A £2.2 MILLION campaign is being planned to “relaunch” Edinburgh city centre when the tram system is finally up and running.
It is hoped the biggest-ever promotional drive for the city will revive the fortunes of retailers who will have suffered six years of delays and disruption when the scheme starts by the autumn of 2014, under the latest timetable.
The city council will be asked to pay almost half the cost of the campaign, which will include parking discounts, public transport offers, one-off events and all-day packages.
Business leaders are behind the plans for the marketing drive, which aims to bring back shoppers who have snubbed the capital in favour of out-of-town shopping centres, and Fife and West Lothian.
The city centre has been besieged by tram works since spring 2008 and major disruption is expected until at least the end of next year.
The Essential Edinburgh group, which has launched a major consultation over its plans to breathe life back into the city centre, hopes that the campaign will coincide with the unveiling of major revamps for both Rose Street and George Street to make them more pedestrian-friendly.
New smartphone technology is to be deployed to promote special offers and encourage tourists away from the Royal Mile and into the New Town. New lighting features will be installed to brighten up forbidding-looking streets and closes after dark.
Essential Edinburgh, which relies on levies from retailers and other firms in the heart of the capital, has pledged to ring-fence £400,000 for the campaign, with the remaining funding expected to be raised from the council, the Marketing Edinburgh agency and private-sector sponsors.
Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said: “We’ve been consulting more than 100 members over the last few months and the strongest message that came back from the retailers was the need to relaunch the city centre once the tram works are completed.
“A lot of people have simply stopped coming into the city while the tram works have been ongoing. There have been other factors, including the economy, but we know from retailers that they have performed a lot poorer in Edinburgh than other locations.
“It’s not about competing with out-of-town shopping centres, but showing that the experience of coming into the city centre is completely different and unique.”
Lucy Bird, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, said: “We work in close partnership with Essential Edinburgh and share its ambitions to see Edinburgh’s city-centre vibrancy and commercial success promoted effectively. Initial feedback from city-centre businesses indicates that they would like to see increased promotion of Edinburgh’s unique visitor, investment, retail and leisure offers.”
Lesley Hinds, the city council’s transport leader, added: “Discussions are ongoing with Marketing Edinburgh and Essential Edinburgh on how Edinburgh might capitalise on the tram in the future and on how we might further promote the city.”