Retail resilience leads to top 10 ranking for Leeds, says report

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LEEDS has been named as one the UK’s most resilient retail locations outside London after navigating the fast pace of change and offering visitors a variety of reasons to keep coming back, according to a new report.

In the last 12 months, the city has jumped from number 25 in the league table to ninth place. It is the only northern English city in the top 10 which is otherwise dominated by southern locations.

The index is part of Cushman & Wakefield’s report on the performance of the UK’s town centres.

The next Yorkshire town on the index is Harrogate, ranked 24th. Sheffield is 31st and York 39th.

Huddersfield, Wakefield, Bradford and Halifax are ranked 50th, 94th,104th and 170th respectively.

At the bottom end of the league table are Hull (197), Doncaster (202), Barnsley (211), Scarborough (231) and Scunthorpe (232).

Cambridge has been named the most resilient retail location outside the capital for the second time.

The report, which analyses the performance of 250 town centres since the start of the financial crisis, is based on 24 economic, demographic and retail property metrics, and highlights the evolving role of the UK’s town centres.

As consumers become more mobile and less reliant on physical stores, expectations are changing, with retail driven increasingly by ‘shopper mission’, it said.

These missions generally fall into one of three categories: large destination, or experience orientated visits, purpose shopping that is focused on specific purchases, and community-based convenience trips. The report reveals that retail locations that do not align with at least one of these key missions will need to repurpose to remain relevant.

Keith Hardman, international partner and head of Cushman & Wakefield’s Leeds office, said: “This is further compelling evidence of Leeds’s credentials as a vibrant city where retail is an important factor, but by no means the only part of the city’s continuing success story. To be the only northern English city in the top 10 is testament to this.

“It’s a clear demonstration of just how well Leeds has adapted and risen to the challenges which are confronting all too many towns and city centres and how opportunities have been created in the process.

“We shouldn’t ignore the importance of this resilience and how it adds confidence and positive influence to businesses looking to further invest, those which have made relocation decisions in the recent past such as Channel 4 and Burberry, along with others contemplating North Shoring.”

The report also examines some of the common factors impacting underperforming UK town centres. For example, nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of the towns in the bottom 50 of the index, like Scarborough, are classified as seaside towns.

The relative tourist spend figures of the bottom 50 locations is on average 85 per cent lower than in the top 50 performing town centres. The exception is Brighton which is thriving and which features in the top 10 for the second year running.

Within the report, Cushman & Wakefield has also graded locations in the index from ‘very high’ to ‘very low’ according to expected growth in consumer demand. The grading considers population growth, age structure, growth in disposable income and planned housing delivery. Leeds is classed as a ‘medium growth area’.