are delighted with the plans. We will be working with our 600 member businesses to ensure they do all they can – for example through late opening – to take advantage of the huge draw that this year’s event promises to provide.

Again, our research carried out over the Christmas period showed us that shops being open late, and customers knowing it, are the most important thing in encouraging shoppers to use the shops in the evening. These came ahead of transport and parking initiatives although they can play a part. Modern retail and hospitality businesses are all about meeting the evolving needs of their customers.

Essential Edinburgh represents 600 businesses in the city centre, who contribute a staggering £100,519,700 in rateable value to the city each year. In addition it is a real and tangible commitment by the city centre’s business community to investing £1 million a year in making the city centre a better place to visit, shop, work and do business.

As ever, Essential Edinburgh will work hard with our levy-payers, our partners and stakeholders to ensure that we maintain Edinburgh’s city centre as a world renowned place to live, work, and visit. And that means ensuring we build on successes, such as Edinburgh’s Christmas 2013, to make 2014 an even greater success for all concerned.

• Andy Neal is chief executive of Essential Edinburgh

www.essentialedinburgh.co.uk

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