Products, fashion and style
Glasgow may pave the way in retail development, but _ Edinburgh is catching up in the Nick of time Words: Maureen Ellis %
‘ ike Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday afternoon' is L how my primary live teacher liked to describe our
bustling classroom. But. in recent years. there are times when tumbleweed wouldn‘t have looked out of place amid the construction in the hallowed Glasgow thoroughfare. Uprooted paving stones and narrow fenced- off walkways serving a glut of bargain basement outlets did not for a shoppers paradise make.
Add to that the opening of Buchanan Galleries and its showering of cosmopolitan stores and Braehead with its elephantine retail metropolis. and locals shied away from this traditional shopping bastion in their droves. How times change. Looking at the same street now. it’s almost unrecognisable.
The doom and gloom experts predicted a decline in city centre shopping: consumers will be enticed by the car- friendly accessibility of the out-of-town developments. they proclaimed: city centres are dirty. weather-beaten artefacts. they stated. They were wrong. ()ut-of-town shopping hasn’t meant death to the city centre store; instead it has relieved the pressure. distributed the wealth and allowed more shoppers to. well. shop more often. It‘s a win-win situation. The argument against building more roads is that it creates more traffic. Can the same be said for shopping?
Part of the reason behind Sauchiehall Street‘s remarkable facelift is the foresight of Strathclyde Regional Council. With planning permission for the galleries in the pipeline. its Public Realm Improvement policy. later adopted by Glasgow City Council. re-imagined the city centre as a people-friendly space. £25m worth of investment in repaving and lighting the z-shape retail core of Arger Street. Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street. and hey presto. a retail Mecca worth its title of Britain‘s second shopping destination.
The addition of new anchor stores such as Primark. TK Maxx and Dunnes Stores has breathed new life into Sauchiehall Street. Granted. retail developments in that area are more utility than haute couture. but these are real shops. used by real people. Armani. Cruise. Katherine llamnett and
the like still have their fundamental place in the pecking order and variety of
Glasgow‘s shopping districts.
It is this upper end of Glasgow's market that Edinburgh is intent on destabilising. Since the arrival of Versace in the 1980s. Glasgow‘s monopoly on designer brands has been unrivalled in Scotland. Now that the opening of Harvey Nichols has been confirmed for 15 August. the winds of change are a- blowing. The world-class shopping emporium. encompassing live floors and l()().()()() sq ft of consumer indulgence. will put Edinburgh on the luxury retail map Already the £30m investment in the St Andrew Square development. the Walk. which houses Harvey Nicks. has attracted interest from Joseph. Prada and Christian Dior.
While there can be no argument about the excitement. and no doubt hard credit. generated by this venture. something doesn’t quite ring true. liirstly. it‘s all very well boasting a swanky new mall. but is the supporting retail infrastructtu‘e in place'.’ Car parking has never been Edinburgh's strong point and. once happy shoppers have exhausted the delights of Harvey Nicks et al. they’ll undoubtedly be disappointed by the lower grade shops found outside the Walk. Heaven forbid they stray as far as the west end of Princes Street.
Secondly. there's the controversy over money. If the City of Edinburgh Council can lay on financial sweeteners to lure the investment of Harvey Nicks. why are there so many retail units lying empty on Princes Street'.’ That said. when Versace arrived in Glasgow in all its opulent glory. Mango. H&.\l. L'rban Outfitters and (Mice were but a distant retail dream.
Let‘s hope time and thoughtful planning will redress the market balance in Edinburgh as it has in Glasgow and reclaim the middle-ground between the Harvey Nicks and the Hardly Nets.
The centre of Glasgow is booming, but will the arrival of Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh (above) be a threat?
The argument against building more roads is that it creates more traffic. Can the same be said for shopping?
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