Edinburgh to stage 'digital Christmas market' a year on from Princes Street Gardens controversy

Edinburgh is to stage a “digital Christmas market” in a bid to try to provide a lifeline for struggling businesses – a year after the real-life attraction was at the centre of prolonged controversy.

Edinburgh's Christmas festival is said to have been worth more than £110 million to the city's economy in recent years. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Edinburgh's Christmas festival is said to have been worth more than £110 million to the city's economy in recent years. Picture: Ian Georgeson

A “virtual shop window” is being created to support independent firms to get through the festive season in absence of any traditional attractions in the city centre this year and onoing restrictions on the city’s hospitality businesses, which sees them forced to close to the public at 6pm every night.

Hundreds of shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, gift-makers and food and drink producers are being offered the chance to sign up for the online Christmas Neighbourhood Market from today.

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It is hoped the venture will help businesses following the official cancellation of the Christmas festival last month, due to fears over the prospect of large crowds flocking to market stalls and fairground rides.

The online portal, which will be free to participate in, will showcase different local businesses every day of the festive season, and will also be supported via the social media channels of Edinburgh’s Christmas festival, which has been worth more than £110 million to the city’s Christmas festival in recent years.

Edinburgh staged its biggest ever Christmas market in East Princes Street Gardens and on The Mount precinct, attracting more than 2.6 million through the arena.

However the market, which has been run by event producers Underbelly in recent years, came under repeated fire last winter after it emerged councillors were kept in the dark over its significant expansion into a much bigger area of the gardens, while a so-called “space deck” of “scaffolding built on top of the grass in the public park was found to have been erected without planning permission having been secured.

Edinburgh’s Christmas producer Ruth Fisher said: “Edinburgh’s Christmas is a hugely important event for the city and this year’s digital programme has been designed to put Edinburgh’s residents and businesses first.

More than 2.6 million people flocked to the Christmas attractions in Princes Street Gardens last year. Picture: Ian Georgeson

"The new Christmas Neighbourhood Market is designed to shine a spotlight on the wealth of products and produce that we have here in Edinburgh and encourage residents to shop locally this Christmas.”

Frank Ross, Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, said: “The festive season is a very special time for our city and our communities and, as Edinburgh’s Christmas goes digital this year, our residents and local businesses will be at the heart of it all.

“The new online Christmas Neighbourhood Market promises to be an exciting and convenient outlet for shopping and a fantastic opportunity for local businesses of all kinds.

"This year, more than ever, it’s essential to support our local businesses and through the market we can do this while at the same time staying safe and having some festive fun.”

Roddy Smith, chief executive of city centre business group Essential Edinburgh, said: “The shop local neighbourhood market will enable many city centre businesses, independent and national, to be promoted and supported in the lead up to Christmas.

"Our city centre is jam-packed with quality retail and hospitality businesses who are ready to confidently welcome Edinburgh’s residents in a very safe and protected manner.

"Businesses across the whole city need support this Christmas and we are encouraging everyone to come in and enjoy the magical atmosphere of the city centre.”

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