Edinburgh tipped to beat economic slump

Edinburgh is rated the second-best placed region in the UK after London's West End. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA
Edinburgh is rated the second-best placed region in the UK after London's West End. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA
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Edinburgh is fighting the economic slump harder than most cities, a new report claims.

A survey by expert business analysts Experian ranks the city as the second best-placed region in the UK to bounce back from the economic slump – beaten only by London’s West End.

The Retailscape survey compares 40 variables such as retail spend, affluence, resilience and likelihood of those living in an area to shop online.

It also draws on its data to measure the ability of an area to withstand future changes in the economy drawing on over 40 factors including the number of businesses in vulnerable sectors, unemployment, earnings and retail vacancy rates.

The affluence of the area in terms of the proportion of wealthy professional couples and families – and households with an income over £70,000 – was also incorporated into the analysis. The survey findings will boost the prospects of the company established to run the city centre Business Improvement District, Essential Edinburgh, as it goes through its renewal ballot.

Michael Apter, chairman of the West End Association, said Edinburgh’s high ranking in the report was all the more impressive in light of the years of commercial pain inflicted by the tram project.

He said: “Given the ongoing tram works for the past five years it’s encouraging news for hard-pressed retailers and hospitality businesses looking forward to getting our streets back.

“Edinburgh might have the resilience that Experian thinks we have but on the ground the story is very different because of the tram works.

“But we are confident that we will be welcoming lots of people back as the city centre returns to normal.”

Gemma Hare, Harvey Nichols marketing manager, said conditions at the St Andrew Square store had been “stable but challenging” over the past year largely due to tram works.

She said: “In the past week or week-and-a-half since [tram workers] left the pick-up has been fantastic, both in terms of customers and sales. It’s created a buoyant mood and has symbolised a new beginning.

“Now the works are almost finished, the whole city will receive a boost.”

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh which manages the Business Improvement District, said: “This survey is further confirmation that despite some of the issues we have faced in recent years Edinburgh city centre still has huge potential to thrive and grow – if it is supported the right way. Our work in promoting the area, is key to continuing to realise that potential and build on it”

Revamp plans go back decades

THEre have been numerous plans over the years to revamp the centre of Edinburgh in a bid to keep it vibrant and prosperous.

In the 1960s, one proposal was to build a first-level walkway along Princes Street to double the number of shop frontages. In 2005, plans were unveiled for a £200 million transformation of the street which involved demolishing several existing buildings to make way for new department stores, shopping centres, offices and apartments. There were also to be pedestrian zones and pavement cafes.

And earlier this year, new calls were made for Princes Street to be changed from a retail corridor into a leisure destination, peppered with bars and restaurants.