Shoppers’ paradise: Harrogate leads the North in UK ranking of retail centres

Harrogate rose one place in the ranking edging out Meadowhall in Sheffield.
Harrogate rose one place in the ranking edging out Meadowhall in Sheffield.

Harrogate has been named one of the UK’s leading shopping locations in a list scoring Britain’s best and worst retail centres.

The town ranked 22nd – the highest ranking in the North of England – in a list of 1,000 retail centres compiled by retail property consultancy Harper Dennis Hobbs (HDH).

The HDH 2019 Vitality Index determines an area’s retail health based on the proportion of upmarket and discount stores, vacancy rates, and tenants such as pawnbrokers and bookmakers.

Suitability is a key factor, meaning that the presence of low-end retailers is not necessarily negative as long as the area’s residents largely prioritise value for money.

Cambridge topped the ranking, and Edinburgh (15) was the only place outside the South to beat Harrogate.

Jonathan De Mello, head of retail consultancy at Harper Dennis Hobbs, said: “While the big cities and most prominent shopping malls should absolutely be a key priority for any retailer trading in the UK, this research highlights the fact that small but flourishing towns and suburbs can be viable retail locations, particularly as rents are typically more affordable.”

He added: “The Vitality Ranking is a unique approach to assessing retail centres. By scoring centres based upon a number of aspects that both retailers and shoppers think of when they consider a quality retail environment, HDH provide a different perspective to rankings based solely on size or total sales.

“The changing face of the high street means retailers need to be confident their investment is likely to pay off. Quality retailers don’t want to be surrounded by empty units, discount stores and betting shops, which are a clear indicator of deprivation in the area.”

Market towns that dominate a small but affluent and relatively rural catchment area continue to score well – in many cases they are proving to have a ‘healthier’ high street than some large cities.

Taking the dubious title of least vital shopping destination for a second time was Byker Shields in Newcastle, followed by Stretford in Greater Manchester and Kirkby in Merseyside.