Capital bags boost with sales growth

THE first official analysis of retail sales in Edinburgh has revealed that shops have seen takings rise at nearly four times the national average.

The data has shown that sales for city centre retailers surged by 8.9 per cent in August, compared with the Scottish average of 2.4 per cent.

Another report shows that footfall has also surged ahead of this time last year, giving hope that the economy is strengthening. But some retailers say that the figures will have been skewed by the massive decline in sales that many retailers saw as a result of tram work last year.

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Tom Campbell, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, which compiled the figures from an anonymous sample of 15 retailers in the "business improvement district" between Princes Street and George Street, said: "It's imperative that we work with partners across the city, specifically the marketing body for Edinburgh - Dema - to build on these results and continue to remind people that Edinburgh is a great place to visit.

"It's particularly important that we remind the people who live and work here of what the city has to offer because these year-round shoppers are critical in supporting our retail and leisure sectors outwith the peak tourist seasons."

The figures were compiled for a new monthly "market intelligence" report by Essential Edinburgh. The report also showed that footfall increased by 2.5 per cent in the city centre in August, with Princes Street marginally ahead of last year. A council report also shows that the footfall rise continued into August, with average city centre footfall up 3.1 per cent.

However, Michael Apter, director of Paper Tiger on Lothian Road and Stafford Street, said: "My question would be what were all the retailers claiming they were down by last year because of tram work? A lot of businesses were down 20 or 30 per cent last year. The question is then has Princes Street bounced back in the manner expected?

"To grow business by nine per cent against the backdrop of the unprecedented problems last year shows that, while it is encouraging, it is nothing to blow your trumpet about."

Council data shows that parking utilisation was down 0.3 per cent in September compared with a year earlier. But hotel room occupancy increased by 4.9 per cent.

Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city's economic development leader, said "These figures show that Edinburgh's city centre is increasing in popularity for shopping.

"We already monitor footfall, parking and perception trends. However, having retail spend figures for the first time gives us a more complete picture.

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"As we approach the festive season we will have a better idea of the success of Edinburgh's winter campaigns in drawing people into the city."