The renowned Princes Street in Edinburgh has served as a prominent hub for residents and tourists alike, offering an array of retail, dining, and cultural offerings. Nevertheless, the recent increase of unoccupied retail spaces along this storied avenue has dimmed its once vibrant allure. 

However, within these challenges lies an opportunity for reimagination, driven by innovative and adaptive strategies.

A New Chapter Unfolds

Forward-thinking initiatives spearheaded by Avison Young and powered by data from Visitor Insights utilizing the Terrain platform, mean that the landscape of Princes Street is set to evolve. Planning permission has been granted to repurpose the former Debenhams and Topshop stores, breathing new life into these once-vacant spaces.

The former Debenhams space is poised to become a dynamic city centre ‘hub,’ featuring a blend of retail, food and beverage outlets and leisure facilities, catering to the diverse needs of both residents and tourists. Meanwhile, the former Topshop store will be transformed into a restaurant, complemented by upper floors repurposed into a hotel, adding to Edinburgh’s ever-growing hospitality landscape.


Embracing Change Amidst Challenges

While footfall in Edinburgh has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, the city has weathered the storm more resiliently than its counterparts across the UK. VI’s data shows that despite a 39% decline compared to pre-Covid levels, this figure stands below the national average decline of 46%. The ongoing cost-of-living crisis may have dampened consumer spending, but the resurgence of tourism signals a promising trajectory for footfall recovery.

Rising Rents, Promising Prospects

The revitalization of Princes Street coincides with a surge in prime Zone A rents, reflective of the city’s enduring appeal. With a 30% increase between 2021 and 2022, driven in part by the completion of the St James Quarter redevelopment, Edinburgh’s retail landscape is undergoing a renaissance. 

Despite a vacancy rate of 12.1% in the city centre, recent data shows promising trends, with George Street experiencing a 25% year-on-year rent increase and a significant drop in vacancy rates.

A Blueprint for Urban Renewal

The transformation of Princes Street serves as a testament to the power of collaboration and innovation. By leveraging data-driven insights and embracing adaptive strategies, stakeholders can breathe new life into dormant spaces, reimagining them as vibrant hubs of activity and community and building a sustainable city for the future.

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