There have been some dramatic changes to high streets across the UK over the past 10 years – with consumer habits shifting online paired with increased overheads for retailers in respect of wages and business rates, many high street shops are struggling to keep up.
Princes Street is no exception – the aforementioned pressures along with increasing retail development further east in the city, with the completion of the St James Centre in 2019 and the rejuvenation of St Andrews Square, has seen retailers leaving Princes Street in droves. But rather than fizzle out into irrelevancy, we are beginning to see a concerted effort to revitalize and diversify Edinburgh’s iconic high street which will begin to bear fruit over the coming years.
This began with the first important development that has already been completed – the Johnnie Walker Attraction at the end of Princes Street, which highlights that there is still a demand for a luxury retail experience in this area.
But the most promising evolution for Princes Street relates to the developments in hospitality. Previously, announcements have been made for redevelopment plans for the Jenners building into further hotel space. Last year, plans were also released for a new 207-bed hotel development at the former site of Debenhams, with restaurants, a rooftop bar, and a spa looking to complete in 2024.
Hot on the heels of these announcements from last year, a recent £100 million development was announced in November by the German-based Ruby Hotel, with plans for a 300-bedroom hotel with a rooftop bar with panoramic views situated above retail space on the ground floor with an expected opening date of 2025. This is a repurposing of the space previously occupied by Zara and Next.
I believe this is a sign of where Princes Street can carve out its own future – a diverse mix of hospitality, leisure, and retail. There has been significant inward investment into Princes Street which seems to reflect this, and a vision of a diverse Princes Street could begin to come to light in the next few years.
The thinking behind these developments, and the benefits of Princes Street as a destination, is clear. The location of Princes Street is undeniably one of its biggest assets – placed a short walk from both of Edinburgh’s two train stations, and boasting some of the best views in all of Edinburgh overlooking Princes Street Gardens and the Castle from a south-facing angle that catches the sun. All the tools are there to make Princes Street a triumph of the city again. As we start the new year, we can hope that more developers look to capitalize on its rejuvenated potential.
It is also worth considering that with the newer large retail developments to the east, this should not pit one location against the other. As one of the most popular cities for tourism in the UK, as well as being the UK’s second biggest financial centre, there is more than enough room for both the newer retail developments elsewhere in the city to co-exist with a rejuvenated Princes Street, as the diversification of Princes Street will ensure the success of one does not have to come at the demise of the other.
If you would like to discuss anything in this blog, please contact Alex Stewart: AStewart@gilsongray.co.uk or Murray Stewart: firstname.lastname@example.org