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Market towns continue to dominate list of top-performing retail centres

2 November 2022
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Market towns continue to dominate list of top-performing retail centres, according to a chart compiled by real estate advisor Harper Dennis Hobbs.

And London commuter belt towns have fared particularly well – benefitting from the 'race for space' during the pandemic and the prevalence of Working from Home.

Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire took the top spot, followed by Kingston upon Thames in Surrey and Marlborough in Wiltshire.

Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire was ranked fifth, while Marlow in Buckinghamshire (34th), Leamington Spa in Warwickshire (37th) and Thame in Oxfordshire (48) all made the Top 50.

Harper Dennis Hobbs publishes an annual Vitality Report in January, but for the first time has published mid-year rankings in October.

HDH’s Vitality Rankings determines the health of high streets and shopping centres by analysing a number of factors, including vacancy rates, residents’ movement and suitability to local consumer demand.

The rankings reveal the top 50 retail centres, compiled from a list of 1,000 by the strategic retail property consultancy.

Many of the UK’s larger retail centres, including large towns, city centres and regional shopping malls, have seen the health of traditional retail centres bounce back over the past eighteen months, following the impact of the pandemic in 2020.

Kingston-Upon-Thames, York and Chester have all made small, yet positive, movements up the top 20, with Bath, Oxford and Exeter also climbing the rankings in the top 50.

The ranking’s top 20 is still dominated by smaller towns that continue to benefit from a shift in shopping habits to local high streets, and many families relocating from larger cities due to the impact of remote working.

Locations such as Beaconsfield and Henley-on-Thames have risen sharply since 2019, benefitting from consumers’ shift to local high streets.

Andy Metherell, head of consultancy and analytics at HDH, and lead on compiling the Vitality Rankings, says the rankings are starting to reflect the mix of hybrid working and the return to normality following Covid-19 restrictions.
“We are starting to see larger centres rise in the rankings as shoppers return to city centres and regional malls,” he said.

“But with hybrid working now such a common working model, small and affluent commuter towns are still benefiting from that change in behaviour. Therefore these areas continue to populate the top of the rankings.

“We have also seen seaside towns and other domestic tourist hotspots maintain their places in the top 50, with Brits visiting these locations over the summer. So, it’s no surprise that they’re doing well.

“We are beginning to see the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on spending levels and consumer confidence. We may not see the full impact of inflation, rising interest rates, rising energy bills and a squeeze on household income until Vitality Rankings 2023. This is expected to have an impact on all areas, but especially some of those that are less affluent.”

Pictured: Burkes Parade, Beaconsfield by Nigel Cox published under Creative Commons Licence

Peter Davison is deputy editor of The Business Magazine. He has spent his life in journalism – doing work experience in newsrooms in and around Bristol while still at school, and landing his first job on a local newspaper aged 19. By 28 he was the youngest newspaper editor in the country.

An early advocate of online news, he spent the first years of the 2000s telling his bosses that the internet posed both the biggest opportunity and greatest threat to the newspaper industry and the art of journalism. He was right on both counts.

Since 2006 he has enjoyed a career as a freelance journalist. He lives in rural Wiltshire with one wife, two children, and three cats.

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