A tale of two cities: the retail and leisure offer in Edinburgh and Glasgow

In an era where the consumer can buy almost anything online, the high street needs to go beyond its functional ‘retail’ use to provide a pleasant destination where brands can be experienced and time spent in order to continue to attract shoppers. With this in mind, city centres need to be more than just shopping destinations.

Glasgow and Edinburgh are both big tourist destinations. With some of Scotland’s top attractions and world-class universities, the two cities maintain enviable footfall numbers. Both are host to branches of John Lewis, House of Fraser/Jenners and – in Edinburgh’s case – Harvey Nichols offering a point of difference between them and Scotland’s other major towns and cities.

So how do Scotland’s two key retail centres differ?

Glasgow continues to be the location of choice for the likes of Massimo Dutti and Kiko, who have chosen the city for their first Scottish store. Rents on Buchanan Street haver risen to above £280 per sq ft Zone A, however a fixation by retailers on that street alone is creating a backlog of unmet demand from potential new entrants who refuse to consider alternative locations. Hawes and Curtis waited over five years to get the right unit on Buchanan Street.

Edinburgh captures a different customer base from Glasgow and the retail offer reflects this. Joules, for example, recently upsized to 6,956 sq ft (646 sq m) at 85 George Street (Savills joint with Gunn Property Consultants advised the landlord Standard Life), much larger than the retailer’s modest Glasgow store. Other retailers that have opted to take their first Scottish store in the capital city include Anthropologie, Mint Velvet and Lululemon. George Street provides an aesthetically pleasing location, more affordable than Buchanan Street, at rents below £200 per sq ft Zone A.

For Edinburgh, the biggest factor impacting the city centre’s retail offer today, and in the future, is the closure and redevelopment of St James shopping centre, due for completion in 2020. The works are having a ripple effect on the surrounding area with a lack of option creating a noteworthy resurgence of demand for space on Princes Street.

Both cities have experienced a high demand for leisure clustering in and around the key retail streets. Edinburgh will welcome a new run of operators at St Andrew Square, including Drake and Morgan, Busabi Eathai and Iberica, none of which are yet in Glasgow, with net rents above £60 per sq ft and overall record highs for the city. Carluccio’s, advised by Savills, will open its first Edinburgh outlet off St Andrew Square in early 2018. When Carluccio’s opened in Glasgow five years ago, a new leisure cluster emerged around West Nile Street and St Vincent Street as Bills, Las Iguanas, Five Guys and Miller and Carter followed suit. Although leisure rents have moved on in Glasgow, they’re unlikely to reach the heights of Edinburgh’s rates anytime soon.  

Overall Glasgow and Edinburgh have their own identities and it's imperative that each city maintains a point of difference in the retail and leisure experience they offer.

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