Cambridge beats West End and Westfield in new retail vitality study, lures more luxury spend

University town Cambridge has been ranked as the most attractive UK location to open a retail store with its visitors having a growing taste for luxury in the 2017 Vitality Index study by property specialist Harper Dennis Hobbs.


Parker Dennis Hobbs


The company, which looked at 1,000 locations, said Cambridge, with a retail market size of over £1.5bn, has moved six places up the rankings since the last study in 2014 as more and more retailers have moved in “and it's very much on the radar”. It’s also popular with Chinese organised tour groups and “there's a demand for luxury retail there.” Jonathan De Mello head of retail consultancy at Harper Dennis Hobbs, said: ”It’s on the hit list now for many retailers."

The city beat Westfield London (market size almost £2.2bn) into second place with Knightsbridge, Chelsea and the giant Bluewater mall in Kent rounding out the top five.

New entry Wimbledon Village, Richmond, Canary Wharf, new entry Marlborough and Bath made up the rest of the top 10 with the index showing a definite bias towards retail destinations in the Southern half of the country. Seventeen of the top 50 destinations were in London.

That’s despite major development in Northern locations such as Hull’s Prince’s Quay, Liverpool One, Glasgow’s Silverburn, Meadowhall in Sheffield and the new Victoria Gate in Leeds. Leeds as a whole came only 35th, Glasgow was 38th, and Liverpool 47th. However, Harrogate scored highly, despite missing out on a top 20 spot in only 23rd place.

Sloane Street, Westfield Stratford, Reigate, London’s West End (with a market value of £9.1bn) and St Alban’s were 11th to 15th on the list.

The bottom 10 out of the 1,000 retail locations did feature more Northern names with Shields Road in Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne coming last. Just above it were Harrow Road in Paddington, London, Stretford in  Greater Manchester, Tonypandy in  Wales, Walton Road in Liverpool, Burnt Oak in North London, Gateshead (placed 994th despite being not far away from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 84th place), Kirkby in Merseyside, Selly Oak in Birmingham and Shettleston Road in Glasgow.

Harper Dennis Hobbs highlighted the problems in Shields Road with 19.6% of the available space being vacant (up 11% in three years) and a high street heavily populated with money lenders and betting shops.

In 2014, when the last list was published by the firm, the still-new Westfield London came top and Dudley in the West Midlands was bottom.

But the company said that a change in the top and bottom locations since 2014 reflects how the internet has affected UK retail. The most vibrant brands have tended to accumulate in fewer strong retail areas in the past few years. The internet has both allowed them to focus on fewer, healthier, stores but has also forced them to make tough decisions about closing locations and many of these closures seem to have been in poorer towns and cities.

Harper Dennis Hobbs also said that “value” stores such as charity shops had risen across the UK as a whole by 2.7%. Meanwhile, “undesirable” shops that encourage debt or addiction have risen by 1.6%. These include bingo halls, pawnbrokers, betting shops, and payday loan shops. The company also includes e-cigarette shops in this grouping although it could easily be argued that their function is to reduce addiction rather than encourage it and are as much a reflection of the UK’s success in encouraging people to at least attempt to quiet smoking as anything else.

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