Retail Resilience Index lists top performing UK High Streets

Cambridge and Guildford top the list of the UK’s most resilient retail locations, according to new research from Cushman & Wakefield, which ranks the viability and performance of 250 High Streets outside Central London.

Online sales coupled with rising business rates have made survival on the traditional high street increasingly challenging for retailers in the UK over the past decade. The latest Cushman & Wakefield research report UK High Streets: Dead or Alive? groups the top performing locations as well as those struggling for survival.

The focal point of the report is the Retail Resilience Index, a ranking of 250 towns based on 22 economic, demographic and retail property metrics, most of which have been tracked over a 10-year period, providing a rounded analysis of town performance. These metrics include retailer demand, leisure spend, floor space density, rental change as well as broader economic indicators such as house prices, catchment demographics, business survival rates and tourism spend.

Towns have been ranked according to each variable, with the final placing calculated from the sum of the individual rankings. Locations have then been assigned a Town Tier (1 to 5, of which 1 is the highest) based on their overall ranking, to enable a comparison with similar locations.

On an individual town basis, Cambridge, Guildford, Bath, Chichester and Oxford are the High Streets that have shown the greatest resilience over the last decade. Conversely, Hamilton, Llandudno, Newport, Greenock, Ramsgate and Kilmarnock prop up the list of 250 sites.

The report highlights a number of towns as having performed better than expected. Cirencester in Gloucestershire, for example, ranks higher than locations of equal size due to its robust performance on variables relating to the business environment as well as the Quality of Life index.

Elsewhere, despite being 71st on the list, the small town of Marlow in Buckinghamshire ranks in first place for both rental growth and retailer demand, benefitting from a wealthy, albeit small, catchment. Further down the ranking, a lack of investment and pressure from competing centres has hindered Gloucester’s performance over the last decade.

Other key findings from the report included the following:

  • Half of destinations in the top two Tiers are located within the South East and Greater London.
  • Only 19 of the 250 high street locations in the analysis recorded rental uplift over the 10-year period. In the worst-performing towns, rents have rebased by as much as 45%.
  • Commercial property investment volumes in Tier 1 towns were 367% higher than Tier 5 between 2007 and 2017, compared with 109% between 1999 and 2006.
  • Comparison tourist spend in Tier 1 towns is 694% higher than for towns in Tier 5.
  • House prices in the Home Counties, which account for almost 40% of all locations in Tiers 1 and 2, rose by 44% over the 10-year period to the end of 2017, compared with a national average rise of 24%.
  • Residents in Tier 1 towns are most likely to make a purchase online.
  • Leisure spend densities (£ per sq ft) are the highest in Tier 2 locations.
  • The number of passengers travelling through railway stations in Tier 1 towns increased by 60% over the 10-year period compared with 46% for towns in Tiers 4 and 5.