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Shopping debut

St James ready to steal Glasgow’s retail crown

Leith Street entrance on day one (pic: Terry Murden)

St James Quarter, which promises to transform Edinburgh’s retail experience, finally welcomed its first shoppers nine months late but with a range of brands new to Scotland.

After five years under construction, the £1 billion development replaces a dreary and unloved shopping arcade and office block and is tipped to help the capital overtake Glasgow as Scotland’s prime shopping city.

Once complete St James Quarter will help move Edinburgh further up the UK retail rankings from 13th to eighth.

St James will account for 20% of the retail offering in the city and, inevitably, has led to a number of brands relocating from other shopping streets.

St James Quarter Lego queue

A long queue formed early for the opening of the Lego store (pic: Terry Murden)

Now welcoming shoppers, first images of the interior (pic: Terry Murden)

This will draw the attention of the council, property professionals and trade groups such as Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and Essential Edinburgh, to ensure those areas do not decline. Princes Street – the city’s traditional shopping mecca – has lost Jenners, Debenhams and Edinburgh Woollen Mill, among others. Next and Zara are among those which have moved to St James.

The new development’s opening was delayed from last October because of the impact of the pandemic and is also facing a growing challenge of its own from the growth of online shopping which the pandemic has exacerbated.

See also: Comment: Billion pound gamble on shoppers’ loyalty

The developer has already conceded that rents have been agreed at a lower rate than originally expected, which has reduced the profit margin.

The opening of the “shopping galleria” – a sweeping crescent echoing the Georgian New Town – will bring new brands to Scotland including, & Other Stories, Stradivarius, Bershka, Miele and Pull&Bear.

St James Quarter W Hotel

The W Hotel is opening at a later date (pic: Terry Murden)

New aerial photo of St James

Breitling is introducing its first standalone boutique in the city, and The Body Shop will open its first Activist Workshop store in Scotland. Shoppers queued from 3am for the LEGO store, while IOLLA will be introducing a new experiential showroom with an interactive try on garden. 

Aside from 850,000 sq ft of retail, St James Quarter is committed to championing local brands. Taking over Little King Street for the next 12 months are an array of local food and drink pop-ups including Harajuku Kitchen, Artisan Roast, The Mac Man and Churros.

St James Quarter has recently announced an exclusive partnership with Edinburgh Cocktail Week and will host an al fresco Spritz Garden to kick off the opening celebrations. 

Through long-term partnerships with Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh Jazz & Blues and the Edinburgh Science Festivals St James will play a part in the cultural life of the city.  

The hospitality and residential elements will complete in three further phases through to 2022.

St James Centre Square

Unloved: the former New St Andrew’s House was a concrete monstrosity (pic: Terry Murden)

A number of brands will continue to join the line up in the coming weeks, as well as the Scottish foodhall, Bonnie & Wild, which opens next month, together with Bross Bagels, The Kooples and Aeronautica.

When complete St James Quarter will include: 

·    A 244-bedroom W Edinburgh. The first in Scotland, the glamorous hotel will include a W Lounge, a signature restaurant, a W Sound Suite, FIT® – the ultimate workout facility – and an AWAY® Spa.

·       152 New Eidyn apartments from Native Land. As well as stunning views from their ‘gardens in the sky’, the new homes will include a shared garden room and unparalleled residents’ services including full concierge service.

·       A 75-room Roomzzz Aparthotel. Complementing the scheme’s W Edinburgh, Roomzzz is providing stylish apartments with the personal touch for adventure, business and celebration. Guests can stay for one night, a week and up to a year.

·       Nine event spaces. An enviable events programme has been created across a range of new and attractive public spaces. Set to host a diverse range of pop-up fashion and music shows, the St James Quarter will link to the city’s rich cultural offering and events calendar.

Rare sight: opening of Bank of Scotland branch (pic: Terry Murden)

·       A boutique Everyman Cinema. Debuting its first Edinburgh city cinema at the St James Quarter, the cinema will feature five screens and indulgent sofa seating.

·       A truly diverse dining experience with an enticing mix of restaurants. From fast food, fresh food, to family and restaurant dining, the St James Quarter boasts the first Bonnie & Wild Scottish food hall, Five Guys, @pizza and Scotland’s first The Alchemist.

Martin Perry, director of development for St James Quarter, commented: “This is a momentous occasion for the city of Edinburgh – and this is just the beginning.

“The brands and experience that we have welcomed today demonstrate our commitment to delivering a curated destination for the people of Edinburgh.

“We are now looking forward to continuing on our journey to deliver a truly mixed-use destination of the future as we welcome more brands, leisure, and our new neighbours. 

“The impact of the pandemic has of course had a profound impact on UK retail. However, retail required a rethink long before the pandemic.

Shops once again on the west side of Leith Street (pic: Terry Murden)

… and how it looked before demolition in the 1960s

“The high street was already changing, which is why we have been continually working with our partners, retailers, and the city as whole to ensure that the St James Quarter continues to be enjoyed by generations to come. 

“A new normal demands a new kind of retail destination, a development that can respond to an ever-changing situation, one that serves the needs of its community as well as overseas visitors.

“It is the reason we are focusing on creating a unique experience for our customers. There is something for everyone – which is why our occupiers are still focused on the long-term journey at St James Quarter.

Among the new names: Pelton store (pic: Terry Murden)

“We believe in Edinburgh, and we are excited to help lead the way as part of the city’s wider economic recovery. Throughout this pandemic we have never questioned our investment in not just the St James Quarter but the city itself. We’re here to stay and we’re here to help.”

Nick Peel, managing director for St James Quarter, commented: “Today is the day we’ve been waiting for, for a long time – it marks the moment we bring a brand-new fashion district to Scotland. 

“The brands opening their doors within St James Quarter are world-class and it’s great to so many retailers debuting in Scotland for the first time.

Restoring a sense of place (pic: Terry Murden)

“From firm fashion favourites to local gems, there’s something for everyone. 

“The St James Quarter team has been working tirelessly to ensure customer safety is the number one priority, so we have ensured all relevant measures are in place to allow people to enjoy the St James Quarter experience comfortably and safely.

“We look forward to welcoming guests over the coming weeks and to share what lies behind The Quarter with everyone.”

Comment: Billion pound gamble on shoppers’ loyalty

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