This week in The Scotsman Roddy Smith, the CEO of Essential Edinburgh, warned of some of the stark figures facing businesses in the city centre with Princes Street footfall down by up to 90 per cent from March and over 30 empty shops in the area the BID covers – and that is before the exodus to Edinburgh St James now planned for spring next year.
The figures keep coming and quite rightly Roddy points out that Edinburgh’s 580,000 residents even if they do their best to shop local cannot make up for the 4,500,000 visitors that come to Edinburgh every year.
One thing Roddy doesn’t mention that is very evident to me is that the make-up of those shopping at the moment is very different from that only a few months ago. Look around and you will see far more younger people as a percentage of shoppers than might be expected.
Certainly this is the case in the Waverley Mall where shops like my Avalanche and Damaged Society are doing relatively well from a fairly limited footfall while those shops more suited to tourists are less busy or have made the decision to delay their reopening.
What holidaymakers there have been to a large extent have been families, often with older children, who again fit the Avalanche demographic nicely.
I’m a great believer in shops working together and this week you will find a temporary window display from both shops in the mall’s main window on Waverley Bridge. Add in GAME, Greggs and Starbucks and certainly the kids are alright!
Speaking of shops working together it was something that even with a BID in place never really happened when I was in the Grassmarket and yet can be very successful. At the same time I know some businesses that have made more of an effort in these last few months promoting their shops and websites in the world of Twitter and Instagram but been disappointed.
As I had hoped, and to be honest expected, the recent and ongoing poster promotion by Avalanche to coincide with our reopening has been a great success both in letting people know we are open and reminding people of our latest location at Waverley Mall. Interestingly several of the visiting families we had in the shop came in after seeing the posters.
Now while Avalanche may have an advantage in being so well established, and in the latest campaign pairing with the Brazilian artist Butcher Billy who designed the Fringe artwork this year, posters can work equally well letting both locals and visitors know that new businesses have opened.
What is needed is more high profile but affordable advertising for businesses as we were lucky enough to secure at Haymarket station and the west end of Princes Street so that local businesses can let local residents and visitors alike know what they have to offer.
By coincidence just as I was looking to extend our advertising campaign I heard that Jack Arts who provide these advertising drums will be looking to extend the sites they have. Now while their focus has always been arts and culture, and of course that sector will need all the help it can get, it would be great if they could also support local businesses should they be successful in locating new drums.
I have to hope that the council will get over their collective street clutter phobia and see that these drums will not only be a great tool for promoting a revitalised arts but could also show support for local businesses in a way that actually works.