Parking blamed as city tycoon closes stores
A SUCCESSFUL businessman has claimed that city-centre parking has forced him to close down two of his shops.
Thom McCarthy - nicknamed the "Denim King" after making millions selling jeans from stores in the Capital during the 1970s - has blamed strict parking restrictions for the closures.
And he has also accused the dreaded parking Enforcers of "aggressive" tactics, which include hiding in closes beside his shops to catch out unsuspecting drivers.
Wildwood Books in the High Street was set to welcome customers for the last time today after six years of trading.
And his antique and furniture store, Treasure Warehouse, in nearby Blackfriars Street, will also shut imminently.
Both businesses are run by the New York-native, who owned a chain of 17 jeans shops spread across Scotland before he was 25.
Mr McCarthy, 54, said: "The problem has been the council’s aggressive revenue-raising approach to parking in the city centre.
"Traffic control on the High Street has made life impossible for some businesses where there are 30-minute parking limits.
"My customers receive tickets regularly and that doesn’t encourage people to shop here. They will go to the Gyle or Fort Kinnaird where parking is not an issue.
"Over the Christmas period, I saw takings at Wildwood Books go down by 18 per cent from last year. That is dramatic. The council’s parking policies are driving people out of the town. They just don’t want cars here."
Mr McCarthy now plans to consolidate his four businesses into just two to ensure their survival.
He also owns Crystal Clear, a shop selling crystals, jewellery and New Age books in Cockburn Street, and Golden, a gift store based in the High Street.
After serving in the United States Army during the Vietnam War, he moved to Edinburgh after marrying a city native. Together, they established the city’s first jeans store in Cockburn Street - Scotland’s equivalent of London’s King’s Road.
Mr McCarthy retired at the age of 25, after building the store into a fashion empire making 1 million a year. He retreated to a farm in the Borders, later becoming a Buddhist, before returning to Edinburgh to open Crystal Clear in 1997.
But he claims the city centre parking rules have damaged his new enterprises with the Enforcers playing a particularly destructive role. He said: "It has been worse since the council handed over parking responsibilities to a private company [Central Parking System]. I am sure their attendants are working on commission to meet certain quotas.
"I watch them hide up closes when cars are being parked. They keep an eye on their watch and hand out a ticket as soon as people go over the limit. I see it happen every day. It is aggressive and unwelcoming. We are trying to establish good relations with our customers."
Mr McCarthy added: "If they want to help businesses and entrepreneurs, the council have to stop creating obstacles and start a dialogue with us.
"I opened my first business in the city centre 32 years ago, but not once has someone from the council ever asked what I think would help trade in the area. They just come up with their own bright ideas and ignore us. It’s hugely disappointing.
"Small and specialist businesses will be driven from Edinburgh and all that will be left are chain stores because those type of multi-nationals are the ones the council cares about. The town centre is being ruined."
John Richardson, chairman of the Old Town Business Association, said he was "not the slightest bit surprised" to learn parking problems had been blamed for the closures of Mr McCarthy’s shops.
He said: "The parking restrictions are strangling the centre of the town. People are scared of driving their cars here and getting a fine. The perception of this strictness is equally damaging. The parking attendants are frankly sinister, hiding in doorways and jumping out to get people. I don’t blame them individually because there job is to collect money now."
A council spokesman said: "A variety of public parking is available throughout the city and the number of public parking spaces is increasing. We have been working with traders to implement parking time limits that meet modern retail needs.
"We have consistently said that if city centre traders were to make an approach to the council with proposals to alter parking time limits in specific areas we will be more than happy to listen to their concerns and address them if we can. As far as we are aware, the business concerned has never contacted the council."
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