Dudley, Llanelli and Morecombe have been given the lowest ranking on a new vitality index of 500 British shopping and town centres, produced by retail property consultants Harper Dennis Hobbs.
The capital’s Westfield London was found to be the most vital centre, with a potential retail spend of £2.3bn. It was closely followed by areas including Chelsea, Knightsbridge, Brent Cross, Richmond, Islington and Chiswick.
In contrast the lowest ranking centre, Dudley, was found to have a potential retail spend of just £413m. The town has suffered from strong competition since Merry Hill shopping centre opened in 1985.
The index looked at a number of variables, including the proportion of premium versus value retailers, vacancy rates and the suitability of retail to the local customer.
HDH said the towns at the bottom of the vitality index need to make serious changes to attract good quality retail tenants and customers, as they tend to have relatively low total volumes of spend available and a poor quality of retail tenants.
Jonathan De Mello, head of retail consultancy at HDH, said: “Significant media focus is often placed on vacancy rates and the change in these over time. However, a reduction in vacancy rates is not always positive if those vacant units are filled with what could be perceived to be ‘out of fashion’ tenants. Our vitality scoring system is multivariate - so takes into account the type of retail in a centre as well as pure levels of occupancy.”
He added: “No retailer should ever open in a location purely based on market size. The best performing retailers plan their expansion by evaluating the quality of retail centres and the suitability of the centre to their brand.”
HDH said some of the largest centres will also have some of the highest rents, meaning smaller centres with high vitality may be some of the most profitable locations for retailers.