Panda paraphernalia (but it’s not all made in China)

Retail assistant Joanne Nash wears a woolly panda hat, yours for �15.50. Picture: Jane Barlow
Retail assistant Joanne Nash wears a woolly panda hat, yours for �15.50. Picture: Jane Barlow
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DOES your baby lack a panda bib? Is your car crying out for a panda bumper sticker? Does you iPod need a set of panda speakers or your head some panda ears atop an authentic Nepalese woolly hat?

Stop dreaming: Panda mania has arrived at Edinburgh Zoo, and these products are all winging their way into its gift shop.

Panda suitcases, “Pandarama” handbags, fairtrade woolly hats, car stickers, tea caddies with a panda logo, and “Nanoblock” panda building bricks are just some of the 40 products – some made in China, with others produced in Indonesia and Australia – expected in the zoo’s shop in the run up to Christmas.

There are also soft toy pandas in five different sizes, special edition sweets with a panda head logo, organic T-shirts, and three books so the public can learn more about the animals after their visit to Tian Tian and Yang Guang’s enclosures are over.

The arrival of the two eight-year-old giant pandas on Sunday is highly anticipated in the hope that they will revive the ailing fortunes of the city’s zoo, following reports back in April that visitor numbers had slumped.

Products like the panda jigsaw puzzle (price £20) are seen as the best way to boost the coffers, outside ticket sales.

One employee at the zoo shop, who did not wish to be named, said there was “a lot of excitement” among zoo staff.

“We’ve been waiting for a while for this, and it’s a good time for them to come as it’s a quiet period. The employees will be first to see them, which I’m really looking forward to,” he added. Visitors at the zoo were also making plans to return once the pandas were in residence. Paul Griffin, 27, visiting from London, said: “It should be pretty cool to see them when they arrive. I’ve never seen a panda but I’d really like to.”

Jenny Baird, 36, a full-time mother from Dundee, said she and her family would definitely be making a return visit. “We came down because the children on half term. It would have been nice to see the pandas today but it’s a good reason to come back – it will be lovely to see when they get here.”

The zoo’s outlet at the Gyle shopping centre is also on panda watch, and is well placed to capitalise on a separate market that may not have made their way to the new enclosures, but who will nonetheless be all too happy to spend money on spin-off goods.

Meanwhile, Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh is taking the pandas’ arrival extremely seriously with a “Panda plate” of two cocktails and some Hello Panda sweets, priced at £15, which it is launching on Sunday and aims to combine masculine and feminine ingredients while simultaneously enhancing international relations.

Marc Henry, hospitality manager at the shop, said: “Because there is a male and female panda we have given the plate a romantic slant to go with the possibility of them mating.

“The ‘male’ cocktail has masculine ingredients like whisky and the ‘female’ cocktail has more feminine spirits like gin. We tried to combine Scottishness with Chinese, and support the link between the two countries.”

Bookmaker McBookie.com is offering 2/1 odds that the pandas will successfully mate, producing the first baby pandas born in the United Kingdom.

The firm is also offering 12/1 odds that the pandas will conceive in the first year at the zoo.

“Edinburgh is one of the most romantic cities in the world, so hopefully it will work wonders for Tian Tian and Yang Guang,” spokesman Paul Petrie added.

Cllr Jenny Dawe, Edinburgh’s Council Leader, said: “We are delighted that the giant pandas are coming to Edinburgh and Lord Provost George Grubb will be part of the welcoming party at Edinburgh airport for Tian Tian and Yang Guang on Sunday.

“Edinburgh is one of only 13 global cities to receive the honour of receiving Chinese pandas and the eyes of the world will be on their arrival.”

“This huge honour will lead to a massive increase in visitor numbers which will be a welcome boost to Edinburgh’s economy and tourism industry, which will also bring great benefits to the rest of the UK.”