Opening date announced
‘Game-changing brands’ await St James visitors
St James: transforming the city
Edinburgh’s £1 billion St James shopping centre hopes to welcome its first shoppers on 24 June with a number of yet-to-be announced ‘game changers’ among the new brands.
The timing of what will be a ‘soft launch’ coincides with a final easing of lockdown restrictions , and measures will be in place to prevent over-crowding.
St James was due to open last October but has been delayed because of the pandemic. A second scheduled opening in the spring was also abandoned because of the latest lockdown.
In the current climate a lot rests on the 850,000 sq ft development, which includes 85 retail units, some new to the city and accounting for 21% of Edinburgh’s retail offering.
Unloved: the brutal St James Centre was demolished (pic: Terry Murden)
There are more than 30 eating out venues and 152 homes, making it an integrated commercial and residential development.
Retail chiefs will be looking for an immediate dividend after what will be more than a year of lockdowns, devastated revenues and closures. A number of city centre retailers will disappear from the city, including Debenhams, TopShop , Cath Kidston and Burtons. Jessops is also poised for administration and uncertainty still hangs over Jenners.
In particular, brand owners and landlords will be hoping the drift to online shopping does not undermine the viability of St James as a number of shopping centre owners have also been in financial difficulty.
In a leaked release of information to a local media outlet, Martin Perry, director of development at St James said that among other problems it has faced, the travel restrictions meant shop fitters could not travel to fit out the new stores, but he was satisfied with measures now in place to protect workers and visitors.
“On June 24, people are still going to be cautious. The galleria itself is naturally ventilated, the roof floats over the top of it so you’re still breathing outside air, it’s not artificially treated or pushed through in any shape or form,” he said.
“The retailers and restaurants will have distancing measures in place themselves.”
John Lewis will adjoins the development will reopen on 14 May, following a multi million-pound refurbishment.
Nick Peel, managing director of St James Quarter said: “While we won’t have the usual fanfare on June 24 and it will be more of a soft launch, we make no apologies for that.
“Unfortunately we can’t have thousands of people showing up for the opening as that would be wrong and improper in this climate.
“But it is a phased approach. There are a handful of brands that we haven’t announced yet that are absolute game changers.
“Our aspiration is for this to be the best retail experience in Scotland.”