Marlborough High Street has been named the fifth most vibrant retail centre in the UK – and the best in the South West.
Despite the effects of the pandemic – or perhaps because of them – the town climbed five places in the 2021 Vitality Index by retail consultancy Harper Dennis Hobbs, which rates 1,000 high streets in terms of the quality of the shopping experience.
The report measures the health of high streets and shopping centres, including the change in residents’ movement, vacancy rates, and suitability to local consumers’ demands.
The poll was topped by the Buckinghamshire market town of Beaconsfield, followed by Henley-on-Thames, Tenterden, and Wimbledon Village.
“Our analysis is unique as we use variables that both consumers and retailers consider when assessing shopping locations to rank the top 1,000 retail centres in Great Britain," said Andy Metherell, head of retail consultancy at HDH.
"This Vitality Ranking looks very different from previous years as the ‘retail health’ of high streets across the country has seen contrasting fortunes since the start of the pandemic."
“The most vital retail centres currently provide services that are essential to people’s lives, such as grocers and pharmacies. These essential retailers have been able to trade throughout the strictest lockdowns, and consumers have not been willing or able to travel far to visit these stores.
"Shopping patterns have therefore changed significantly since the start of the pandemic, and consumers’ local high streets are benefitting at the expense of major destinations.”
The reason for the high performance of market towns in affluent areas this year has a lot to do with the hit regional shopping centres have taken due to the pandemic. Westfield Shopping Centre in London, which was at number 2 in 2019, fell 203 places this year, while Canary Wharf tumbled a staggering 531 places from its number 8 position in 2019. Locally, Cribbs Causeway near Bristol fell 308 places, taking it well away from the top 20.
"The inhabitants of smaller towns have remained in the local area to a much greater degree since the start of the pandemic," noted the report's authors.