Put your hands up for Edinburgh, our lovely city
By Managing Creative Director, David Guy
Against a Brexit backdrop of retail doom and gloom, Guy & Co enjoys living in a big positive bubble that is Edinburgh city centre. City centre footfall is bucking the trend, up 4% annually versus the downward 4% national average. House prices have also seen the highest growth of any major UK city, and average salary levels are outstripped only by London.
So, it’s no surprise that Edinburgh was recently voted the most attractive city to live and work – great news for residents, tourists and especially great for a creative and research agency that calls the city centre home. It helps us attract and retain great agency guys and it’s a cool place to entertain our clients and curate top-notch insights into consumer trends.
So how come this Edinburgh city centre bubble exists? Is it the very essence of the ‘product’ or its destination marketing ‘brand’? Working with our client Essential Edinburgh – the organisation responsible for the city centre’s Business Improvement District, we identified 3 big drivers amongst residents and visitors:
When incredible architecture meets Instagram-able elevated views and streets so famous they’re classified a World Heritage site, it’s hard to argue with our historic and cultural product being world class. Begging the question: would you rather go to a Waterstones with a castle across the street or to one in a big, windowless shopping centre?
The hotly-anticipated Edinburgh St James, due to open its doors next year, is poised to capitalise on this stunning backdrop – and to enhance it. A spiral-wrapped, luxury W Hotel will be the iconic heart of the development, with 850,000 sq. ft of prime retail, food, leisure and residential space benefiting from breathtaking views across the city. When Centre Director, Rochelle Burgess, invited us for a birds-eye view of the construction site as we plan it into our Edinburgh city centre marketing campaign plans, it was clear this will be a world-class example of city-enhancing place making. And by 2021 some of the more showbiz parts of this highly significant regeneration project I’m sure will be agency favourites; choosing between rooftop cocktails or reclining Everyman Cinema comfort will be a tough decision…
With retail rightly adopting an experience-led proposition to ensure battle readiness for the Amazonian price war, Edinburgh’s retailers are already pushing. Whether it’s an independent café with a difference; the difference being the chihuahuas you pay to pet and cavort with, or shops like Lululemon; where not only can you buy high quality active wear, but you can actively take part in yoga classes.
The drinks industry has championed this experience economy for years, and brewers and distillers are certainly making their mark in Edinburgh – which, for a drinks-specialist agency, is particularly exciting to us.
Johnnie’s setting up his new Edinburgh home in the neo-classical “New Town” grandness of the old Frasers department store – a £150M investment by Diageo into Scotch whisky tourism. Great for visitors and locals alike, a multi-sensory, immersive visitor experience is being planned over three floors, featuring a flagship shop, flexible events space and rooftop bars. The pioneering spirit of Johnnie Walker isn’t just for those with disposable income; the brand is to be applauded as they will also create a bar academy for Diageo’s Learning for Life programme, providing hospitality training for the unemployed, and bolstering Edinburgh’s philanthropic reputation.
Edinburgh Gin and Holyrood Distillery also have new experience-led sites in development, as does Innis & Gunn. Its local beer legend founder, Dougal Sharp, told me last week that Edinburgh once had over 40 breweries in the city. His new brewery set to open in 2020 will be a big step for Edinburgh in bringing that brewing mastery back again.
So the big protective film around our Edinburgh bubble is not the ‘tourist’ façade. It’s the world-class retail, hospitality and infrastructure around it that the city, its planners and businesses are doing such a great job of curating for visitors and residents alike.
When residents come into town, Edinburgh city centre has so much going on and is ever changing – a quick bit of shopping often leads to staying all day (and night) to enjoy the incredible hospitality. The team here are particularly excited that the new St James will move to extended retail hours with shops open until 8pm all week long – no more will we have to wait ‘till Thursday for late-night shopping.
Going out is a big attraction to having our agency bang in Edinburgh city centre and wow, is it getting classy. A stone’s throw away, St Andrew Square has developed a reputation as the ‘cuisine quarter’, attracting top restaurateurs like The Ivy, Goucho and Dishoom. Hotelier, The Edinburgh Grand has recently given local bar star, Stuart McCluskey license to create his stylish Lady Libertine bar in its basement – giving this grand part of town a Manhattan cool that’s rather unexpected but very welcome. And an Edinburgh outpost of Scotland’s most famous 5-star resort, Gleneagles is also set to open on the Square.
The city centre events calendar is also kind of a big deal. Everyone knows it hosts Europe’s biggest New Year street party and the Edinburgh Festival, hosted throughout August, is the world’s biggest arts festival. There’s over 3,500 shows, many of which you’d call ‘interesting’ amongst the cultural gems. (And who knows who you might bump into; last year for me it was the rather lovely Joanna Lumley in the Pleasance Courtyard). These events put Edinburgh on the global stage and help drive incredible tourist numbers – 4.26 million visits and £1.5 billion expenditure in 2018. Superb collaboration by city bodies like Essential Edinburgh and Marketing Edinburgh, combined with national initiatives like Brand Scotland, along with the influx of high-profile private investment to the city, mean the Edinburgh brand is stronger than ever before.
As Fedde Le Grand didn’t say, we love this city.
- Essential Edinburgh Footfall Report, Jan 2019
- Guy & Co research for Essential Edinburgh: 9 surveys amongst 1,099 consumers, Sep 2017 – Dec 2018