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Retail game is changing and Edinburgh's still at the forefront

Retail is the life blood of any city or town.

The character of towns and cities is often dictated by the quality of their retail offer. Edinburgh is no exception.

The vast variety of retail on offer in the capital continues to develop, meeting the needs of locals, employees and the ever demanding tourist.

We are graced with some of the most dynamic and innovative retail brands, which are determined to succeed and grow. Major international retailers are complemented by local businesses.

Retail provides a valuable source of employment. To succeed as a country we must ensure that the business community and public sector support systems are co-ordinated in driving a leading edge and commercially sustainable retail offer.

We must ensure that local authorities have a transparent and well thought through strategic planning process that supports how residents and visitors will shop in the future.

This has to include a clear understanding of the different and complementary roles of in and out-of-town shopping as well as the differing needs of visitors versus locals.

Transport connectivity in cities is essential and it is important that we continue to invest so that it is fit for purpose to encourage people into our city centres.

We also have to consider the increasingly digital demands of citizens. It is essential that traditional retail centres benefit from digital connectivity.

Increasingly, shoppers seek to integrate online insight with their shopping habits. The increasing demand for services like "click and collect" is just one manifestation of this.

Edinburgh is a gateway to many tourists visiting Scotland and we must continue to develop a retail offer that complements our position as a festival city as well as demonstrating leading edge "retailtainment" solutions.

Blurring the edges between traditional shopping and entertainment through the introduction of restaurants and other leisure uses enhances the attraction to a wider audience.This holistic approach could help rejuvenate areas that arguably lack character for potential shoppers. One simple way of achieving this is extending access time and opening hours.

The rules of the retail game are changing. The next generation retail experience blends international suppliers, local entrepreneurs and creative businesses.

Edinburgh is evolving in line with these changes, ensuring the retail character of the city continues to be a part of the city's international success story.

David Birrell is chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce

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