The West End of Princes Street will have to adapt to survive as more brands are predicted to leave for the St James centre, a leading figure behind the development has claimed.
Martin Perry, director of development at Nuveen Real Estate added he also expects more brands to exit the West End for St James and called on a transition towards leisure attractions, restaurants and cafes to keep the area afloat.
His prediction came as the construction of the new St James Centre reached the milestone of being a year away from completion, still on schedule for October 2020 and within budget.
Mr Perry said he sees the future of the West End as a leisure rather than as a shopping destination, and called on the Edinburgh City Council to market the section of the New Town between Primark and St James as a shopping hub.
He said: “Everything we have done with the design is about trying not to damage the city. We have purposely not gone at retailers in the city centre but we have had to deal with some of them.
“In order to get Stradivarius, Bershka, and Pull&Bear in, Zara were saying they needed to move and the reason they needed to move was because House of Fraser was going to close at the West End and that stopped there being a retail anchor at the West End.”
Asked if he expects any more brands to leave Princes Street for the plush new mall, Mr Perry said: “Yes, I think so.”
He added: “The two blocks going towards Frasers that go beyond Primark and Marks and Spencers, I think they will be tough.
“You’re now seeing those values dropping and it is giving them the opportunity of saying these blocks are great for mixed use. The issue is stopping it from going down the cheap line.
“What we’ve been saying for some time is that the strategy for what you want to create now you’ve got Diageo is an amazing leisure opportunity in fabulous buildings.
“The future of the West End of Princes Street is in leisure and I think that’s what the council are trying to do. What we’re trying to do is concentrate the city centre offer and protect the city centre going forward.”
The potential decline of Princes Street as a shopping destination has proved controversial, with the Evening News reporting earlier this week that New Look is due to move to the new development with Poundland moving into the former Currys/PC World unit.
However Mr Perry said that retail is not suffering as much as others have argued.
He said: “I am sitting here developing a city centre scheme, I’m going to positive about retail and I don’t think there are as many fundamental issues.
“People still want to get out, they don’t want to just sit in their homes and buy online, yes it is convenient but they also want to go and do the shop.”
Construction at the new St James centre is still on schedule, added Mr Perry, with the chances of the project opening on time in October “100 per cent”.
The centre is also 85 per cent full or in late stage legal discussions with future tenants, developers said, with brands including Next, Zara and Mango already confirmed.
Any future delay is unlikely, said Mr Perry.
He said: “It gets really difficult to delay because you tie yourself in to dates and deals with all the retailers and at the moment we are bang on program and I am not worried.
“If anything did happen it would be a matter of a day or two or an hour.
“There’s a lot of protection, it’s a private sector so there’s always penalties and things like that.”