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Britain's best-performing retail locations revealed

Leeds is the only city in northern England to be named among the top ten most resilient locations for retail, rising 16 places in the rankings. 

Cushman & Wakefield’s “retail resilience index” analyses the performance of 250 town centres since the start of the financial crisis, based on 24 economic, demographic and retail property metrics. 

Cambridge held its top spot from last year, and Edinburgh was the only city outside of England to feature in the top ten. 

The report concluded that retail is driven increasingly by one of three “shopper missions”: large destination or experience-orientated visits, purpose shopping and community-based convenience trips. It found that retail locations not aligning with one of these will need to repurpose to remain relevant.

Top 10 most resilient retail locations outside Central London (source: Cushman & Wakefield)
 Top 10 (2019)  Top 10 (2018)
 Cambridge  Cambridge
 Bristol  Guildford
 Guildford  Bath
 Exeter  Chichester
 Oxford  Oxford
 Bath  Kingston-upon-Thames
 Edinburgh  Exeter
 Brighton  Brighton
 Leeds Bristol
 Kingston-upon-Thames  Winchester

Amy Gibson, senior research analyst and report author, said: ”In our view, the first step to understanding whether the UK’s town centres are fit for purpose is to understand what the new purpose is for each location. The retail and leisure landscape in the UK’s towns has become increasingly homogenous and in many cases not really kept pace with the changing demands of consumers.

”As we see a growing proportion of retail shifting online, there is a need to introduce alternative uses in town centres to help differentiate locations and ensure they remain aligned to the local catchment. Shops must adapt to this as well and provide what people want – not just an identical template of other locations.”

The bottom 10 locations were largely dominated by seaside towns, including Ramsgate, Dover and Bognor Regis. 

Bottom 10 most resilient locations outside Central London (Source: Cushman & Wakefield)
 Ranking Town Town Type
241  Newport (Gwent)  Small City
242   Berwick Upon Tweed  Historic Town
243   Dover  Seaside Town
244   Llanelli  Seaside Town
245   Bognor Regis  Seaside Town
246   Greenock Industrial Town 
247   Gravesend Commuter Town 
248   Kilmarnock Industrial Town 
249   Ramsgate  Seaside Town
250   Llandudno  Seaside Town

The report also identified locations according to opportunities for growth – ranking them from “very high” to “very low”. Manchester and Exeter were the only two locations outside of the south-east to fall into the highest growth category. 

Regionally, growth in northern England, Wales and Scotland is expected to be lower than southern England. 

Plymouth, Hartlepool and Darlington were among the areas predicted to have the lowest growth. 

The report also found no evidence of real rental growth in any of the 250 locations, with prime rents falling by 58% over the past 11 years. Compared with 2018, rent as a proportion of retailers’ spend has fallen from 12.8% to 10.2%. 

Cushman & Wakefield consider around 69 locations within the index to be “overrented” – these are generally situated in Greater London and the south-east, where prime rents are higher. 




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