Store opening

Uniqlo ready to turn Princes Street Japanese

Uniqlo Edinbrugh preparing yesterday for its grand opening (pic: Terry Murden)

A Japanese retailer will open its first store in Scotland today, breathing new life into Edinburgh’s jaded Princes Street.

A steady stream of shoppers yesterday attempted to gain entry to Uniqlo’s store in the former Bhs outlet which was preparing for its grand opening after a complete refurbishment of the outlet.

It occupies 1,430 sq meters across two floors of the building designed by Johnson-Marshall and Partners in 1965.

The Edinburgh store follows the opening of an outlet in London, One Oxford Street, earlier this month and the Covent Garden store that opened on 27 April 2023, taking the number in the UK to 19 and 2,400 around the world.

Uniqlo is the largest of eight brands in the Fast Retailing Group, the Japanese retail holding company with global headquarters in Tokyo.

To help with the launch, the company has brought in Scottish celebrities and business owners including the singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt and Darcie Maher, head baker and owner of Lannan Bakery.

Alessandro Dudech, chief operating officer at Uniqlo UK, said: “With our presence in Edinburgh, we aim to become an integral part of the local community,”

The interior has been remodelled

The company has chosen a number of partners to help seal its presence in Scotland. The store will feature a RE.UNIQLO Studio where customers can recycle, repair or remake items. In partnership with Irn-Bru, customers can add the drinks firm’s themed to Uniqlo items. An in-store library will feature a curated collection of books provided by Golden Hare Books. Botanical studio, Pyrus has dressed the store with floral arrangements inspired by Edinburgh’s natural landscape.

The store will champion local craftsmanship, featuring exclusive collaborations with Tom Fraser, Principal of the Chippendale School of Furniture, and local artist Arran Rahimian.

Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Robert Aldridge said: “It’s fantastic news that Uniqlo, a global brand and one of Japan’s foremost casual wear retailers, has chosen Princes Street here in the capital as the location for their flagship Scottish store.

Endorsement from Darcie Maher and Nina Nesbitt

“This is testament to the pull of our city to major international companies and I’m really looking forward to seeing the store open its doors. I’m encouraged to hear that Uniqlo will be partnering with local charity, Social Bite, working towards ending homelessness.”

Commenting on the recovery of the city from the pandemic, Essential Edinburgh chief executive Roddy Smith, said the government needed to continue supporting tourism that was bringing new business to the city.

“Our empty department stores are being brought back to stunning life as 4 or 5 star hotels, listed buildings are and have been being amazingly restored and transformed.

“Hundreds of millions of pounds are pouring into Princes Street – and that is not because we are a city of 500,000 people, but because we attract millions of visitors a year.

“While our tourism has insulated the hospitality businesses in the city centre from the worst of the crisis the sector has faced through high energy, staff and stock costs, which doesn’t mean they are raking in fortunes. Far from it.

Uniqlo and Irn-Bru partnership
There is a limited time partnership with Irn-Bru

“Trading conditions remain extremely difficult, and many are surviving rather than thriving. It is disappointing that the Scottish Government has not passed on the 75% rates relief which the UK Government has funded down south, nor the Westminster government reversing its bizarre abolishment of tax free shopping – and they should really consider doing it.”

He sees the use of the incoming Visitor Levy – or tourist tax – as an opportunity for local councillors to work with the sector.

He said it should be used to fund a Destination Marketing structure, help improve the cleanliness of the city centre and remove graffiti.

As Uniqlo injects new business into Princes Street work is under way to restore the fire-damaged Jenners store, but the former Debenhams and Top Shop outlets are among a number that remain empty and vandalised.

Mr Smith said there had been signs of improvement in getting plans approved which has helped speed up developments.

“The planners have done an amazing job of working with the myriad of investors and developers who are working to spend hundreds of millions of pounds in the city centre creating new opportunities and jobs for local people. The number of hotel developments alone is enormous.”

M&Co returns

Scottish fashion chain M&Cop which collapsed into administration 16 months ago is returnong to the high street under igts new owner.

Peterborough-based AK Retail Holdings, which acquired the brand in May last year, said it will be opening the first store next month.

The Yours Clothing owner said the outlet would be in the same location as the closed store in Newton Mearns near Glasgow and it is considering further store openings.

It said in a statement it said: “Cherishing the Scottish roots of M&Co, the new store will be opening on Friday, May 3, where a previous store was located before going into administration.

“Symbolising the brand’s commitment to restoring in-store shopping, this opening promises an inviting modern space where customers can discover the latest arrivals and shop their favourite M&Co clothing.”

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