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Challenging Times but City Centre on Course to Improve

posted 2 Apr 2009, 06:39 by myEdinburgh Admin   [ updated 2 Apr 2009, 06:40 ]

The latest annual report for Edinburgh suggests that the city centre is coping well despite the economic downturn and disruption from continuing public works projects.

CentrePulse, the annual monitoring report produced by City of Edinburgh Council in association with Ryden, is designed to keep stakeholders fully informed about how the city centre is performing to help with decision-making on the future development and planned improvements for the city.

Cllr Tom Buchanan, Economic Development Convenor said: "Edinburgh's city centre is a world-class destination and offers a diverse range of attractions for residents and visitors alike. Yet there is no doubt that global economic conditions have impacted and that 2008 was a difficult year, as it was for cities across the UK. The Council's efforts to support business are now more vital than ever."

"Our latest monitoring report into the life of the city centre looks at a broad range of indicators from footfall and accessibility to tourism and retail. As we drive improvements aimed at bringing long-term benefit to the city as a whole we will use this report to ensure our actions are targeted and effective."

Dr Mark Robertson, Partner at Ryden said: "2008's credit crunch caused several national retail chains to go into administration, resulting in a number of inevitable casualties in Edinburgh's city centre.

However, recent initiatives such as the reopening of St Andrew Square and the pedestrianisation of Castle Street have improved shopper movement and helped boost the central core by attracting a number of new retailers.

The outlook for 2009 is for it to be a period of market transition when mid-tier and variety retailers may struggle while discount brands perform well.

The ongoing 'String of Pearls' block-by-block regeneration of the city centre will continue to improve the shopper environment whilst matching current retailer requirements. This will help to further revitalise the city centre and resist against the negative impacts of the recession."

This edition of CentrePulse contains the first full year of footfall figures which help detail the impact of major events, holidays, road closures and economic downturn on pedestrian footfall in the city centre. It also shows data from the Council's Transport service on the accessibility and popularity of the city centre as compared to previous years and other cities.

Key performance indicators show a mixed picture for city centre performance with the economic slowdown hitting certain areas such as tourism, employment and shopping centre yields. But the number of retail units, parking and retail market potential relative to other cities has improved on last year.

Other positive points include;

Edinburgh's improvement by five places on the highly influential CACI retail ranking

Higher footfall in Edinburgh than its competitor cities in August due to the Festival

Continued regeneration of the city centre sees new retailers at pedestrianised Castle Street

Opening of St Andrew Square has encouraged shopper movement and new businesses

'String of Pearls' initiative sees interest from hotel groups, clothing stores and other major retailers

Parking is usually available both on and off-street in the city centre and parking charges compare well with other cities

The report also identifies areas that have undoubtedly been affected by the global and local economy;

Difficult trading conditions have impacted on the retail sector

Retailers requiring property in Edinburgh city centre space has decreased by 5%

City centre parking transactions have fallen by 16.6%

Council leaders are working closely with stakeholders to help close the retail rankings gap between Edinburgh and other UK cities.

2009 will continue to see difficult economic conditions but plans for regenerating the city centre through the "String of Pearls" plan continue to be the focus of significant interest for those wishing to invest.

Princes Street's redevelopment in particular has attracted major interest. The first new hotel on the street for more than 50 years is proposed for 121-123 Princes Street with New Look the clothing retailer on the lower levels. Discount clothing retailer Primark repurchased the former M&S Ladieswear store on Princes Street in February and hope to be open in time for the Christmas trading period this year. Meanwhile the £850m St James Centre redevelopment was approved in February with demolition work scheduled to begin in 2011 and the new St James Quarter set to be complete by 2016.

The Council will continue to work closely with partners to ensure that the latest research is used to support the city centre to become the best place to do business, work, shop and visit.

The full annual report can be found at: then click on 2008 under CentrePulse.

Source: The City of Edinburgh Council