UK’s ten best - and worst - places for shopping

Beaconsfield was named the leading retail centre, but which areas fail to impress?

Shopping bags
(Image credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)

In February a study of the UK’s retail industry saw Buckinghamshire market town Beaconsfield take top spot in a ranking of 1,000 high streets and town centres. Now the worst shopping destinations in England, Scotland and Wales have also been revealed.

According to the Harper Dennis Hobbs Vitality Rankings 2021 - which determines the health of high streets and shopping centres - the Scottish town of Girvan in South Ayrshire has been named the UK’s least “healthy” retail district, i News exclusively reports.

The seaside town in south-west Scotland, which is home to around 6,500 people, “scored poorly due to a very weak retail offer [and] has a relatively high vacancy rate at 28%”, said Andy Metherell, head of retail consultancy at Harper Dennis Hobbs.

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The index is based on a number of variables, including the size of retail offer, essential retail, and vacancy rate. The proportion of “low-quality” shops such as pawnbrokers and bookmakers is also factored into the study, i News adds.

Six of the ten worst areas for retail are in Wales and three are in England. Baldwin Street in Bristol was named second worst after Girvan and Chepstow in Monmouthshire was the third worst.

Ten worst retail destinations

  • 1. Girvan, South Ayrshire
  • 2. Bristol - Baldwin Street
  • 3. Chepstow, Monmouthshire
  • 4. Cardigan, Ceredigion
  • 5. Southsea, Portsmouth
  • 6. Tonypandy, Rhondda Cynon Taf
  • 7. Ammanford, Carmarthenshire
  • 8. Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire
  • 9. Canning Town, east London
  • 10. Newtown, Powys

UK’s best places for shopping

The “retail health” of high streets across Britain has seen contrasting fortunes since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Harper Dennis Hobbs said in its report. “The impact of Covid means the shopping destinations that would normally occupy the upper reaches of the list have fallen and have largely been replaced by more local retail centres in prosperous areas that provide convenience and essential product categories.”

In terms of the top ten best retail centres in the UK, the south east and the east of England dominate the list. Beaconsfield, in top spot, is one of many smaller, accessible, commuter-belt towns which have “outperformed city centre destinations as consumers’ shopping habits have become very localised as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic”, the report found.

Metherell said the most vital retail centres “currently provide offers that are literally vital to people’s lives, such as grocers, pharmacies and hardware stores”.

Ten best retail destinations

  • 1. Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire
  • 2. Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
  • 3. Tenterden, Kent
  • 4. Wimbledon Village, south-west London
  • 5. Marlborough, Wiltshire
  • 6. Sevenoaks, Kent
  • 7. Kingston upon Thames, Greater London
  • 8. Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire
  • 9. Harpenden, Hertfordshire
  • 10. Ilkley, Bradford

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