Cambridge named UK’s healthiest retail location

Cambridge has topped a league of 1,000 best-quality retail centres across Britain, with Westfield London in second place and Knightsbridge third.

The ‘Vitality Index’, compiled by retail property specialist Harper Dennis Hobbs (HDH), ranks locations by their ‘retail health’.

This is measured through a combination of the proportion of up-market shops, value-led shops, ‘undesirable’ shops (such as pawnbrokers, money lenders and bookmakers) and the vacancy rate.

These variables are compared with the demographic composition of the centre’s catchment area. A greater score is given to areas whose retail mix is optimally adapted to the local community.

Greater London still dominates the national retail scene while Birmingham and Glasgow are the most improved centres near the top of the ranking, as both have benefited from new retail developments.

Brent Cross has fallen out of the top 50 as a result of the preparation for works to modernise and expand the shopping centre. HDH predicts this drop will be temporary and the centre will increase its score upon completion within the next five years.

The least ‘vital’ centre is Shields Road at Byker in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where 19.6% of retail floorspace is unused: up 11% in the past five years. The retail mix on Shields Road is dominated by ‘undesirable’ retail.

The Index also highlights the overall increase in the presence of ‘down-market’ stores on Britain’s high streets. In the past five years there has been a 2.7% increase in the proportion of value stores in centres, in addition to a 1.6% increase in the proportion of ‘undesirable’ shops.

HDH head of retail consultancy Jonathan De Mello said: “Our ranking highlights the ‘healthiest’ retail centres in Britain which successful brands should target when considering network expansion.

“Smaller centres are of increasing interest to retailers, given rents are often highest in the largest centres.

“So a small centre with a high vitality score – and the right shopper profile – could potentially yield strong profits.”


Vitality Index: top 20 centres

1 Cambridge

2 Westfield London

3 Knightsbridge

4 Chelsea

5 Bluewater

6 Wimbledon Village

7 Richmond

8 Canary Wharf

9 Marlborough

10 Bath

12 Westfield Stratford

13 Reigate

14 London West End

15 St Albans

16 Berkhamsted

17 Edinburgh

18 Kingston upon Thames

19 Cobham

20 Cribbs Causeway


The Vitality Index includes British centres with greater than 40 multiples, ranging from local high streets to regional shopping malls and major city centres.

Retail parks and outlet centres are excluded because ‘their remote locations mean they are not intrinsically linked to the local area, so their health does not impact the community in the same way’.

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